It is always interesting to me how many people come to yoga because they believe the practice is easy, at least easier than say running or spinning. While a yoga practice can be adapted to fit people of all sizes, fitness levels and ages, I would like to dispel the rumor that yoga is easy.
Yoga simultaneously challenges the physical body and the mind. It can be uncomfortable to stretch, open and tap into areas of the body that may have been dormant for some time. These challenges commonly bring up feelings of frustration, anger or competition with the person on the mat beside you.
The yoga poses or yoga asana, meaning seat, is intended to release energy, open the body and create greater space within the body so that a person can in turn find a comfortable seat to prepare for meditation. The trick in all this is to find contentment or santosha within the discomfort. Sounds strange, I know!
This means coming to your yoga practice without expectations or judgments. Know that each time you practice will be different than the time before or your next visit on the mat.
People avoid yoga due to a lack of flexibility, when really that is a great reason to incorporate a yoga practice. People are often afraid of failing, but the good news is that you absolutely cannot fail at yoga!
Everyone has a different edge, and the objective is to play with yours. Find your edge in a yoga pose and develop the discipline to hang out there. Embrace something uncomfortable and challenging as opposed to running in the opposite direction. Hang out because you know that, through practice, eventually something is going to give.
Now, this does not mean sit in a yoga pose that creates pain. Only you can decipher the difference between pain and sensation. A sensation means something is shifting, opening, strengthening or stretching. Finding the courage to move through the sensation activates the mental practice. Strive to not let your thoughts get the better of you. Don’t bring your ego to the mat.
This also does not mean become complacent in your practice. Understand your limits and work safely within them. Yoga is brilliant for helping people learn to listen to their own bodies. Pay attention to yourself and you will know when to accept the challenge and, most importantly, when to confidently back down.
When we let go of what our yoga practice should look like and instead find contentment in where we are in that very moment, feelings of inadequacy go out the window. It’s such a simple concept but very hard to put into practice. Once again, it’s called a yoga practice for a reason – practice, practice, practice.
Most of us treat family, friends, and even strangers with far more compassion than we allow for ourselves. We can be very hard on ourselves, and for what? The best anyone can do is show up on the mat open minded, allow whatever is supposed to happen unfold, and move through the practice with acceptance for the self.
Ashley Stuhr is a certified yoga instructor with One’ Respe’ Wellness Center. If you have any questions regarding this article you can email Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit One’ Respe’s webite at www.onerespecharleston.com.