Yoga has become a large part of our cultural zeitgeist in the west.. Its in our everyday language- case in point- “yoga pants”. Ask a random person on the street what yoga is and you’ll probably hear something about:
- A work out
- something you do at a gym heated to 100 degrees
- Dogmatic pseudo-spiritual workout for thin white women in their 20-40’s
And as a yogi, I have to be honest and tell you a lot of that is true… but also not.
Yoga is like a potato. yes, you heard me right, a potato.
Potatoes are low fat, low calorie, high fiber foods. They are the most Satiating food on the planet- meaning you eat one and you probably won’t be snaking on junk later. They are an incredible source of potassium, even more than bananas, and one potato has more than half the vitamin C you need in a day, people have lost lots of weight relatively quickly and easily by just eating potatoes. Some people have even reversed diseases by eating a potato based diet.
Ask the average American if a potato is a health food and they will tell you “Potatoes make you fat”. Potatoes have gotten swept up with the terrible foods we associate them with. sliced, deep fried and served alongside a beef burger loaded with cheese. This is extremely UNHEALHTY. Now is it the potatoes fault? I’m sure the meat and dairy industry would like you to think so- but thats another story entirely.
Yoga has been associated with a certain type of person, and because of this it is often misinterpreted. Yoga at its core is a series of varying spiritual, mental, and physical practices and belief systems that seek to “yolk” (literally what it means) or connect the mind, body, spirt, psyche. This connection is created by fostering awareness of the mind body connection, most famously through the Asanas or poses, but also though meditation, fasting, breathing, and cleansing rituals, to name a few.
In the west we have a tendency to be put off by our bodies. They make substances, smells, and noises that upset us (did you squirm?). Our bodies at the best of times are an asset that we can use, at the worst of times they fail us. In the end we blame the failings of the body for the end of life. We disassociate from the body. Most of the day is spent walking around as is we are a floating ball of “mind”. Are you aware of your foot fall when you walk? can you tell which nostril you are breathing more dominantly from? No?
Yoga (in the most simplified terms) seeks to bring awareness to body and body process. to illuminate and strengthen this bond. The Asanas are supposed to challenge us. Not just to get the coolest instagram picture of our scorpion pose. These poses are meant to challenge our mental stamina, our willingness to push boundaries and push past discomfort.
I often think what we do when faced with a difficult pose, is what we do when faced with a difficult life situation.
When your arms are shaking, when your knees are screaming, what do you do? Quit? Cry? Modify? Push yourself? Overexert? Why?
sure you get a bit of a workout, a good stretch, maybe a nice photo of you upside down, but if you focus.. what else are you getting?
This, my friends, isn’t even the tiniest bit of the furthest piece of the giant philosophy and practice of yoga. This is merely to bring a bit of perspective and awareness to your practice. There is so much more to learn, you can study the Yoga sutras for years, and if you have the ability I recommend you do just that.. I wish I had the time and financial support to really throw myself into yoga. I know in my heart some day I will.
Anyway, shall I close the stereotype loop and say “Namaste Ohm-ies”