As a certified yoga instructor, I would like to say that I have the knowledge to explain yoga. However, yoga is something very different from the westernized, media-fluffed, Lululemon, consumer-driven, body-idealizing monster it has become in mainstream media. There are aspects of yoga that have far more meaning.
The word yoga in its simplest translation means “to yoke” or “unify.” Yoga is meant to unify body and breath, mind and soul. The purpose of this unification is self-awareness, letting go of judgment, and settling the mind. Yoga seeks to ease suffering by connecting one with “self.”
But what does this mean? We have heard these terms being thrown around, seen the caption underneath an airbrushed photo of a woman dressed in white tilting her head toward the sun while in some elegant-looking pose. That image does not represent the “self” I am talking about. The self I am talking about is the authentic “you.” The “you” that has let go of the things that you thought gave you self-worth and finding true identity.
Imagine taking an hour each day to step onto a mat – not only to practice breathing and movement, but also to clear your mind from all the superficial and material things the world tells you are important. What is left, if you let all that go?
You are not your ability to get As in school. You are not the money that is in your bank account, you are not the clothes you wear on your back, you are not the truck you drive. You are not your temper, you are not your indifference.
There is a term in yogic philosophy called “the observer.” When you are allowing yourself to be the observer, you are allowing yourself to see all things about yourself, including the things you are not so fond of as well as the things you are, and releasing any judgment or attachment you may have to these things. You simply let them go as they are and allow yourself to be in the present.
It is far too rare that we truly allow ourselves to be focused on solely our present. This, the yogis would say, is the key to a life without suffering: living in the present and letting go of judgment. When we have cultivated a peaceful and non-judgmental mind, all those characteristics the world says make “good people” grow without any effort or striving at all.
Getting past the stereotype that has been inflicted upon yoga can be a struggle for any instructor. We want to teach an authentic class, and make a difference by bringing peace and self-awareness to your day. Yoga instructors are not there with the purpose to help you get a flexible lean body.
No, we desire much more for you. The physical benefits are like a cherry on top of a cake of mindfulness and peace we want you to bring to your entire being. Yoga instructors are your guides on a path you are taking within yourself. Your practice is your own and we are just there to offer support.
Yoga is for everyone, anywhere. It is not gendered and it does not contain a hierarchy. Every body type is a yoga body type. It is not necessary to be flexible, strong, thin, vegan, or a part of any social stereotype. Yoga, in its true form, is about nothing more than unification of self and finding peace.
You need to be nothing other than what you are in the present moment to practice yoga!