Is yoga really just for hippy boho types that OM to solve all their problems? I used to think so. I was both agitated and annoyed by yogi's until I became one.
Yoga for body, mind and soul. It sounds soooo cliché doesn’t it? That phrase - body, mind, spirit - that navel gazing free types and alternative health gurus just keep banging on about.
It turns out we are all seeking it. Even you. And you only have to look at the amount of increase in yoga class attendees worldwide to realise that there might be something more to that navel-gazing-business as a tool for holistic health!
Find Out Why Yoga Is For EveryBODY
A study in 2016 by The Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance along with Ipsos Public Affairs in the United States revealed shocking figures:
Yoga is gaining popularity. The number of American yoga practitioners has increased to over 36 million in 2016, up from 20.4 million in 2012. 28% of all Americans have participated in a yoga class at some point in their lives.
Yoga is for everybody. There are more male and older practitioners than ever before (approximately 10 million male practitioners and almost 14 million practitioners over the age of 50 – up from about 4 million men and 4 million 55+ year olds in 2012).
But why are we radiating towards a rubber mat, in a room smelling like incense, a calm voice and difficult physical postures with strange names?
A Shift In Awareness
In the last 8 years at my retreats we have seen a rapid change in the wellness industry. The wellness retreat business is a tough business. And almost all retreats don't survive their first year. Our first year was tough.
We used to have to fight tooth and nail for every client and spend hours on the phone explaining the benefits of our process (of which Yoga is the underbelly) and being laughed at and ridiculed (publicly, by email and over the phone) by psychologists, GP's, Psychiatrists and the media for trying to offer those who were seeking physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing a different approach. I took it as a compliment when people said 'who do you think you are?'. And then we started getting ridiculous results. And yoga was at the foreground of our program. Everyone started to pay attention when the results spoke for themselves.
But fast forward to now....fast forward a decade.... seeing a rapid rise in everyday people actively looking for a more alternative approach to healing tough mental health issues and the same Psychologists, GP's and Psychiatrists now referring their clients to us without any prompting from us. Also we started to see a huge rise in men and senior people undertaking our program to our delight. When we opened our doors full time compared to one retreat a month and we were gobsmacked at the positive response of a full time residential program for mental health that was considered largely 'alternative'. It seems that our view as the general public on all things 'alternative' when it comes to our wellbeing is changing. Rapidly.
Are we are seeking new ways of doing things? Are we starting to evolve as a species? I bloody hope so! Because frankly the world could use more peace. And anything that promotes peace or falls under the peace banner is a winner in my book.
'Yoga Is Not About Touching Your Toes. It's About What You Learn On The Way Down' Jigar Gor
Body - Mind - Spirit :: What Does Holistic Health Really Mean? And Is Yoga The Ultimate Holistic
Health & Peace Promoting Tool?
What other practice in your Western life helps you connect your body, mind and spirit and help them integrate as one? What other practice reminds you of who you really are and invites you to be a more peaceful person? Stumped? Yep that's right, it's a limited choice. And maybe this is what is wrong with our world. And its for this reason that Yoga has become hugely popular and the general public has started to subtly, if not unknowingly, enquire into its benefits and seek a deeper meaning to their fast faced lives.
I think WE as a whole collective have realised that tackling issues only on a physical level or only from a mental or emotional perspective is limited at best. We know that faith alone doesn't provide all the answers. We know that diet and exercise alone doesn't lead us to fulfilment. We've realised that human beings might be more complicated than first thought (really? daah!) and we've gone looking unconsciously in search of a holistic system that helps us grow our consciousness and level of connectedness to ourselves and others and the world.
The full yogic system encompasses wellbeing on all levels.
Yoga provides us with a way to connect and balance our body with mind and spirit.
The definition of yoga is to ‘yolk.’
Which essentially means to blend and integrate our body, our mind and our spirit. It is a way of being able to blend all aspects of yourself into one happy, easy-going individual. Created over 10 000 years ago their (the cave dwelling intellectual and wise yogi's in search of more) cultivated knowledge, took time to gain insight into the human way of being and gained wisdom that is both astonishing and truly magical in today's terms. Who do you know that has taken the time to do that? Most importantly, yoga is a compassionate practice for relieving personal suffering and offers relief from stress and stress related illness into one neat little package that takes like an hour here and there. It's gold.
As the general public has started to turn away from looking at ourselves as a solitary unit of just brain or body we have rapidly started to look for newer ways of understanding ourselves, like what are we made of? Are we only a body? Are we just solely driven by our brain or mind? Are we energy or a body containing a spirit? Where do we go when we die? It boggles the mind but something is happening to human consciousness that is opening the gateway for these questions to be said out loud without thinking that we are nuts, a hippy or a 'spiritual' type of person. We are seeking answers as a collective.
For The Eye Rolling Skeptics - I Was You Once...
I'm a natural born skeptic and science brain at best and believe me the idea of energy, working with emotions and thought and not looking at things only from a science perspective screwed with my mind. I grew up with a mother as a healer and organic food lover with crystals and reflexology and a Naturopathic family doctor and I've been guinea pigged on every natural form of alternative health and spiritual technique of enlightenment you can imagine. So believe me if you are skeptical and a realist, I'm with you. I've been there.
I Thought Yoga Was A Load Of BS
When I first started going to regular yoga classes at a health retreat in Mexico, I have to admit, the happy easy-going yogis with their flowing walk and big calm smiles, just plain annoyed me. I think they annoyed me because I was suffering with, well... just myself at the time, and I didn’t understand why others were so damn happy, while I was in the depths of despair... It felt unfair. Although I was living a wonderful life I felt empty. I felt something was missing. They just plain aggravated me and maybe because I envied them. The teacher's soft voice in the class, the sitting still, the slowing down. It was torture. I couldn't hear om without giggling. And I couldn't do the postures without pain, even though I was flexible and had trained as a dancer for most of my life. Where was the pain coming from? My breath didn't reach further than my throat let alone into my belly and the philosophy sounded like fairy talk.
