What was your first experience with yoga?
I remember hearing that yoga was great for your body, but I also noticed a community around it. And I did not see myself as fitting in with this community at first. My perception of the community was based on the svelte body yoga stereotype and the calm, sometimes peacefulness that seemed a bit smug to me. The yoga community seemed inaccessible and in some ways and not a group I wanted to identify with.
Despite my reservations, I started practicing. My perception of the yoga community began to fade away. I realized that yoga is not just a product of the community- it is also the product of each individual, blending ancient wisdom with modern life. In this way, a physical yoga practice is unique, focusing on individual action and feeding into a larger community purpose. I believe that yoga has the power to deepen self-knowledge and empower you to be a part of a community. Not a community that you conform to, but one that you actively help foster, create and support. Yoga empowers you to start something good not just in yourself, but in the social and physical environment around you. But in order to feel empowered in a way to make the outside better, you have to work on the inside. A great way to start is to explore and discover your ranges and your limits.
I believe that yoga has the power to deepen self-knowledge and empower you to be a part of a community. Not a community that you conform to, but one that you actively help foster, create and support.
When is comes to the effect a yoga practice can have on a person, three primary words come to mind: explore, discover, empower. A physical yoga practice helps you to explore a variety of ranges in your life. Physically, this range may be your range of motion (how far can you bend in forward fold?) or your natural level of flexibility (can you bust straight into the splits?). Exploring your physical range can help you take care of your body, monitor what you need in daily practice, and give you a gauge to measure physical changes over time. Yoga also helps you explore and discover your mental range. For example, does moving slow really bother you? Why? Do you find your mind wandering during times of stillness, such as meditation or savasana pose? Yoga is great for your physical body, and just as beneficial to your mind. A yoga practice helps to explore your range of thoughts, emotions, stress and comfort levels. This exploration of your mental range helps you discover more about yourself and what you can do to improve and sustain mental health beyond a physical practice. Of course, with any range, we eventually hit a limit. And as we discover our limits, we need to both explore and honor them.
Yoga is great for your physical body, and just as beneficial to your mind.
When you hear the word “limit” you may have a concept of it as being somewhat negative- a blockage or an obstacle that is preventing you from something. Indeed, we need to both honor and push our limits. But a limit is not necessarily a negative thing. For example, a person with an injured knee may have physical limits that restrict their ability to bend into a squat. The injured knee is not am obstacle to overcome-it is simply a limit that helps you personalize your yoga practice to be unique and beneficial. Recognizing and working with your limits is the key to honoring yourself and cultivating a beneficial yoga practice. You may also notice that you have mental limits- an edge of sorts that you get to and aren’t sure how to operate in. The first step is to acknowledge that the limit is there, and to be aware of it. I have a mental limit whenever I get into bridge pose- for some reason, I always feel very aggravated. The feeling of aggravation makes me what to drop out of the pose, but I realize that this limit is mental, and I need to stay in the bridge pose longer. This is an example of pushing your mental limits, but simultaneously honoring that they are there.
Recognizing and working with your limits is the key to honoring yourself and cultivating a beneficial yoga practice.
Pushing and horning your limits, both physical and mental, is entirely up to you. The key is to explore slowly, in order to discover more about these limits, and to ultimately empower yourself to honor or push them.
Yoga is Yours to Share
The yoga community is not just about hard butts and stylish clothing. It is about realizing your ranges, your limits, and the innate power you have to do something good- together. People practice yoga for a variety of reasons, and the end result is likely improvement and empowerment. An empowered person is more likely to improve their community and environment. In this way, yoga continues to promote change on both individual and community levels.
What will you do with your power and practice?