The Face (and Body) of Yoga

Posted on Nov 29, 2012 | 4 comments

The Face (and Body) of Yoga

Yesterday I found myself poking around on Pinterest and of course I searched “Yoga”. As I scrolled through the visual representations of my beloved ancient practice I began to feel troubled and frankly angry. I have been a Yogi now for over a decade and have taught many others in the past several years but NONE of us look like THAT! Of course Yogis come in all shapes and sizes, but something is off when 90% of the images picture women who are single digit sizes and appear to be in their mid to early 20’s. And then let’s talk about the poses pictured – mostly VERY advanced poses. Really? I rejoice when any individual finds peace and health through Yoga, but what do these images do for the person who really wants and/or needs to do Yoga but feels that they are too (insert description here)? It makes them feel excluded and not good enough reinforcing the impression that Yoga is some sort of club that they don’t have any right to join. And that is what makes me angry. I have personally witnessed the transformation that Yoga can bring – not so much in the size of a body, but definitely in the strength and health of a body not to mention the mental clarity. But where are we represented? Where are the bodies like mine and my student’s, strong, healthy and flexible but still a size 14,or over 60, or over 80, or winning the battle with chronic illness? Where are we in the picture of Yoga? We are there, but we are buried under the other 90% so you have to dig deeper. But will that person who needs/wants Yoga dig that deep to find someone they can relate to? My dear Yogis this is where we have neglected our duty. How many times do we refuse to have our picture taken because we feel we do not look “good enough”? Yoga poses are about the body and its ability to move so pictures of these poses highlight our physical form – and we have a hard time dealing with that. So we decline to have our Yoga image displayed, and that is our mistake. We are not present in the depiction of Yoga – because we will not consent to be photographed and have those photos displayed. This is a hard truth, but consider the injustice we do to those who seek Yoga and feel excluded not to mention the injustice we do to the practice of Yoga itself. And even worse consider the injustice we do to ourselves by once again telling our bodies they are not good enough. I know having your body displayed in all its Yogic glory is very difficult – I had to face this reality when I posted this website and included my own images. But it is time that we stand up for Yoga, for those seeking Yoga and for ourselves. It is time that we change the face and body of Yoga on the web and in the media. My fellow Yogis I beg you to strike a pose – photograph it – and then post it! Show the world who we are and hopefully someone will see someone like themselves and finally feel invited into the club....

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Confidence

Posted on Feb 1, 2011 | 1 comment

I have had several conversations this week about confidence.  Specifically about confidence in advanced Yoga asanas (poses).  First let me clarify what an advanced Yoga asana is.  It is any pose that YOU feel is just out of YOUR reach.  It is not full Hand Stand if you are just getting the hang of Plank.  In this scenario it would be holding Plank for five yogic breaths instead of three. Remember that your Yoga is not my Yoga.  Your body is uniquely Yours – there has never been another body like yours and there never will be another like yours.  And with that uniqueness comes limitations and strengths.  So I am talking here about reaching outside of your preconceived notions about what you can do to achieve something you thought was just outside your reach – not doing the impossible.  Though someday that impossible pose just might be your favorite. So the question is: how do you find the confidence to attempt that next level of a pose?  Three things: Dedication, Persistence, and Trust. Dedication is showing up to your mat and doing the poses that build the necessary muscle strength, flexibility and breath control to get to that next pose.  Even if you hate that pose.  Remember that Yoga is a practice that will change your body and your life.  Every pose, every move, does something!  Nothing goes to waste in Yoga.  Plank builds the strength in your core muscles to support your body in Hand Stand.  Ah ha!! Persistence is continuing to work on that pose that you don’t like so you can not only build upon it, but embrace it.  Many a Yogi and Yogini have started out absolutely dreading a pose that later becomes their favorite.  I myself really dreaded Down Dog when I first started.  It was so HARD!  But now – that pose is a resting pose for me.  Who knew?  It is persistence that will propel you to the next level.  Remember just because you are not “good” at it today does not mean that you will not someday strike that pose very elegantly. Trust.  Wow what a loaded word!  Trust is very hard to come by these days in just about any arena.  But how about trust in yourself and your body?  I hear you groaning, but hang with me here.  All that dedication, showing up to the mat and persistence to keep trying that difficult pose culminates right here.  You have to trust that your body is strong enough and flexible enough and can breath enough to move into that next level. I have watched many a student tell me they couldn’t, but with a gentle hand and encouragement they end up in Back Bend or finish Sun Salutation or just get their hands on the floor in Forward Bend.  And they feel great!  They are set free from the doubt and mistrust of their bodies. Now, it would be wrong of me not to remind you that it is very easy to hurt yourself in Yoga.  This is a life long practice not something you “achieve” and move on to the next thing.  NEVER TAKE YOUR BODY TO A POINT THAT CAUSES ACUTE PAIN.  You should be working the body – not tearing anything.So keep showing up to the mat, keep working that pose you dread and know in your bones that with time you can get to that next...

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