Hate to be the bearer of unwanted, uninteresting advice but if your body isn’t good at it, it’s probably a great place to direct some attention. For example, from my experience, guys often have limited mobility in their shoulders and chest. We work these in most of my classes. Plus there’s mindfulness and breathwork… and maybe even an ego check (if not being good enough is what’s keeping you from class). I sincerely think there’s something for everybody, not to mention yoga makes people better at whatever there other passions are. Whether it’s marathon running, shooting guns, playing rugby, or raising kids, yoga seems to improve your game.
“It doesn’t feel in alignment with my faith”
First, let’s be abundantly clear – what I teach is not yoga. I teach a class of exercises that pull from yoga, ballet, physical therapy, CrossFit, movements I have found while watching Vikings and stretching out my psoas, you get the idea. I’ll hit a super brief explanation of yoga at the end.
For now, let’s use an analogy – Football. In football, an athlete will use physical conditioning like sprints, lifting, and mobility to be a better football player. Just because a person trains with sprints, lifting, and mobility, doesn’t mean that they are a football player. They might be a basketball player, or even still a 57 year old coder who likes to keep up with his fitness. So if football is yoga, then we could say the spirituality part of yoga is the game playing strategy of football.. or maybe it’s the team spirit that connects We index-and-pinky-flying-longhorns deep in our root chakras. Anyways, point is, the poses, meditation, and breath work practiced in classes are useful for folks in all walks of life, just as running, lifting, and mobility can be useful to all non footie players. The spirituality or the direction you choose to point your intention is up to you.
I am not Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, or even Indian. I’m just a gal from Boulder who took classes in college on yoga and Hinduism. I’m not an expert and I’m always open to being further or re-educated.
What most westerners think of as “yoga” is the asana practice (physical poses), and perhaps the pranayama practice (breath work). Those are two of the 8 limbs (or practices) of yoga. In addition to those two things, there are 1. yama (external disciplines like truth telling, not stealing, detachment, and doing no harm), 5. pratayahara (control of the senses), 7. dhyana (meditation), 2. niyama (internal disciplines like cleanliness/purity, contentment, austerity, education, and surrender), 6. dharana (concentration), and 8. samadhi (oneness or union with all).
To say that Yoga is devotional or a practice of worship in the Christian sense seems incredibly complicated. Hinduism, for example, doesn’t even have a single god to worship in order to get to heaven; the basis is just completely different. As presented in the football analogy, I think of yoga more like a set of practices that are thought to improve a person. And I’d venture to say that if anybody takes a minute to sift through those listed practices within the 8 limbs, they’d agree that they’re widely accepted through most cultures and religion, including Christianity, as good practices.
“it’s basically just stretching right?”
Ehhh… not quite. It’s a combinations of different types of mobility, strength, coordination, balance, breathing, meditation, mental exercises, etc. Stretching is one of many benefits of yoga.
“I want to be strong – I don’t want to overstretch”
I get that animal comparisons don’t always make sense but I think in this case it’s fair to get our juices flowing. Think of your cat. Or your mom’s cat or your neighbors cat or whichever cat. You’ve seen them stretch on the floor like a giant rainbow right? No? Then surely you have an image in your mind of them licking their own ass. OK, so we have some idea of their flexibility. AND considering that they weigh on average about 10lbs. How shockingly terrifying is the strength and fury of the that tiny little critter?? I’d take on a 20lb terrier any day over a 9lb cat. I’m just saying, I’d hate to see how that strength (and flexibility) scales up per pound on the way up towards a lion. No thanks. If you don’t like the cat analogy, keep in mind Chimps — our closest genetic cousin in the animal kingdom. Also super flexible. Also could F you up in a beat if they didn’t like the way you looked at them. Increase in flexibility does NOT mean decrease in strength.
Also— on the very rare moment that I encounter an incredibly flexible person, you can bet that I’d focus more with them on strength, stability, and a well balanced body.
Yup, that’s real and I’ll always be the first one to tell you to give your body some space when it needs time to heal. That being said, sometimes the medicine is light strength exercises, gentle stretching, and range of motion work. Depending on the class, yoga is often quite restorative. Check with your doctor of course. And if you’re still hitting up the gym but using your injury as an excuse for no yoga, check yourself.