Jim Carrey does it, Ellen Degeneres does it, Jennifer Aniston does it, and so should you if you want that ‘Jennifer Aniston body’ and amazing ‘glow”. At least if you believe all the magazines and celebrity news shows.
Yes, I am talking about yoga.
Currently, there is a yoga wave sweeping over the world. I bet you have not missed it. There is now yoga for everything: yoga for weight loss, yoga for runners, yoga for enlightenment, equestrian yoga, SUP yoga, spinning&yoga, yoga for climbing trees, yoga for millionaires, and yoga for yoga.
Joking aside, yoga is definitely becoming ‘hip’, and everyone is now expected to know what a “downward facing dog” is (it is a yoga pose).
Many yoga teachers and other “yoga people” are expressing a concern for this new trend. They are worrying that yoga is being “too westernized” and turning into too much of just another workout routine. They argue that yoga is so much more than just stretching or standing on your hands. They think it is frightening how yoga is turning “cool” and that people come to yoga for the wrong reasons.
I am not one of those people.
Personally, I am thrilled over the new “coolness” of yoga. I am thrilled and excited because I know the power of yoga, I know people come to my classes looking for the Jennifer Aniston Glow, but leave with so much more.
The thing is, regardless of why you come to yoga, it will still transform you. That is the magic of yoga.
I remember when I first started yoga (because I wanted that lean look). My friend took me to this very accomplished and amazing yogi, who frankly scared me to death. He was chanting, using singing bowls, he was into pranayama (breathing exercising), and not at all into teaching me the best poses for “leaner legs”. I went a few times but then started practicing somewhere else because I thought it was a better workout. It cracks me up today when I think of this. I recently went back and took a class with this guy, and I was amazed over his knowledge and spirituality. We had a deep discussion on the concept of duality and whether the eight limbs if yoga really is in the right order.
I realized that he hadn’t changed, but I had. Without wishing for it, without even wanting it! Yoga magic.
No matter what brings you to the mat, a few things will start to change, and they will do that pretty fast. One of the first things is that you start to tune into your body. You notice how it changes from practice to practice depending on time of day, stress levels, amount of sleep, what you ate, and a million other variables. It may surprise you how much your body fluctuates between strong and weak, flexible and stiff, and focused and scatter minded. This in turn make you pay more attention to your body. You start caring about what and how you eat, how you rest, how you breathe.
The breath changes, you find yourself taking deeper, calmer breaths as you find yourself in a stressful situation, or simply because you remembered how good you felt in yoga class.
As your practice progresses you find joy in getting into poses that once seemed impossible, your body feels so much more open, and when missing a few classes, you start longing for that effortless feeling, the lightness that has moved into your body.
Your mind is changing too. As you notice the fluctuations of your body, you find a new acceptance for it, and a new humble notion into your own abilities. You cultivate patience as you keep working on opening up the body, as well as a playfulness as to not take it so seriously. You become better at staying present and in the moment, and this leads to a more positive and joyful outlook on life.
There is no coincidence yoga is touted as a powerful anti-depressant or having a calming effect on people that are hyper, suffer from anxiety or stress. These are not just my words. This is all proven by science. A regular yoga practice does change your brain. Its thinking patterns, its matter, and even the shape and frequency of the electrical impulses. It is Yoga magic!
So, when someone new comes to my class, saying that he/she wants to do that cool foot behind the head pose, do hand standing because it is “awesome’, get a leaner physique and “is this a good workout?”, or their doctor told them they need to lower their cholesterol, I always guarantee them that we can do all that, as long as they come back regularly. There’s no need for me to preach to them about what “yoga is really all about ” (I do that enough in class), or lecture them for wanting such shallow things (come on, we all kind of enjoy these side effects of yoga), or scare them away with too much “new agey” stuff. If I can only get them to come back, that is all I need to do. Like Tim a Miller says; As a teacher I am merely a guide and inspirer, and it is the practice itself that is the real teacher. The practice will teach us all we need to know. That is the yoga magic.
“Practice, and all is coming.” – Shri K. Phattabi Jois