A Love Letter to Future Yogis
Scrolling through social media, my eyes grew large at a post titled #yogagoals. The post featured a video of a woman in a seated position, legs wide on the floor. Over the span of ten seconds her legs extended up towards the ceiling and behind her, ending with her toes facing the back wall in a position that seemed most appropriate for aspiring contortionists. Hundreds of comments followed, ranging from expressions of awe and jealousy to commitments to keep "practicing yoga" until they had that same hyper-flexibility. Only one person questioned the purpose of having this range of motion as the ideal standard of yogic "success".
If I saw that video as a someone who had not yet stepped on a yoga mat, I'd probably promise myself to never do so. That "yoga" isn't for me. Not only are postures like the one illustrated out of reach for even the most open bodies, but I can't say that my life would be enriched by mastering a posture such as this.
My biggest concern, however, was that many of the comments were from beginning and aspiring yogis, who appeared to attach their "success" in yoga to having the exact same range of motion as the video of the woman featured. I didn't have the willpower to contribute my thoughts on the video to the comments, so I'll say it here instead. The glorification of physical postures over self-awareness, mindfulness, and balance is not yoga. And the pursuit of physical "perfection" in doing these postures is why yoga injuries are on the rise. A message to future, aspiring, and curious yogis: you can't hurt yourself doing yoga, and yoga techniques can badly hurt you.
In truth, the world doesn’t need more people who can demonstrate hyper-flexibility in their bodies but have limited awareness of their minds. The world needs more of us who can explore the depths of our thinking. That's where the openness starts. That's where we can work towards flexibility and expansion. The physical practice of yoga, called asana, is nothing more than a tool for exploring, challenging, and expanding the capacity of our minds.
The goal of yoga is not to touch our toes! It’s to touch our souls, the layer of self that sits just past our egos. Our delicate egos say we’re not “doing yoga” if we aren’t limber and spry. Our collective egos glorify the “instagrammable” yoga models who seem to travel to the ends of earth in search of the perfect spot to “practice”. Usually balancing on a rock in the middle of nowhere. Now, I’m not knocking those of us who choose to engage in this type of activity, but I think yoga teachers have a responsibility to be clear in our intentions. It’s not the pose itself but what the posture represents. And that messaging becomes foggy in the world of instagrammable yoga. It dilutes the centuries old practice and marginalizes those who don’t think they have what it takes to do yoga.
A final message to interested, aspiring, and future practitioners of yoga: the world needs you. Your community needs you. I need you. I love you just as you are. So does the Universe, our Creator, God, and your authentic self. Our love is unconditional and is not based on the perceived limitations of the physical body. We welcome you on the mat and invite you to explore the mind. The only thing required is a willingness to humble yourselves to your divine essence, where your true power emanates.
See you there,