Let’s put yoga contests, yoga scandals and the multi-billion dollar yoga industry aside for now. Those are distractions and diversions. I believe that yoga truly is for everyone. It may be that the kind of yoga that’s best for you isn’t proffered on the major news outlets and on the magazine rack at the market checkout. Rest assured, there is a yoga practice that can bring unimagined grace and flexibility into your life, whomever you are.
You may insist that you wouldn’t be caught dead in those skin tight butt-crack-hugging leotard-looking faux jeans and you don’t fancy being crammed into a sauna-like room attempting slippery contortions inches away from a sweaty stranger. On the other hand, you might love that. I did (well not the tight pants part) and still love a vigorous workout. But that’s not yoga; at least for most of the human population.
The practice of yoga has been around for thousands of years. Though it may often be taught with references to Hindu dieties, it’s not a religion. It’s not a creed. It doesn’t come ladden with dogma or riddled with social clicks; at least it shouldn’t. Again, those things are the attachments and diversions of us humans who are struggling to deal with our own peculiar kind of suffering.
There are many styles of yoga listed by various organizations (here’s one). Some styles, like bhakti yoga involve very little focus on physical work and instead practice primarily meditation and acts of devotion and service. New styles are “born” in the west every year. Many of these styles fall under the hatha yoga umbrella and will fade as they are really business and marketing ventures; a slightly new take on the ubiquitous vinyasa flow practice. There are yoga styles, like Viniyoga, that are geared towards individual practice and recent studies are proving their therapeutic benefit.
This is all to say, in the words of the UUA’s beloved yoga teacher Jovielle Gers, that if you desire a practice that will help you be a calmer, more compassionate, more joyful human being, yoga can “set you on your way.” And while you’re at it you’ll be giving your body some lovely stretching and strengthening as well.
Give it a shot. The best part is that you can start right now! The UUA offers twice weekly yoga classes taught by Jovielle in the chapel at 25 Beacon St. Get in touch with Hilary Gray or myself for more info. There’s no obligation if you reach out to one of us with questions.