Ellen Whitney
January 24, 2017
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Yoga Is For Everyone

Whether you’re big, small, old, young, a professional athlete, or someone who has never exercised a day your life, yoga is for you. It’s easy to be intimidated by those who are super flexible- you know, the ones that post daily shots of themselves with their legs behind their ears. Or maybe it’s the ultra strong that dishearten you- the ones who, judging by their Instagram feed, seem to spend more time upside down than they do right side up. Whatever or whomever has been holding you back until this point, don’t let these glorified characteristics deter you…there’s much more to yoga than meets the eye.

With the rise of Instagram, our pages are constantly flooded with images of “perfect” fitness model bodies. Not only that, but pictures of yogis with their bodies contorted in every direction seem to promote that these inversions are what we should all be striving for. However, yoga is not about attaining the perfect pose, having the newest leggings, or the most followers on social media, it’s about slowing down and letting go.

As soon as you step into the practice room, the door becomes a barrier to the external world- separating you from the worries, stress, and anxiety that lie outside the walls. The yoga then begins simply by lengthening and deepening each breath. As your body settles in to stillness on the mat, you can start to tune in to the rise and fall of the diaphragm with each breath, and tune out the chatter of the mind. You may feel as if you’re always running from one thing to the next, just trying to keep up, which is why yoga’s purpose is to help you step off the treadmill of life. The practice allows you to slow down your movement, as you become mindful of how your body moves with each breath, and the sensations that are created as you transition from pose to pose.

Yoga is about letting go of any judgment and any thoughts of what “should be” and simply embracing the present moment. Forget how you think the postures “should look” and instead focus on how they feel in your body. Don’t be afraid to use modifications, blocks, or straps as needed. While immersed in your practice, set your to-do list aside, and simply let your mind be clutter free.

You may think, “But I’m not flexible, I won’t be good at yoga” when in reality, that’s why you should do yoga! Flexibility is unique to each individual, and yoga will help you discover the capabilities specific to your body. Not only does yoga help improve flexibility, but it can also ease the pain and inflammation that comes with chronic conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer. Likewise, the practice helps build physical and mental strength, also improving the health of your joints, spine and posture.

Three years ago, I started my practice as a New Year’s resolution, vowing to go 3 times per month just to stretch and neutralize all the lifting I was doing. By the end of the year, I was practicing 3 times per week, and today, I’m a certified yoga teacher. While my mobility certainly did increase throughout those first twelve months, what started as a purely physical goal, resulted in an emotional transformation too. I began not only using my time on the mat each day to lengthen my body, but as an outlet to relieve the unshakeable stress I felt while working a job that made me extremely unhappy.

Which brings me to my final, and perhaps most important argument for universal yoga, in that yoga helps spread peace. If you’re not already involved in the practice, I may have just lost you in that line. Trust me, I used to tune out as soon as “peace” was mentioned to me in terms of yoga too. However, when I was in the darkest place of my life, that’s when I started to take my practice seriously, because the time I was in that room was the only part of my day when my body and mind were calm. The peace and comfort yoga made me feel is the key reason I continued. I now have less of a “reactive” personality, and my life has become more tranquil. I used to be tense, easily angered, and rigid. Now, the frame of mind yoga puts me in has allowed me to assess situations through a different lens, knowing that not every situation has to disrupt my mood.

While I believe yoga is a practice for us all, it is definitely not one-size-fits-all. Your expression of a posture may look entirely different from the person standing next to you. Some prefer to move more, some prefer to move less. However, the true “yoga” continues so long as you are consciously breathing and being present in the moment. There is a lot of controversy surrounding what is real yoga versus what is not, so instead of trying to conform to the way others express themselves, simply practice in a way that allows you to stay true to yourself. No matter who you are or where your life is, yoga has the power to calm the mind, strengthen the body, and make the world a better place.

How has yoga impacted your life? We would love to hear your story in our Facebook comments! Looking to get started with the practice in 2017? Feel free to reach out to us with any questions, comments, or concerns!

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