Thursday, 16 April 2015

Namaste y'ALL: Yoga is for EVERYONE :)

So you may have noticed that I quite like yoga. I teach yoga, I write about yoga, I practice yoga (almost) daily, yoga-related pictures can easily be found on my Instagram feed, and I follow more yoga pages on Facebook than I can even begin to count! 

Yoga is seriously awesome and there are many reasons why I love it so much. But I am conscious of the fact that on paper I'm a pretty stereotypical yogini: 20-something, western, middle-class, and female. So who am I to start preaching about yoga being for everyone? Well it's a good question, but I don't much care for it.  I strongly believe in yoga being for everyone, and just because I fit into the yoga "stereotype" doesn't mean that that's how I want it to stay. In my world there would be no yoga stereotype as everyone would feel able to practice if they wanted to, and I'm going to try to dispel a few myths and to articulate why it is for everyone in this little post and why we should all give it a go. No excuses accepted!

MYTH 1: Yoga is for girls

Figures show that nowadays yoga is more widely practiced by women than it is by men. However traditionally in India it was a male-only practice; females weren't allowed anywhere near it. So it could be argued that it's a practice which is actually more suited to the male form. 

Yoga (particularly styles such as Ashtanga, rocket, and Vinyasa) is a practice that requires strength, focus, and commitment; each of these requirements is totally genderless, and we could all do with more of them on and off the mat. Furthermore yoga is scientifically proven to have all sorts of health benefits such as reduced stress levels, improved cognitive function, helping to maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, and increased sexual function. So gents, if you're looking for an activity that boosts brain power and has all sorts of physical benefits then join those ladies in the yoga studio! And if you need any further persuasion, I can promise with my hand-on-heart that a regular yoga practice will boost your athletic performance in any other sport you practice: Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James, the New Zealand national Rugby team, Tom Brady and Ryan Giggs all practice yoga to support their games - need I say more?

MYTH 2: I'm too young / old for yoga

See above for the mental and physical benefits of yoga. No matter what our age it's never too early or too late to begin to take care of ourselves that little bit more and to invest some self-love into our routines. 

Nowadays many schools are actually incorporating yoga classes into their extra curricular activities, and yoga for children is a sector that's growing rapidly. My four-year old cousin practices alongside my Aunty to their yoga DVD and he can already perform a better tree pose than I can! He genuinely enjoys it and you can tell that it's something which captures his concentration - no mean feat when you're a toddler! 

Equally, at the other end of the spectrum, if you can still breathe then it's never too late to take up yoga. Of course as we reach the latter years of our lives our bodies won't quite be able to do what they could when we were young, however yoga is an eight-limbed practice: the physical practice is only one of these limbs. Look for a yoga class that is designed for the older generation and one where the teacher is accommodating for any modifications that might be required. These practices will tend to focus more on the breathing and meditation side of yoga, two very important aspects for any yoga practitioner at any age. 

MYTH 3: Yoga is too expensive

It's true that many yoga classes are now at least £10+ for just one session, and many of us can't afford this pricey sum each week. But just because cash is tight doesn't mean that you can't practice yoga. You don't even need to invest in a mat if you don't want to (although if you're in the UK they can be found for a fiver at Sports Direct ;)). 

For the first six months of my yoga love affair I didn't spend a single penny on practice, and yet I was practicing 3 times a week. And how did I do that I hear you say? Good old YouTube videos and free apps is the answer to that question! Do be careful when finding online tutorials; as a beginner you'll be unlikely to know what is safe practice. But I can highly recommend the YouTube videos of Esther Ekhart as she is clear, concise, and concerned with correct alignment. When learning I also used a free app called "Simply Yoga FREE" which gives you 6 different yoga practices, over 20 mins, 40 mins and 60 mins. If you are doing the majority of your practice at home I would suggest trying to go to one class every month, just to check in with a teacher to ensure that you are practicing safely, and also to connect with other yogis who may want to come and join you in your living room or in the park to shake up your yoga practice and to keep it fresh. 

My other tip would be to shop around for deals on sites such as Wowcher, as studios will often offer introductory offers that are affordable. 

MYTH 4: Yoga is for fully able-bodied practitioners

One of the reasons I love yoga so much is that you can adapt your practice completely to your ability, your strength, your feelings. This is the same for EVERYONE - able bodied and disabled practitioners alike. Don't let your disability hold you back as there are always modifications and different styles of yoga that you can try. 

It might be the case that you want to specifically find a yoga class that is designed to accommodate for disabilities, in which case they are out there so all you've got to do is a quick Google session to find the ones near you. Or it may even be worth investing in a few sessions with a private teacher who will be able to work with you one-on-one and guide you to find a practice which suits you most. 

MYTH 5: You've got to be flexible to do yoga

You wouldn't believe how many times I've heard the phrase: "Oh but I'm not flexible enough to do yoga". Come on guys. Really? A) Yoga isn't just about flexibility (the only thing that you're required to have is a flexible mind), and B) It's very unusual to be naturally gifted at something straight away without any practice whatsoever. 

How many times did you have to practice reading before you could complete a whole book? How many times did it take you to perfect your cupcake baking skills? How many times did you fall off your bike when you were learning to ride it? You get my gist. Now get on the mat and stop being so silly. 

So hopefully I've demystified some of the myths around yoga and you'll feel more encouraged to get on the mat and give it a go. Ultimately yoga is about connecting with yourself and loving yourself, and in turn you'll connect more meaningfully with others and with the world around you. If you ask yourself honestly, who doesn't want that? So go on, give it a go, you might just change your life ;)

Namaste y'all! <3

Love Lucy x

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