The participants in my yoga classes range from beginner to very experienced, all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities. At the start of my classes, I ask the participants to respect their body as it is that day, take a break when needed, skip some poses, modify poses, add in extra poses, and to do what is best for themselves. Everyone’s poses will look different. And most of all, I tell them to breathe!
There are usually comments from people that they aren’t flexible, or can’t do a pose, or they compare their pose to someone else’s or mine. I’ve had some participants who’s Warrior II isn’t much different from their Mountain pose, that’s all their body can do at that time and that’s OK. After class, I often hear from the first timers, ‘I hope I didn’t look silly’. Why are we so tough on ourselves? There’s no need to compare, we are all different in so many ways, not just in yoga; that’s what amazes me about people, it makes life interesting.
When my kids were younger, they were very different in flexibility, one could not bend over to touch his toes, barely even to his knees, but he could do a full wheel backbend; my other son had very limited back bend flexibility, but he could easily bend over to touch his toes. Now, neither of them can touch their toes nor do a full wheel backbend.
We are all different, we don’t know what the person beside us has been through. We don’t know how long each person has been practicing yoga, just since last week, intermittent, or years of committed practice. We don’t know who’s recently had surgery, an injury, joint replacement, osteoarthritis, a misaligned healed broken leg, or a childhood injury that still subtly affects movement. Each of our bodies are different, different shapes, different proportions, different strengths, and abilities. Allowing ourselves to embrace our differences applies to all aspects of our lives, our differences are our gifts that we bring to the world.
I recently read an article where the teacher at a foreign yoga school had a very narrow view of what yoga should and should not be; they were annoyed with what yoga has become. I believe yoga can provide benefits to many people, we are each searching for something a bit different. Let your yoga practice (and life) be what it needs to be for you, let it evolve and change to best suit you.
A few years ago, I was participating in bootcamp classes a few times a week, plus running and workouts at home. It was what I needed at the time, it was my therapy for a rough transitional period of my life. Then I expanded my yoga practice to provide balance to the strenuous exercise, it brought more peace to me. I’ve since considerably decreased the strenuous exercise, and am being more gentle with myself, which extends to more balance in my daily life.
I believe yoga should be inclusive to all, whoever wishes to participate should be able to receive what they need from their own practice, whether that be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or all of these. It is not a competition, no need to compare or judge, just be your own best self as you are.
If you could call it perfection
what would it look like?
How would you know it,
Wherever you are now
call it perfection
that in this moment
it is really enough.