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3 Things You Should Know About Yoga

June 19, 2017

Yoga has become, dare I say, “mainstream” in today’s society. We see pictures of yogis all over social media and maybe on T.V., doing crazy poses like handstands or contorting their bodies in directions that we can’t even fathom. As awesome as it is to see people so far into their practice, it can also intimidate those who want to learn yoga and create misconceptions about this beneficiary practice. People may feel like they aren’t flexible or even fit enough, to perform those poses. But yoga isn’t about the poses, or who can touch their toes and who can’t. This is why I have provided three facts that you should know about this ancient practice in the hopes to ease any possible anxieties you may have. If yoga is something you want to include as part of your multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment, talk to your doctor before you begin and never practice alone.

Yoga is here to serve you, not the other way around

Like mentioned, it’s very easy to get caught up in the yoga pictures we see floating around the internet. We may feel bummed out because we can’t do what others can, which might result into giving up or shying away from yoga. This is a normal reaction that many feel, so don’t feel it’s wrong to think this way. But here is a phrase I want you to remember: yoga is here to serve you, you are not here to serve yoga. There are people who practice yoga for years and still have to remind themselves of this. If you look carefully, not everyone looks the same in a pose. You may notice some people bend farther than others, and there are different variations of poses. Everyone’s body is different, and we’re all at different levels and places with ourselves. Do a pose in a way that will help you, like modifying it, having aids, or whatever it is that you feel comfortable with. Doing a pose should never give you pain. You may feel discomfort, or you may hear someone tell you to “meet your edge,” but you should never be in pain. Yoga is here to serve you.

Don’t worry about being “calm”

Being calm is definitely associated with yoga and meditation. You may hear, “If you’re feeling stressed, you should do yoga, it keeps you calm!” or something along those lines. The truth is yes, one goal is to feel more relaxed than you might have been before, and we would ultimately like to reach that goal. But at the same time, it’s not how yoga works. Meditation isn’t about clearing the mind of all bad thoughts, telling yourself over and over to be calm, and not to think about whatever it is that’s stressing you out. All meditation is is observance. We stay calm because we observe what we’re feeling and try to accept it. If you tell yourself to be calm, odds are, you won’t be. It’s like me saying, “don’t think of a purple elephant.” Most likely, you’re probably thinking of it, or trying not to. If you get hung up about being calm, it will only stress you out and make you more anxious. You may also not always be calm after a yoga practice. It happens.

Accept where you are

This goes hand-in-hand with yoga being here to serve you. We compare ourselves to people all the time, so yes, this is a lot easier said than done. In yoga, it is very easy for students (and teachers) to compare themselves to other students or teachers. Because our bodies doesn’t bend in a certain way or we’re not strong enough to do a pose that looks so easy for someone else, it can easily deflate us. On the flip side, it can also give someone a reason to keep practicing. The point is, we can always benefit ourselves, but we have to start somewhere. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, there’s truth behind it, especially in yoga. When we see a picture of someone doing a headstand, we just see the outcome. We don’t see all the hours, months, or even years, of practice it took to get that headstand. There may even be a pose that you may never be able to do, and that’s okay. There are plenty of yoga teachers who don’t know how to do a headstand, or even refuse to do it. Accept where you are in your practice, and accept your limits. There is always room for growth. And even if there isn’t, do what you are able to do in the present. That’s what yoga and meditation is about: remaining in the present.