by CASSIE MCINTYRE
I’ve recently been on an in-studio hiatus when it comes to taking a yoga class. Not that I’ve been avoiding the local studios on purpose but rather taking the much needed time alone to focus on my own practice and be 100 percent attentive in my own space.
What I’ve been noticing lately is so much of the contemporary yoga world is tied to the idea of able-ism in and out of the studio. For example, only a few weeks ago I went to an in studio class and noticed that the students with natural-born talent, like flexibility, were given slightly more attention than some of the other students struggling.
As the teacher walked around the room I noticed she gave great compliments and words of encouragement to the students that were excelling and yet didn’t blink when someone needed a better walk through for certain postures.
I’ve also noticed the “trendy yogi” who comes to class full head-to-toe, top-of-the-line, overpriced active wear, 100 selfies pre-class, and then a shaky headstand or arm balance with the dreaded catch phrase from their friend of “Do it for the ‘gram.”
Now I know most of us yoga-goers have heard it at some point or another whether it’s “Do it for the ‘gram” or “Do it for the likes.” Whatever the catch phrase is, it shouldn’t be what motivates you or anyone to practice.
If you get stuck on that mindset in the obsession to handstand then it really might be a trap of the ego and you’ll never move beyond it. (This goes for more than just a handstand, it can be applied to many things.)
Handstands are fun but it’s not the goal of yoga. Yoga is for the spiritually hungry, for those who desire the spiritual quest of a balanced mind. I’ve been there before where fixation on the poses is what drives you to class but looking at my practice now it’s so much more than weighing my self-worth on whether or not I can balance on my head or my hands.
I come from a long list of injuries, which is what brought me to a yoga studio in the first place. I had no intention of wanting to get my leg behind my head or balancing perfectly in handstands, I wanted to get mobility back into my shoulder and be able to walk around without complaining about not being as flexible as I once was.
I would never try to take the excitement away from this group of “trendy yogis” but I can see why I’ve been avoiding going to class. It’s the overwhelming sense of nonsense that drives many to certain classes, some of which, I could personally never participate in.
Western yoga has become a trend of things so far beyond the spiritual journey that many of us have forgotten why we practice in the first place. We only care about the goats or the beer instead of the spiritual path and the journey to a well-balanced mind.
In the Western practice of yoga (North America), we have a high emphasis on achievement and the assignment of value based on measurable metrics of success.
The handstand in the world yoga is like the physical equivalent to scoring the perfect game or getting that big promotion at work. It shows that you’ve accomplished something. It has you judge your self-worth, as a yogi, by how long you can hold a handstand and feeds into the mindset of worthiness as it’s tied to external standards that exist in the yoga world.
We have all in some way or another been caught in this trap. “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough.” Or “I can’t go to yoga class because I don’t have X,Y, and Z.”
You cannot set yourself up for failure without giving yourself a fair chance.
Yoga is so much more about the spiritual journey and self-love than it is about the physical one.
Yes, it is challenging. Yes, it will leave you sore and tried. Yes, it will have you question why you came. But overall, it is worth it.
Yoga is the quest for meaning and value beyond physical achievement. If you can only love yourself when you’re a certain size or shape, or when you can perform certain actions, then your self-worth is only tied to achievement.
It’s not that there isn’t an excitement that ignites after a job well done but you should know you are still worthy of love within everything in your life even if you failed and you never managed to balance on your hands; even if you never managed to “do it for the ‘gram.”
You don’t need to succeed every time or be at the top of your game to be lovable. In fact, if you don’t open your heart to being lovable as you are in the present then nothing you do in your life will feel full or complete.
In the best words of Ru Paul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anyone else?” And I cannot stress that phrase enough for those of you stuck in that rut of finding your way back to the practice.
Take the time to quiet your mind from distractions and focus in on your own space. Don’t compare yourself to the person next to you. Yoga is for you and you alone and never let anyone make you feel like you are not worthy of the journey.
Yoga is for everybody and every body not just for the flexible or social media charged people. Keep practicing no matter what and remember to never give up on yourself.
Cassie McIntyre is a NASM certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and nutritional coach at The Edge Fitness in Bristol.