Is it just me, or is yoga everywhere these days? A person can’t log into social media, seek out fitness advice or even have an innocent chat about activities with friends without the ever-permeable “You need to do yoga!”statement cropping up in some way, shape or form.
The list of yoga’s benefits to our lives continues to expand as results of medical studies begin to pile up. As an instructor, I feel the positive effects of yoga every day. But more often than not, I see eyes glaze over and hear big sighs when I invite non-practitioners to class. Everyone hears it; the message is loud, clear and definitely pervasive. We need yoga. We get it.
But here’s a fact we rarely consider: yoga needs us as just as much as we need it. Here are four reasons why:
1. Yoga needs you to be living, breathing proof that yoga is for everyone.
Here is some yoga-truth for you: yoga belongs on every shape, color and size of body under the sun. Yoga does not belong to any one race, gender, age group, and ability level or body type. How is yoga ever supposed to prove itself as a practice applicable to everyone unless everyone gives it a shot?
You may think you’re a lost cause, that you’ll never touch your toes, be able to balance on one leg or sit still for more than five second. But here’s the kicker: yoga needs you in order to show that, when it comes to yoga, there is no such thing as a lost cause. No one is ever too far gone, too old, too immobile, too weak, too inflexible, too impoverished or too broken to reap the benefits yoga has to offer. Yoga is infinite in its adaptability and applicability. And yoga can’t prove any of it unless you step on your mat and give it an honest shot.
2. Yoga needs you for your personal touch.
Your vibe is priceless. Maybe you are steady as a rock, or you approach life with wit or humor. You might crank energy levels up a notch everywhere you go, or have a calming effect on people around you. The yoga world is waiting for you to bring your unique presence to the table.
Think yoga is way too serious? Great! Yoga needs you to bring your joy and show just how lighthearted and fun practicing yoga can be. Or maybe you believe that yoga has gotten a bit too media-driven. Perfect! Yoga needs you for your dedication to stay true to its roots, continue traditional paths and exemplify ideology. No one else has your unique perspective; no one else can bring what you bring to the table. Yoga needs you and your authenticity, verve and spirit.
3. Yoga needs you in order to test its limits.
Your practice and voice is important. Your input into what is included in the term “yoga” is an essential catalyst to further develop definitions of physical practice and grow the yoga community. While the old adage that like attracts like is true, expansion and progress are born of differences we each bring to the table.
Yoga is made for everybody. Every pose has countless versions, variations and adaptations based on how each body expresses itself. When you practice, you might bring an amazing adjustment to a pose that no one has ever seen before. Or maybe you will invent a totally new way to transition from one posture to another. You could be the key contributor to coming up with a modification to help make a particular pose more accessible to the masses. More and more, yoga is becoming a wellspring of creativity in expression, and yoga needs your input and insight to help more people become successful in their practice. Yoga needs you to expand its boundaries.
4. Yoga needs you to teach its teachers.
Every time you step on your mat, you are performing a service. Not only do you bring your amazingly positive vibes to class, you also help your teacher learn with every breath and movement you make.
When teaching a class, your yoga instructor’s main priority is to guide you through your practice safely. To that end, a yoga teacher is constantly reflecting on how to best explain poses and concepts more thoroughly. Your teachers’ best shot at refining their skills is by watching your movements based on their cues; by being present at practice, you show your teacher how their instruction lands. They aim to serve their community by being the best yoga teacher they can be, and yoga needs your participation to help instructors learn and grow. Any time you attend a yoga retreat you are helping your instructor learn how to better run retreats, assist their guests, and deepen their own practice.
By flipping the “you need yoga” message on its head and exploring not just what yoga gives to us, but what we give to it, our perspective shifts. It’s pretty clear that yes, we need yoga. However, in order for yoga to stay relevant and accessible, we understand that the obligation isn’t one sided. Yoga needs us in order to expand, grow, and prove over and over again that there is no one narrow definition of what yoga is. Yoga needs us to show that it is adaptable, achievable and appropriate for everyone. Yoga needs us, too.