What would you associate yoga with?
a) a calm, serene, transparent lake
b) a turbulent sea with opaque tides
My answer before I got into yoga about a year ago, would have been a). I was prepared for a seamless journey where I could just let myself go in the slow dance of a placid swell. I guess I was based on all of the articles on personal inspirational experiences, medical researches and psychological studies published.
Now I know better. Now I know that yoga is not all chants, oms and easy going, that there are times that you have to swim counter-current or find a rock to hold on before you drown. Now I know that yoga is the most difficult journey I have embarked in: a journey towards a honest and deeper knowledge of myself. A necessary and life-changing journey.
If you are thinking about starting yoga or you want to give it up, here are some of the myths I wish I knew a year ago:
Yoga is relaxing
This is the number one misconception I admit being guilty of having held. Building strength is not relaxing. My legs wobble in the class and for an hour after it. My arms quiver in every plank pose. My muscles are sore the day after. Yoga is not relaxing, yoga is invigorating.
I will get hooked from the start
It took me months before I stopped thinking about how the perfect asana should look like and started thinking about how to make the asana perfect for me at that precise moment. It was only then that I started benefiting from my practice and enormously enjoying myself.
Flexibility is a requirement
I had a 29-year old inflexible body of stiff muscles when I started a year ago. I am hopeless at physical activities—I was the one a team was ‘stuck with’ in Physical Education classes at school, always picked last. Yoga is not for the flexible, it’s for the willing.
Props are for beginners
In fact, some people don’t even use them the first time they hit a mat! Props modify asanas and they should be seen as companions in your journey, rather than shortcuts or easy ways out. Blocks beautifully transform my posture to engage different parts of my body. Straps challenge my muscles to go to places you they have never reached before.
I will skip poses that I can’t get to. Only the full pose will grant benefits
Modifications to asanas don’t diminish their benefits. I get my knees down if I need to and rest in child pose for a breath or two. I have learnt to listen to my body and make the pose work for me on a given day.
Asanas are all about practice
Well, yes and no. Practice has helped me grow and evolve, but I listen to my body. How I feel on a particular day might be completely different as how I felt another. And once on the mat, I always notice that one side of my body feels completely different to the other. I am okay with the self that I am at that moment.
My yoga practice starts and finishes with my yoga class
I’m tired of being asked how often do I practice yoga. My answer can’t be other than “24 hours a day”. I don’t see yoga as a practice anymore, it has become my lifestyle since the first day my scared self stepped onto a mat.
Yoga has taught me that I need to be patient with myself. Transformation takes time and hard work, but I’m sure it is worth it!
As Dory from Finding Nemo would put it: “Keep swimming!”
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Apprentice Editor: Yaisa Nio / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: elephant archives