As a yoga teacher, people often tell me that they feel intimidated to attend a yoga class when the topic of attending a yoga class is being raised. Some say they feel intimidated because they are not thin enough in size to practice yoga, too shy to wear tight and/or sexy outfits to practice yoga, whilst most say they are not flexible enough, or too old to practice yoga. So is yoga really only for the good looking and flexible ones? Like the men and women, or models that we always see on social media, TV and magazines?
What is Yoga
Very briefly, the earliest written evidence of what we call yoga is more than 5,000 years old. The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yug’ which means yoke. Yoke means to join. It also means harmony, balance, unity. Therefore yoga means Union or oneness, with its aim is to give us the realisation of ourselves as an individual, our strengths, weaknesses, and everything else within ourselves to make a perfect harmony in the body and mind through the science of yoga.
There is no mention of yoga is only for the young, flexible and good lookings. Yoga does not set any gender, race, age, shapes or size apart. It does not determine or differentiate how or what we should, or have to wear to a class for practice. In the olden days, the only thing people were allowed to wear was a small loincloth during practice for the males, baring their chest. For the females, they will be covered with a bandeau top or even a sari. Traditionally in India, people did not wear stitched clothing. The idea was that there should be as little obstruction as possible.
Yoga is the science of modern living. It has technical systems to help still the mind, to maintain resilience, harness the physical and mental energies and to develop an integrated personality. It is not just a one or two hour class a week. It is neither about looking beautiful in class, being flexible to attend a class, nor a competition. It is a way of balancing the emotions, body and mind through the many paths of yoga that relates or resonates us. hatha, bhakti, raja, jnana and karma yoga. We can practice pranayama (breathing techniques) asanas (yoga poses), relaxation, meditative and pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses/bringing attention inwards) techniques, and many more. We can practice yoga whilst leading a normal lifestyle, as a normal person.
Today, yoga education is being imparted by many eminent Yoga Institutions, Yoga Colleges, Yoga Universites, Yoga Departments in the Universities, Naturopathy colleges and Private trusts & societies. Many yoga clinics, yoga therapy and training centres, preventive health care units of yoga, yoga research centres and many more, have been established in hospitals and medical institutions worldwide because yoga is now commonly known and understood as a therapy or exercise system for health and fitness.
The beauty of yoga is that it is for all people, regardless of age, lifestyle, finances, health, religion, family relations, circumstances, gender, attire, appearance and etc. The main aim of yoga is to attain peace and tranquility within. It is not necessary to give up our normal living to practice it. Everybody can receive the benefits regardless of your look and appearance, and who you are. And millions of people across the world have benefitted from the practice.
So if you have you have tried yoga and decided to that it is just not for you, or stepped out of class feeling disappointed, don’t just stop after just that one or two classes. Keep trying. There are after all many different styles of yoga and teachers today. Chances are you will find one that suits you. Like Swami Satyanandaji always says, yoga is not an ancient myth, lost to this world. It has great importance and benefits, it is a need to practice this art in this day and age so that all of us can enjoy and incorporate into our lives.