The western world tends to think of yoga as a predominantly physical pursuit in which only the fortunate flexible few can partake in. Think human pretzels, handstands and the walls of instagram pages that are plastered with legs and arms in places unfathomable to us mere mortals. Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's photo shop. We'll never be sure.
This tale of yoga body contortion perfection is actually very far from the real essence of yoga.
While, yes part of yoga is the physical practice, or asana, as it is known in the yoga world. However, anyone can practice asana by simply lying on their back, it just doesn't look as cool on instagram. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to look at pretty pictures either. I certainly do myself.
So if yoga isn't just about doing a headstand on a sandy beach just as the waves are rolling in again at sunset or standing next to some woman who is wearing mala beads who doesn't shave her armpits, yet parked her Mercedes outside of the $30/class yoga studio, then what is it?
Well the word Yoga means union, or literally, "to yoke". The entire practice of yoga helps to bring together the body mind and spirit. It is an ancient wisdom philosophy that has been around for more than 5000 years.
A great sage named Patanjali, wrote a book called The Yoga Sutras, in which he broke down the ancient knowledge into chunks called sutras. These sutras allow us to explore the true meaning of yoga.
He also breaks down what is known as, "The 8 Limbs of Yoga" (read more here) which is the 8-fold path to Samadhi or peace and enlightenment.
As you can see, asana, or the exercise part of yoga is only one of these 8 steps.
Unfortunately due to the media and general perception of yoga, many people incorrectly believe that they will never be able to practice yoga.
Yoga involves a set of teachings, which when applied, help us to avoid suffering in life. It also involves asana, breathing and meditation so we can understand ourselves and interact more lovingly with those around us.
When we follow this path, we can quieten the mind to leave space for creativity, imagination and our deepest desires to manifest and flourish.
Yoga is for everyone!