One of the things I always tell my students and clients is that "there is no yoga in the Olympics for a reason!" I go on to explain that it is not a competition; not with me, the group, or the instagram yoga-lebrity doing headstand on the edge of a cliff. If there must be a competitive element, then it is with self. To improve on yesterday. But not by doing the pose "better" or relaxing "harder", instead by improving their wellness, sense of calm, connection to their higher Self and to others.
One cannot score yoga. Yoga is an eight-limbed ancient practice, only a small part of which is poses or postures (asana). What about the other seven limbs? A gold medal in meditating? Bronze in energetic breathing? The fact that a huge percentage of people think the poses ARE yoga is the fault of the fitness craze started in the eighties, the teachers who gave the masses what they wanted instead of what it truly is, and most teachers since...In fairness, most current teachers with a 200YT certification probably only had a small taste of the other limbs and of yoga philosophy in their training and they are simply teaching what they were taught and what they are being asked to teach. Someone dropped the ball a long time ago and let this diluted exercise focused stuff take over.
"Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world, and nature" Narendra Modi
There is nothing wrong with exercise of course, it's an important part of a healthy body and mind. Yoga just needs to not be equated with it, or lessened by that being the sole intention. Does the idea of getting a workout or increasing flexibility get people on their mat for the first time? Of course! AND, it is the responsibility of US, the studios, teachers, and "influencers" to address that right off the bat. Offer a beginners series that touches on the eight limbs and the history of the practice, provide newcomers with some printed materials that explain the same, or have some beautiful art on the walls depicting the eight limbs. Will everyone get it or care? No...some will continue to come to class for the fitness, but some will be intrigued and want to know more, ask questions or for suggested readings, or want to take a yoga philosophy workshop.
We can't make them care, they just need to know. Students need to be offered the information, and taught the difference between yoga and a fitness class. To be reminded that their asana practice is theirs. That they need not look enviously at their neighbor who has a "perfect" triangle pose, or force their bodies to do things it just can't or shouldn't do, or feel badly about themselves because they needed to rest in child's pose. Yoga is an inside job. Period. I have left many a studio because the focus was, in my opinion, on the wrong thing.
It is our JOB, fellow teachers and yoga therapists, to create a paradigm shift!
So what's with the soap box you might be wondering? Well, honestly, I'm frustrated and trying to figure out how to communicate what I do as a Yoga Therapist accurately and with passion. So I stop hearing, "I'd love to work with you, but I'm so inflexible", and "I can't meditate, no way I can sit still and think about nothing for an hour". I realize these statements are based in misinformation, assumption and sometimes are excuses, yet if more people understood that they can start where they are (even in a chair), take small steps to increase their abilities, reduce their stress and anxiety, improve their chronic pain, and create a path to increased wellness, they might give it a shot.
It truly hurts my heart when I think about all of the people I could be helping and teaching if they would just hear me, and believe it is possible to reduce their anxiety, chronic pain, or whatever is holding them back. If they would make time for themselves and slow down, look at self-care as a necessity and not a trendy buzz phrase and learn to listen to their body and intuition.
Providing others with a safe space to examine their lifestyle, habits, emotions, patterns, stressors, pain, and attitude is a gift. Offering tools, lessons, activities, and inquiry to address these things is invaluable.
If you've gotten this far and are curious to learn more...my phone consultations are always free and you can book them at melissafineyoga.com
Melissa Fine C-IAYT, 500RYT