“Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind. Then there is abiding in the Seer’s own form.” ~ Patanjali
As someone who is always on the lookout for new students to walk into my studio, I am constantly talking to people about how much yoga can benefit their lives. I have talked to community groups, spoken to doctors at medical centers and am generally just trying to spread the word.
But it seems at least once every day I hear someone say, “I can’t do yoga; my body doesn’t bend like that!” Now I have to admit, before I started doing yoga I had the same idea—you have to be super bendy and strong.
I had been misinformed about doing yoga. My only yoga experience had come from yoga magazines and books. I would see these people, beautiful people, doing these outrageous poses, and it scared me to try it.
Fortunately I discovered a TV show called Yoga Zone on the health network, and realized I could do yoga; anybody can do yoga. That was ten years ago and since that time yoga has exploded; it’s everywhere—in self-help magazines, tv shows, etc. There are studios all over the country and hospitals are implementing yoga pilot programs.
But still I hear, almost daily, “I can’t do that!”
I wonder if we as a yoga community are missing the boat when it comes to reaching the masses of people. As I said, I look at yoga magazines and I see these beautiful people doing these outrageous poses, but now that I know what yoga is about, I can put it into perspective.
It is fun to look at them and wonder if I will ever get to a point of doing those poses. But I also know it is not necessary for me to do them to fully experience yoga. Most people who have not experienced yoga at all do not know this, and therefore yoga intimidates them.
The photos in those magazines are beautifully lit, usually colorful and have graceful human bodies poised, doing full-form asana. But what about the middle-aged, overweight woman with high blood pressure? Or the man who works behind a desk all day and has gotten a bit of a spare tire as a result? Where are these people?
Yoga teaches us to let go of judgment, comparison and ego, yet we pick up a magazine which appears to embody all of those things. This leads me to wonder, are we trying to show off in the yoga community or are we trying to educate?
I believe, if we took the middle-aged, overweight woman with high blood pressure and put her in the right light, the right clothes and in a perfectly formed modified version of a pose, we would relate to more people.
And I am not talking about putting the photo on page 93 with a little blurb no one will see unless they read the entire magazine. I’m talking about putting it smack dab on the cover for everyone to see. I think more magazines would be sold and more people would be looking at it saying, I can do this!
The motto at my studio is, Yoga is for everybody and every body. However I, as a teacher, feel I need the help of the media to get this point across. I would like to see real people—the waitress at the coffee shop, the police officer who patrols my neighborhood, the nurse at the medical center, the teacher at the school; people who may be hoping to age gracefully, relieve stress or handle a health condition; and people who have never done yoga before—in class tomorrow. These are the people yoga magazines need to focus on.
I’m not saying the people who do these wonderfully fun, extreme poses should be left out. On the contrary, I just think they need to share the space with the rest of us mere mortals.
I want to touch everyday people and let them know, no matter what their physical shape, yoga is also for them. It doesn’t matter if they have a psychological issue; yoga is for them. It doesn’t matter if they have had their spirits jabbed at too much; yoga is for them. It doesn’t matter who or what you are; yoga is for you.
Yoga is for everybody, and every body.
Kat Robinson is the owner of Active Kat Yoga and the author of “I Almost Died! Reinventing Yourself With Yoga and Meditation After Traumatic Illness or Injury.” She and her husband Brett live in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks where they are “reinventing” a 100-year-old hospital into their home and studio. She is an avid embroiderer and the developer of Sewing Yoga, a therapeutic yoga program for those who sew or work at a desk for extended periods of time. She also self-produced the corresponding DVD Sewing Yoga.
Editor: Jennifer Spesia