This article was inspired by a discussion with my daughter (21 years old), when she asked me why I never posted photos of her in some of her favourite yoga poses we took in the summer holiday.
I don't like presenting on my social media poses that I don't teach in my group classes. What is good and easy for her, might not be accessible for most of my students. Yoga should be taught in a way that is personalised to the needs and abilities of the individual.
Nowadays people begin to practice yoga at different stages of their lives, and they discover it through physical exercise.
The majority of asanas (poses and movement sequences) are not even close to the postures we use in our daily activities, therefore most people who have never done yoga and want to start yoga think: “But I am not flexible enough to do yoga”. Social media coverage doesn’t help by showing us super-strong or hyper-flexible “yogis” in, for most of us, unrealistic positions. Age, lifestyle, and state of health make our bodies unique - some parts are weaker or even vulnerable, and some are stronger.
If you were young like my daughter in the picture above, and your body was exposed to yoga at a young age, it feels invigorating and enjoyable to do a full-wheel pose - she loves it! For most of us adults, it feels discouraging or even intimidating.
I don’t teach it in group classes, as I don’t have children and young people in my groups. Most of the participants are middle-aged adults with more physical restrictions and habits imprinted in their tired bodies… We are not chasing the ideal body shapes. A good general yoga class means for me - the moderated physical exercise and practice of breathing for vitality and relaxation, which gives me access to meditative states of mind.
When you are older, you might still be able to achieve similar aesthetic benefits of asanas, but it will not happen in one class. Regular yoga practice will teach you to use your body in a new way, improve your posture, strengthen your core muscles, and maybe even touch your toes. What is more important - in yoga, we work on 3 levels – body, breath, and mind. As we practice yoga techniques, we discover their interconnections and how they support each other. It is a combination of the 3 elements that makes yoga distinct from other modalities.
Regular practice (and over a long period of time) is the key ingredient to the preventive or transformative power of yoga. One starts to work with the body they have and according to their ability. There isn’t one, “best” posture or breathing technique to bring about this change. To witness the changes in the body-mind system, we must continue to implement new patterns daily for optimal results. In the same way, we won’t learn to play well an instrument by taking a class once a week.
Traditionally, yoga in India was more about the mind - they used to invigorate the physical body and regulate breathing as an access point to work with the states of mind, to bring long-lasting balance and support in everyday life.
Yoga opens the gates to use the body in more desirable and less disruptive ways. I think that most people don't realize that commitment to the practice is the secret of yoga, and it is not having a bendy body. Your body should dictate how your yoga practice is going to look, not the other way around.