By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
There are a few things that Yoga won’t do, regardless of what you might have seen on television. Yoga has given most of us so much: reduced stress, improved health, even friendships and a social outlet. However, it’s not a panacea.
1) Yoga, alone, will not make you enlightened. Mindfulness is an important part of practice, and regular repetition of relaxation and clearing the mind of extraneous thoughts, will add focus; but enlightenment is not guaranteed. There are contrasting viewpoints about levels of enlightenment. There are also schools of thought where enlightenment is seen as the release from the cycle of rebirth and karma. The bliss experienced during an excellent Yoga practice is not the same thing.
2) Yoga won’t require you to shop for a stunning wardrobe. It is not necessary to sport a lotus, or a picture of a goddess, or anything made out of bamboo, to do Yoga. Yoga can be done in your oldest sweatpants, and it may be even more enjoyable in them. Despite extensive marketing by retailers, buying specialized Yoga clothes is not necessary.
3) Yoga won’t make you New Age. Fortunately, Yoga practice is becoming more mainstream; but assumptions about the “kind of people” who do Yoga, persist. You will not be issued salt crystals, whale songs, patchouli, and a beaded headband at your first class.
4) Yoga will not teach you Sanskrit. There are about 14,000 native speakers of Sanskrit in India today, and the language use is, in some ways, comparable to Latin, being a classic language now used for education, research, and reference. Knowing the Sanskrit names of the asanas is useful, however, and will serve you well if you are a Yoga teacher or ever practice internationally.
5) Yoga won’t make you competitive. Truly an individual endeavor, Yoga does not require you to compare yourself to the person next to you in class, or finish 10 sun salutations in 2 minutes. It stresses quality over quantity, and adjustments are made for personal ability levels. You will not be recruited for the adult league Yoga Team and win a medal with your Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose). Your rewards will be enjoyed by you alone.
Co-founder of the Jivamukti Yoga Method, Sharon Gannon, phrases it this way: “You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do is practice yoga exercises and methods, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” Those of us who practice regularly, know that our natural state is a wonderful place to be.
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