Yoga is many things to many people, but over the years I have discovered yoga trying to be turned into this, that and the other thing, only to discover again that no matter how hard a person tries yoga is still not that.
- Yoga is not a fashion show. It can sometimes appear that yoga is in fact a fashion runway where people are able to show off the latest trends and styles via their yoga mat. The only problem is when someone can’t afford those expensive duds (as most yoga clothes are) they can feel less than perfect. A few years back, I remember hearing about a yoga fashion show happening, and I had to step back for a moment and ask myself, “Is this even yoga anymore?”
- Yoga is not a workout. Now I bet you are thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?” But hear me out. Yoga in the West is mainly physical, and that being said, many treat it like an exercise routine; something they use to cross train with, and that is great and wonderful. However, asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga, so really, when yoga is a work out, then you are simply asana-ing.
- Yoga is not a fad. Now, many use yoga coupled with other practices to make it sound trendier, more hip, and what they end up doing is taking the yoga out of yoga. I giggle at the phone calls I get from time to time from prospective students, very explicit about the kind of yoga they are looking for; they don’t really know anything about yoga itself, just that the kind they are looking for includes a buzz word and sounds very difficult.
- Yoga is not boot camp. It seems a little oxymoron to me to put boot camp and yoga together; you might as well call it military yoga. What I hope people are realizing is they are buying into buzz words, or spiking terms, that promise to give them results fast, and a boot camp has that appeal. If you want yoga to kick your butt, then find a teacher who is capable of truly teaching you what you are doing and what it means to practice yoga.
- Yoga is not a religion. Contrary to what some may still think, yoga is not a religion. It is something to help enhance your belief system and spirituality, but not a practice that deems a particular faith. Yoga is without a doubt a science of consciousness. Some say religion creates walls, well then yoga cultivates a communion of consciousness together as One.
- Yoga is not competition. I heard this past year that the Olympic committee was considering putting yoga in the mix of other sports for the Olympic Games. What?! Yoga as a competition totally defeats the entire purpose of a yoga practice in the first place. Focusing on the physical only, and then worrying about beating someone else and being judged on your form, posture and approach; someone might as well follow you around all day and flip up score cards as to how they think you are living your life.
- Yoga is not about your teacher. I heard the term “yoga celebrity” a few years ago and I was saddened to hear such a term. Can you really be a celebrity of yoga? Apparently so, and yes, a good teacher is hard to find, but what makes a good teacher is not fame and living on the Cali coast. As your teacher, I would want nothing more than to truly help you understand what living a yogic lifestyle means, not just to teach you asana. And in those teachings, a yoga teacher’s aim should be, to in the end, have a student that is ten times better than she (or he) would ever be.
- Yoga is not a destination. Yoga is quite simply a journey. A journey that can lead to an endless array of possibilities. We often get fixed on mastering a pose, and then once we have mastered that pose, we realize that it wasn’t the pose at all, but the journey to the pose that gave us such joy and accomplishment.
- Yoga is not a quick fix. I hear it all the time from students, “What can I do for this issue?” And to be quite honest, even on a physical level, it is not that simple. Our bodies took years to get to where we are, and to be able to un-do something in two simple moves is ridiculous and simply not possible. It takes time to truly understand the body, why we are the way we are and, most importantly, to heal. Yoga is a lifelong practice, one thing leading into the next, much like a dance. Think of all the old-time dances; they took time, there was precision, purpose and mindfulness involved. Sounds like yoga to me!
- Yoga is not something we do. Yoga isn’t something you do, it is a state of being. Yoga is what some call a complete union of all things consciousness, but more importantly, yoga is you, me, the trees, air, your breath, a smile, a pose, the sound Om. Yoga is the beginning and end of everything, yoga is all that is in existence. You can never really ever do yoga; you can only practice yoga. Much like you can never really do life; you can only live life. Yoga is the action of life.
This post was also featured in Nature’s Pathways 2013