The Yoga Myth

Inevitably when one is expounding the virtues of yoga the most common misconception is that one has to be elastic-band-supple to purchase a yoga mat, much less take stand on it and practice.It’s an age-old retort along the lines of ‘Oh, I could never do yoga, I’m not at all flexible,” and there ends the chat.

As with many situations in life, I find increasingly that one of the greatest obstacles to almost anything is a lack of flexibility of thinking, and certainly yoga is the purest form of a practice to stretch one’s conceptions. This, if for no other reason, is motivation for me to convince the non-believers that the misnomer of springy hamstrings and a predisposition to doing the splits are not prerequisites for a satisfying practice. An open mind – perhaps, but Barbie-doll elasticity is by no means mandatory.

Yoga above all has taught me to observe my body from the inside out.  Partly because I have acquired in some moderation a degree of patience: it is after all a discipline developed centuries ago to prepare the body to sit in a meditative state for long uninterrupted periods of blissful time.

When using the verb ‘sit,’ bear in mind that the lungs have to be open, the heart lifted, the shoulders back, the spine straight, the tail bone tucked, the inner thighs spiraling in, back and apart…. all of which after the first ten minutes is frustratingly difficult to maintain. One is sitting after all – the possibility that it takes work seems counter-intuitive.

Tremendous strength of muscle and stillness of mind are required. Hence, the practice focuses on building the physical ability to sustain the vigor needed to forget the physical and focus on the mental. Whether one chooses to tackle the complexities of the mind is a purely personal decision. And onewhich,despite being a rather dictatorial person by nature, I do not meddle with as my training is in the physical and here it must remain.

Yoga is essentially a huge learning curve and an unraveling of the tremendous toll life takes on one’s body. Where one rolls ones shoulders forward to muscle through the daily tasks, yoga opens them and clears the tensions’ that tug them downwards. Where running to the finish line tightens the hamstrings and jars the lower back, yoga releases and lengthens. Where cycling contracts the hip flexors, yoga expands. Where coping with almost anything shortens ones breath, yoga deepens. Basically it is a panacea for the very act of living, and just standing in Tadasana(mountain pose), which is to say, firmly, completely, entirely on ones feet can make a small world of difference.

Anyone can do that.