Yoga is many things to many people. And I am not one to tell you want it should be. I am not going to tell you it's simple stretching, but I'm not going to tell you it's a spiritual experience. Yoga to me, may not be yoga to you, and that's okay. In fact, it's hard for me to define what yoga is for myself when I get onto my mat it feels like it is for something new every day. What I need from yoga today, may not be what I want or need tomorrow.When I teach, I recognize that my students are all different, and do not have the same reasons for coming to me.
More than our own individual experiences with yoga, which inherently makes it different, the yoga community (Western world specifically) has created so many types of yoga. You have power yoga, acro yoga, aerial yoga, hot yoga, kundalini yoga, ashtunga yoga, yin yoga, Christian yoga (what?!) etc. Not to mention this overwhelming obsession with handstands that is taking over social media, creating what I'm now referring to Instagram yoga. There are so many options, so many variations, so many claim-to-fame yoga styles. It's almost dizzying! How do you know how and where to begin? Why even begin at all?
I come across plenty of people who hear the word yoga and immediately cringe. There have been many times when people tell me directly how much they hate yoga (knowing that I am a teacher, and therefore, at the very least, like yoga.) When we get to talking, I find out that either a.) they never tried a yoga class and therefore have no real idea if they like it, b.) took one class and got frustrated at how tight and inflexible they were, or c.) are a go-get-after-it type and think yoga is not a "hard enough workout" for their lifestyle. All three of these reasons to hate yoga come with their own baggage, but I think the overwhelming drive is fear.
Fear that it may make them uncomfortable, fear that it'll be hard, fear that yoga may be humbling and they aren't ready for it.
Ironically, CrossFit has recently suffered a similar fate. Like wild fire, CrossFit boxes are popping up everywhere. Each one claims to be the best, to have something others do not. Mention CrossFit in a group of people and you're bound to have at least one person scrunch their nose at you in disgust. (Ugh, don't get me started on CrossFit, I had someone say to me at a wedding knowing I am a partner of a CrossFit box.) But, not unlike yoga, the reasons for hating CrossFit come with a lot of baggage, most rooted in fear or ignorance. They hate CrossFit, but they've never taken a class. Or it's way too intense, they could never. Or CrossFit is too competitive. They hate CrossFit because "it's cult"or "it's stupid." Perhaps they have that one friend who started CrossFitting, found a new sense of confidence, a new appreciation for their health, and is telling the world about it. And god, isn't that annoying?
Like yoga, CrossFit is not the same everywhere with everyone. Each box has it's own flavor, it's own style. I remember taking my first yoga class in a studio, while attending college. The teacher was so strange and I hated it. But, if I never tried yoga again, I wouldn't be here now. Knowing that it was one teacher, one class, allowed me to give it another shot. And the next class I took blew me away with awesomeness. My first experience with CrossFit was Murph, at the CrossFit Reebok One box. It was a small class of 4 people: my husband, my good friend (and Reebok employee), a random man, and me. I was uncomfortable, nervous, awkward, and tremendously sore the next 3 days. BUT, I gave it another shot and loved it.
As I mentioned in my last post, over the years I have found the style of yoga that speaks to me and what I need. Due to the amount of CrossFit I do now, coupled with years of athletics in my past, I generally approach my practice as a way to heal, rebalance, strengthen, and stretch (both mind and body.) There are days when the practice mostly gives me mental clarity, emotional calm, and serenity. Other days, my body hurts so much, that it's all I can do to continue to breathe during suddenly-painful poses. I started CrossFit because I wanted to find some fight in me, some strength. I wanted to challenge myself. Together, I find they are the perfect balance for me.
Now, I am not saying that everyone should love yoga and CrossFit as much as I do. I believe that everyone has different motivators in life, different goals and priorities. But at it's core, I believe yoga and CrossFit are for everyone and anyone. Yoga is essentially the act of harmonizing mind, body, and spirit through physical postures and breath. The word yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning "to join." So, at any moment, when you are trying to make yourself feel more whole, that is yoga. CrossFit is functional fitness. It is our basic, primal ability to move through our environment as a human being, capable of all things we were naturally made to do. I think yoga and CrossFit are trying to achieve the same thing. Disconnect from our man-made systems and connect to ourselves.
Like I said, yoga is many things to many people. CrossFit is many things, to many people. Some people move as a way to deal with stress. Others move because their health depends on it. Some move to connect to other people, find friends, be part of something. There are those that move because they want to challenge themselves.
Then there are the ones who move simply because they love it.
I wish we could strip down the labels and call it what it is: mindful movement. Because if we did that, I know more people would try it. All I can hope is that you find your yoga, your fitness, and you rock it.