” Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down” – Jigar Gor
Let me repeat: YOGA IS NOT ABOUT BEING ABLE TO TOUCH YOUR TOES!
Really, it isn’t. The first response people give, when I talk to them about yoga: ” Ooh I could never do that, I am not flexible enough. I can’t even touch my toes”. Why do people tend to have this obsession with the end result, if there even is an end result (I will discuss this later on). If your only focus is being able to touch your toes or to do a headstand, you will either never reach this ‘goal’ and stop practising, or with pure willpower achieve it and then think you are done.
No, please do not fall into this tunnel vision mindset. Not just with yoga, but with other activities as well. Instead of focussing on that ultimate end goal, focus on the ongoing process, focus on the never-ending journey and it will not only changes the way you see and observe the world, but also changes your perception of yourself . With that comes that yoga isn’t about self-improvement, but above all about self-acceptance.
Self-acceptance is something I still struggle with every day, but by practising yoga over the last 2 years I have established a more forgiving and loving relationship with my body. When I first came to yoga in September of 2014, I expected it to be just another form of exercise. During that time I was in a difficult mental state and had lost all connection between body and mind, treating my body as a superficial mask that I could manipulate to my own desires. It turned out to be the best decision I could have ever made and I am so grateful for the initial push that drove me to my first yoga class. Not only was the environment the total opposite of competitive (like with most other type of sports, activities), there also never was an ultimate perfect end goal or pose. So instead of focussing on the abilities of the other participants in the room, I was urged to focus on my self, on my own body and what it told me it wanted or didn’t want to do. The ability to hold a certain pose was not depended on ‘how good you were’ or ‘how slim/toned you were’ but on the relationship between body and mind. For example, as soon as I learned to open my heart, I was able to hold different poses such as the wheel pose, but when I felt stressed or negative I could not go as deep into my practice. Then again, learning not to judge myself for that, but simply accepting that that was my current state of mind and letting it go.
One year into my practice, I asked my father to join me. I don’t know what made him go this first time, but let me tell you; the morning after he joined me for his second class. Now more than a year later, he still practices at least two times a week, but often more. For him (I hope I got this right) it wasn’t so much the mind that needed work, he already had been practising meditation for a while and still does. No, I think that for him it was establishing that relation between the mind and the body, and implementing a physical ‘routine’ into his daily life. If you want to read more on his journey, you can go over to his blog: qolcompany.
Now that I study in Delft, I do not go as often to yoga classes as I would like to, but I still try to practice every day. Even it is just 10 minutes of mindful breathing and truly being in the moment, noticing how my body feels that day and accepting it for all it’s imperfections.
I hope I have inspired you to embark on a similar journey of your own, if you have any questions on yoga; what types there are, how to start, the music I listen to or any question for that matter, just comment below and I will answer them to the best of my abilities.
Pictures taken during my trip to Song Saa in Cambodia