A curious and charming thing happens when new students join the yoga classes I teach. They almost always feel amazing when class is over (maybe not so surprising to those of you who practice yoga), but they almost always attribute it to...me!
Sure, I'm a capable and loving teacher, but the intense feelings of gratitude and bliss my students express after class is not because of anything I have said in my instruction (I’m just making suggestions!), or how well I can practice the yoga postures I demonstrate.
Yoga is super popular now, and that’s a wonderful thing. The more yoga, the better, as far as I’m concerned. But in human efforts to profit from this yoga phenomenon, I fear we have put some images into the world that make it seem as though yoga is only for conventionally beautiful, young, fit, flexible women.
Of course, physical beauty can be very fun to possess and/or admire. My students and I love how practicing goddess pose develops long lean leg muscles...and how inversions flush fresh oxygenated blood into our faces creating a rosy glow. But to look at yoga from the perspective of its physical benefits alone is missing the point.
Over time, as my yoga students’ practices become more frequent and regular, I have the pleasure of watching them realize that it is their very own yoga practices that make them feel so amazing. That the time they dedicate each day to their own care and keeping is its own reward. And then here’s where the magic happens: they begin to learn to keep and direct that gratitude and bliss they feel after class into their lives off the mat. They tend to smile more, and stand a little taller. They begin to find more moments of grace.
In its essence, the practice of yoga helps promote health and balance in all its forms, and often physical improvements can be a great effect of that. But it is in the dedication to the practice...to be willing to observe ourselves honestly...to be in one’s own company with little or no distraction... to breathe through worry, stress, frustration, and grief... to let go of judgment and limitations... to trust that everything is as it should be...
to show up on the yoga mat day in and day out with an open heart and a willingness to connect to our deepest selves, that is the true beauty of yoga.
(Excerpt from The Orlando Sentinel, A Better You, Oct 2013).