Yoga. From why to why not

This is the question I've been asked quite a bit lately, especially since I went to India back in March 2016 to become a certified Yoga teacher. Sooner than later, I started invading my friends' FB and IG feeds with Yoga pictures, thoughts and foods. Well, in my own defence - I do it because I am sharing something that has been changing my life over the past 11 years. If you have any prejudice about Yoga or you are keen on giving it a go, these words are for you. Here's my top thoughts on why Yoga.

1. Yoga is not a religion, a denomination or a sport

The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means 'to join' or 'to yoke'.

Yoga is an ancient art, a very sophisticated method based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind, and spirit – think of molecules. The three of them. 'Oh but I am not a spiritual' person. Are you sure? Aren't we all? Spiritual does not mean religious. It simply means acknowledging there is more to life then the physical body, buying expensive clothes and drinking posh lattes.

In my own words, Yoga is a method of knowing ourselves better via our body, mind and soul. It can be seen as a physical practice (Asana, the postures), a lifestyle (for example, being more mindful with your day to day), a philosophy (like following Ahimsa, a principle of non-violence from ourselves to all other beings), even a way of eating (Sattvic foods, not vegan but I will leave this one for later). Above all, yoga is a lifetime journey, a daily practice you do on and off the mat, starting with ourselves and taking it to others.

2. Yoga is for everybody – and every body

'I am not flexible', 'I am really bad at Yoga', 'I can't touch my toes', ‘My belly is huge’. Well my friend, if you have a body (and a mind), Yoga is for you. Some days I touch my toes on my Yoga practice, other days I touch them because I wash them. As one of my dear teachers once said. 'That's the good thing about Yoga. There is no such thing like being good or bad, you just need to come to the mat'. And this is valid if you're 15, 25 or 75, man or woman, Indian or Portuguese, CEO or barista, healthy or trying to be healthier.

Yoga is such a comprehensive and rich method you can pick and choose your bits, from breathing exercises, meditation technics, stretches or more complex and challenging poses like the ones you see on IG. Surely you can't start with a handstand, unless you are a gymnast. But that is not Yoga, that is gymnastics.

If you want to find your Yoga, meaning the right style and practice for you, please go and see an experienced teacher or book a beginner’s class at a decent studio. Remember to always be gentle with yourself and don't jump straight to an advanced Dharma class. If you don't know what I am talking about, that is your answer. This one is not for you, yet.

3. Yoga is for hippies – and Prime Ministers

For hippies, for creatives, for bankers, for dancers, for engineers, for marines, for runners, for me, for you. Yoga is for whoever has a body and wants to be good with the mind and soul. Yoga is a tool of self-respect that helps you to know yourself better and ultimately be better with others. If that means being hippie, I am quite cool with that.

I’ve also been called writer, brand strategist, creative, Portuguese, Latina, Mediterranean, woman, pretty, ugly, picky eater, flexitarian, pescetarian, talented, dyslexic, human, stubborn – I actually take this last one. You can see where this is going. They are all labels, nothing but labels. You pick yours, I avoid mine.

4. Yoga is (not) expensive

A lot of people complain that Yoga is expensive. I can easily think about more expensive things. That G&T (or three) you have 4 days a week, your waterproof mascara, the grilled steak you can’t live without, the cigarettes you smoke, the flashy trainers. I will stop it, as I am a coffee snob with a strong crush on funky leggings. We’re all free to make our choices and we are far from being perfect.

However, Yoga does not have to be expensive. You can actually find loads of options from community classes to 1-2-1, mainstream gyms to trendy studios, Yoga celebs events to themed workshops. If you dig well you can even find some freebies, both online and in the real world. On the top of it, you just need comfy clothes and a mat to practice it. The open mind is free and comes with practise.

As with everything else in life, I believe people should be well payed for what they do well. If you go to a welcoming studio, if your qualified teacher has a great knowledge of anatomy and if you leave class feeling great, why on earth you should not be paying for it? Yoga teachers deserve a salary – unfortunately breathing does not pay for rent. Nor for pedicure.

5. Yoga is for girls – and boys

If I told you the most famous yogis were man, you would have to trust me – or google it. Yoga was firstly developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. Luckily, we’re in 2016 and women have equal rights (at least on paper) and what is called modern yoga has loads of different ways of approaching the ancient method. Some of them actually fit really nicely with female bodies on leggings.

You would probably be surprised to know that my first training was actually in Hatha Yoga, the most traditional Indian style. When I started to practice, I couldn’t even squat. Or breathe. Or be present. In India I cried when I had to squat for 118 times and my chaturanga (read Yoga push-up) was so weak I was always on child’s pose – forehead on the floor.

If I could pick just one thing Yoga has thought me so far that would be: if we want it, we can do it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow or next week. But we will do it.

As with everything is life, Yoga requires practice, love and dedication. And we all can do this, boys and girls. Can’t we?




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© 2020 words and design by Sara Vale

Photos by Vera Sepulveda and Sonia Davies