This article was inspired by a paragraph from the book, The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, by T. K. V. Desikachar. The purpose of this post is to elaborate on a point using the example of smoking, not to promote or discourage it.
Is there something in your life holding you back from making that leap toward a healthier and happier lifestyle? Perhaps you're a smoker? Maybe you make poor eating choices, or have barely exercised a day in your life...?
Do you feel like a hypocrite going to a yoga class?
Do you have good intentions, but not enough follow-through?
Are you good enough to practice yoga?
If you're seriously pondering that last question, "Are you good enough to practice yoga?", I know exactly how you feel and what you mean. I asked that very question three years ago. I was not an exercise-junkie, didn't feel vibes from the spiritual world and felt a tad bit...unworthy.
A lot of times, we have these small things that tend to hold us back from our true desires or curiosities. What's yours?
What's Stopping You?
There is often a hesitation that prevents us from stepping into the world (or classroom) of yoga. For me, it was my complete lack of flexibility and lack of athletic ability that created feelings of inadequacy. For some, hesitation may come rooted behind a comfort maintaining poor habits or maybe being devoted to a particular religion that may clash with the "idea of yoga". Perhaps you smoke, drink too much, or have a physical limitation of some sort. Maybe others have told you that yoga will be more challenging for you due to a preconceived short-coming. Is it hypocritical to practice yoga if you're a smoker?
Yoga is for Everyone
When I say yoga is for everyone, I mean it. If you live in a land where yoga is for thin, healthy and active or athletic types, you should move. Get out of town, dude! There's actually a movement called the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. They sell shirts that say "this is what a yogi looks like" in all shapes and sizes. If you fit into the shirt, you fit into yoga. Yoga doesn't just open the doors for people of all different physical shapes, but also for people with different habits, hobbies, lifestyles and ranges of health.
I Don't Care if You Smoke
I mean, just don't blow it in my face. But really, we all know smoking, like abuse of alcohol, drugs or even food, is disrespectful to the body and counter-productive to maintaining a healthy and natural lifestyle. Whatever, right? What does this have to do with yoga? The point of yoga is to find unity and truth between body, mind and soul. The side-affect is discovering how to achieve the previously unachievable. Achieve the previously unachievable. Smoking isn't a deal-breaker when it comes to practicing yoga. It certainly isn't stopping you from trying and participating with positive intentions. However, it does create a barrier that will eventually prevent your yoga practice from growing past a certain point. Barriers can be weakened, barriers can be knocked down with enough force and enough power behind the punch. So you smoke, and perhaps you would like to quit? Focus on diving deep into yoga and coming face to face with the truth and power that lies deep within. Achieve the previously unachievable. Like many yogi's curiously exploring the path of "zen", you will likely surprise yourself.
Do You Fit Into the "Yoga Scene"?
That's a rhetorical question, by the way. Yes! The answer is always "yes"! Over time our western culture has created a "qualifying" image of what yoga and a yogi looks like. I've met enough people who express their hesitation about trying yoga for the following reasons: it's out of their league, they aren't flexible, it's not enough of a workout, or there's something about them that doesn't quite fit in. Sometimes even the "spiritual" aspect (commonly misunderstood about the practice) can be a turn-off for some. If you are genuinely interested in yoga, but feel that you don't fit the mold, listen up. It's you I want to talk to.
I received the inspiration to write this post after reading an excerpt from T. K. V. Desikachar's book. In the book, there was a brief discussion about beginning a yoga practice and starting where you are...where EVER you are. Yoga doesn't judge your body, nor does it judge your life choices. Desikachar mentions that yoga, for many, begins as a physical journey toward fitness, health and stress-relief. He's right. Like myself, many of us start yoga as a work-out benefit to counter our busy, stressful and somewhat-stationary lives.
Yoga is often seen as a state of mind, a way of being and living. If you can breathe, you can practice yoga. Honestly, you don't even have to move much if you don't want to. You can just breathe. Breathing with intention is the first step to becoming a yogi. Want in?
Yoga is More Than...
How many times have you heard that yoga is more than just stretching or more than just physical movement and exercise? This is the place where yoga begins to shimmer in dim light. This is the magic of yoga and transforming lives. If you practice yoga consistently, with patience and mindfulness, you will most likely start to feel it affect you differently. Over time, it's very common to recognize a transition toward deeper attention, purification and inner healing. This journey and practice generally leads toward healthier daily habits and practices. You're new natural sense of self-awareness will guide you toward a path of healing, fulfillment and joy.
There is something magical that separates yoga from other forms of movement. Yoga urges a more intuitive connection to mind and body, something easily gets lost in the midst of our daily routine. The more you integrate a yoga practice into your life, the more you will start to see subtle adjustments in how you see the world, how you see yourself and what you truly want in this life. These adjustments will lead to a stronger and more willing-self.
The magic of yoga is the discovery that all the happiness, peace and change we desire comes from an endless well of power, intention and healing already within us.
Yoga teaches familiarization and recognition of inner desires. It can take the human brain and mind to new levels, that which we were not previously able to do. Back to Desikacher's definition of yoga as "achieving what we previously could not achieve". That's exactly what it's all about. Anyone can do that, no matter what your present condition or habits may be. Everyone starts from somewhere completely different, and everyone's achievements are all on infinitely different scales. It's not about the pose someone can or can't do, it's about the space in between the "can't" and "can". It's about starting at point A and consciously traversing to point B. The journey will be different for everyone. This is the very reason it is okay to be a smoker and still practice yoga. Start where you are and progress to a new height. Movement and patience offer great advantages when you are conscious embarking on a journey toward truth and self-love.
Anything can happen, anything can change and you have the power to do it. Everyone has bad habits, and no one deserves to be judged on that. What we all need to do is decide on a realistic approach to bring health and happiness into our life. The practice of yoga tends to create a strong sense of self-worth and self-care over time. The more you practice honestly and authentically, the more you will want to respect and honor your body. Usually, that means actively working hard to eliminate negativity, bad relationships and even bad habits.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
Let's keep the conversation going. Post your thoughts in the comment section below!
Hello, I'm Julie.
One of the many things yoga taught me was empowerment...and I hope to share that with you here.
Bring wisdom, nourishment and a deeper connection to all aspects of your life.