I look back now and know that my judgement was due to my own suffering and that I was not living fully. That kind of anger, judgment, arrogance and inflexibility is not healthy. That frustration anchored internally in my health and eventually my body snapped. It was like walking through a fog each day and not knowing which route to take but thinking I knew all the answers. Constant Torture. Guided by only the never ending stream of thoughts in my mind that bullied me and constricted by the aches, pains and desires of my body; I was blinded and lost. And arrogant. And deeply troubled. And anxious. And unsure of myself. The list goes on. And I know so many people who feel this way. And I know this is what I become when I venture away from my yoga mat for too long.
The more I think about it now, clearly I was desperate for a change and seeking something but what? Why was I heading to the class daily if I wasn't in need of something? Was it giving me something that I needed, like a drug, but I couldn't identify what it was? It certainly was. And it's why hundreds of thousands more flock to classes every year without knowing why they go back. We are all on the search for a deeper sense of fulfillment, a longing for a relationship with the world around us and to understand who we really are. I didn’t get yoga and I didn’t get those who loved it. It wasn’t long though before yoga would become a permanent part of my life and that I too would become a happy, easy-going, annoying yogini.
My Teacher Says - If You Want The Benefits Do The Work. Full Stop.
And he isn't just talking about yoga. He is talking about life. I started to learn that my behavior on the mat reflected my behavior in real life. when I wanted to run, judge or hide. This was what I was doing daily. Torn between running, casting judgement and hiding from myself. I needed discipline and I also needed surrender. And so I knew it was my medicine even if it hurt, even if I cried in class but didn't know why, even if it made me angry, even if it made me feel elated or high. I persisted. Mostly because I am stubborn and like to get to the bottom of things. But secondary because I just had to know what it was about a yoga class that made me feel so damn happy.
I am now a self confessed lover of yoga. I give thanks every single day for the gift of being able to enjoy such a beautiful simple practice that brings an immense amount of calm to my life. I know that it will be a permanent part of my world forever and is absolutely the number one reason why anxiety is no longer a part of my life. I don't shout it from the rooftops and I don't force my experience on anyone. Ask any of my friends and family and they will tell you that I am the most un yogi like yogi there is.
Let Yoga Become A Playground For Your 'SELF'
Yoga and meditation have aided me in building a strong relationship with myself and in finding a personal playground to work on my behaviour, thoughts and emotions without judgment or force. “Every time we judge ourselves our heart breaks,” beautiful and true words from Amy Weintraub the author of ‘Yoga For Depression’; a wonderful read for those wanting to further understand how yoga and meditation work on the brain and help us recover from ‘sticky’ periods in our life. Yoga gives you the traction you are looking for to walk yourself out of those sticky periods of life.
'It's like pulling yourself out of quicksand when you are on the mat and starting to breathe for the first time.'
The World Would Be A Different Place If Yoga Was A Daily Practice For All
I hope yoga will become a key part of your life. If I had one wish, it would be that the gift of yoga would be a part of every person’s world, in one way or another. Whether it is the gift of connection to breath, the gift of mindfulness, the gift of a strong body or the gift of non violence. The world would be an entirely different place with any of the above present in every single person. And you don't need to be a hippy.
When we talk about yoga in programs, we refer to all that encompasses the yoga path and how it can be translated into the life of the everyday person; beautiful moral codes, purposeful ways of living peacefully, philosophy, physical practice, meditation, relaxation and more. Yoga, even after thousands of years, remains more popular than ever as westerners flock to classes to help calm their minds, strengthen their bodies and find connection to that part of their self that remains unchanged and unweathered by modern life.
I am a little biased when it comes to talking all things yoga. Yoga is the love of my life and without it I would be...well...very, very unhappy and very, very unwell, anxious and still living life on the surface. When I finished my yoga training I honestly thought, “Why the hell doesn’t everyone in the entire universe know about this?” and I have made it one of my life’s missions to teach wholeheartedly to those who are on a path, at a beginners level, of seeking more happiness ever since. When yoga became the final part of the puzzle for ridding myself of anxiety and ongoing health issues, I wanted to scream from the rooftops that, “I found a way out!” and you can too.
How To Start Your Own Yoga Practice
1. Learn More About Yoga
It's helpful to learn about what yoga is really about. You can check out more here with my free tools and info.
2. At Home - Free
Be realistic, you may not have enough time to get to a class or be able to afford it, but that doesn't mean you can't start practicing today. I have a few free classes on my site. Grab them here.
3. Get To A Class - $10-$20 (depending on where you live)
There are many different styles of yoga and the styles and schools can be confusing. I recommend starting with either Hatha (a more traditional style that involves just moving from posture to posture & breath work) or Vinyasa (offers a stronger more fluid and flowing style of class) and look for a beginners course or classes aimed at beginners. Some schools of yoga can be very serious and you will feel uncomfortable heading into a class where everyone is treating it like a religion. Others more relaxed and more focused on the physical practice like a sport. Try and find a middle ground. It takes time to find the right teacher. You have to really like the person and their focus should be inspiring you. Once you've found them you will know it's the right fit for you. So try different classes and then try and commit to twice a week. And feel the difference.
I've offered lots of helpful tips and tools about yoga, mindfulness and meditation on this site. Don't forget if you sign up as a free site member you access my audio guides, audio blogs (including free meditation and yoga) and more. Access here.
"Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured" B K S Iyengar
I'd love to hear about your experience with yoga. Tell me about it in the comments below.
Have a great day!