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Eliminating Yoga Stereotypes and Limitations

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people sheepishly proclaim that they are “bad” at yoga.

They would love to come with you to class but—just a warning—they’re “bad.”

No, no, NO! A thousand times no! For the love of Krishna, let’s address this immediately.

There is no such thing as the Yoga Patrol (unless, of course, you practice Bikram). Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not the Bendy Bodies Only Club. In fact, yoga is not a competitive sport and there are no physical prerequisites. It is first and foremost a spiritual practice, so everyone is qualified and there’s no such thing as “good” or “bad.” When you say that you are bad at yoga, it means two things:

1. You are comparing yourself to others, and

2. You are defining yoga by its physical postures. Both of these are delusional ways of thinking.

So stop comparing yourself to others. Kick that nasty habit ASAP.

Just because Joe Shmo can contort his body into pretzels and do handstands and you can’t, it does not make him “good” and you “bad.”  If he contorts his body into pretzels and thinks to himself, “I look so awesome right now killing this arm balance! The hot blonde in the spandex totally wants me,” he is not practicing yoga.  Is he becoming more enlightened? No. He’s just doing acrobatics and being vain.

There is nothing unhealthier than comparing yourself to others. If you compare yourself to others, you will make yourself crazy. You are not anyone but yourself and your body is different than everyone else’s. It has its own abilities and limitations. Embrace these limitations because they are just as much a part of you as your abilities. Make peace with all parts of yourself, especially your limitations—you’re so mean to them! Stop that! The beauty of Sally Shmally’s impressive asana practice is not the nemesis of your own ability. Her poses have nothing to do with yours.

Besides, yoga is not defined by the physical poses.  Seriously.

I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but if your intention is to look good doing the poses, you are not practicing yoga.  Let’s not forget what yoga actually is. It’s not these physical poses we do—that’s a part of it, but not all of it. Yoga is about connecting. It’s about tapping in.

I love that yoga has become so popular in the West, but we’ve bastardized it in a sense because it’s only a little bit about Union and a lot about fitness. I’m not suggesting that yoga should be some mystical, esoteric force that takes over your life and changes the way you look, act, and talk. But it is a spiritual practice that can profoundly deepen the way you connect— with yourself and your health, with a Higher Power, with your community, with those you love and those you don’t, even with your entire understanding of reality.

Yoga is a powerful tool for positive change.   It has so much more to offer than an exercise class or an hour-long escape.  I dare you to look past the physical and go deeper: try a spiritual class, read a yoga book, or explore the Eight Limbs of Yoga. We all feel that spiritual je ne sais quoi after a particularly blissed out class, which is what keeps us going back, right?  That’s the essence of yoga! 

And you don’t have to reserve that peace just for your yoga mat or keep it chained to the studio—you can release it into the wilderness of your life and carry it with you as you go along!  Recycle your positive energy and reuse it at work, at home, with your family, with your partner, and especially with yourself. We live in a perplexing world, but a magnificent discipline has been presented to us here in America to ease the turbulence. So many of us have tapped in to the physical part, why stop there?

Think of asana as a moving meditation, a form of worship for the Divine. Use the poses to connect with your consciousness and all the things that lie beyond it, because cultivating that connection is the whole point of the practice. It doesn’t matter if you never touch your toes. If you make a conscious effort to tap in to Awareness, you are truly practicing yoga.


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