Who is Yoga for?

Who is yoga for? I often mull this over in my mind as the obvious answer to this is ‘everyone’, but as a past teacher of mine pointed out, not everyone is for yoga! This throw away comment is supported when I consider the number of people who contact me about coming to class compared to the number of people who become committed students. This is a guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was 40 or 50 enquiries per  committed student.

Back to the main question, except for the people who aren’t for yoga, who is yoga for? Everyone else? I am a teacher and practitioner of Iyengar yoga, so a lot of what follows will be from that perspective, but I do feel I should recognise the fact that there are many different styles of yoga that go about their practice in many different ways.  Just as we don’t all wear the same style of clothing, different styles of yoga may suit different people. I think what I’m saying here is that if you don’t like a particular style or maybe even the teacher don’t judge yoga on that one experience, try a different one!  When you consider the health (physical and mental) benefits of yoga, you’d be silly not to.

I’m not going to start listing all the health reasons for doing yoga, you can look in any yoga book for this, but I will say this. I am 43 years old and have been doing yoga for 20 or so years, each week I go to an intermediate class which is difficult enough to seriously challenge me (and I would’ve struggled with 10 years ago). Many of the other students are older than me, some 20 or 30 years older, a few have been practicing yoga as long as I’ve been alive.  Some of these people have restrictions from earlier illnesses, injuries or general wear and tear, suffer from arthritis, have operations just like most people in their sixties or seventies, but they are just as fit, strong and supple as their younger class mates, some of them more so! Just saying!

So, of the ‘everyone else’ who is Iyengar Yoga for? Again if you require more information about this style of yoga get a book by one of the Iyengar family (or google it), but Mr Iyengar devised a way of practising yoga with the very intention of making it accessible to everyone by using props (you can buy a whole shed load of equipment these days, but to be honest a pile of blankets, a straight wall, a belt and maybe a chair ought to be enough). As a result of this Iyengar Yoga often gets billed as ‘Yoga for old people’, a quotation that always gets my friend all riled up as it suggests it’s easy!  Easy shouldn’t be mixed up with accessible!

To help visualise how yoga is for everyone I will consider my student demographic. I teach (or have taught) age ranges from 14 to 90 year olds.  Their jobs are wide ranging, here are some of them: teachers, nurses, builders, office workers, gardeners, photographers, computer programmers, shop workers, students, engineers, fitness instructors, mothers, fathers, grandparents, you get the picture.  I do teach more women than men, but I have quite a few male students some of whom are among the most committed. YOGA IS MOST DEFINITELY FOR MEN AS WELL AS WOMEN.image

My students health/ well-being can vary greatly, from strong and flexible to one older lady with very bad arthritis in her knees and hips who came to class because she kept falling over. I thought she would never manage, but happily she proved me completely  wrong and ceased her random falls.  She was committed to improving her quality of life.

As I scan through my text I see a word that has cropped up several times – committed. I think, for me anyway, this is the defining concept. Yoga is for everyone who is committed. It might be that they are committed to the yoga itself or the way it  makes them feel about themselves and life. It may well be that they are committed to improving their health, being committed to managing their levels of stress or even being committed to having an hour or two to themselves.  Whatever the reason yoga requires a certain level of commitment, whether it’s attending one class a week or practising everyday.

So, finally, yoga is for everyone who is committed to their own practice. Whatever the level, time given to it or reason for it. If committed, students of yoga soon find that it permeates through every part of their life and are left wondering how the rest of the population manages!






Should we teach Yoga to our young people?

I’m writing this on the back of teaching teenagers Yoga for the first time.  This is a part of our life when Yoga can really be of help, but the pressure to ‘not be too different’ can put young people off.

To the credit of the teenagers of Praze several of them were willing to give it a try from the Youth club, Praze Youth Project. There were equal numbers of boys and girls and they gave it a go without ridiculous giggling and they listened to what they were being asked to do, showing improvement in just half an hour.

It always surprises me how stiff young people can be, but being supple and strengthening the body is only a small part of what Yoga can offer to young people. This is a time of fluctuating hormones, changing bodies and the stress of exams. Yoga can help to calm hormones and certainly helps you to be happy in your own body. As for dealing with stress, simply learning to relax is a skill well worth learning.

Of course all these life experiences can happen to us at any time of life so in fact teaching our young people some Yoga will hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives. When I think about it I wonder why we wouldn’t give our children the chance of these benefits at school.

From a more personal note, my daughter is what would be classed as a pre-teen (nearly 11) and is already struggling with a combination of fluctuating hormones and the stress of SATS (stressed about exams at 11 years? I question our education system, but that’s another issue). She is regularly suffering from anxiety attacks, for no apparent reason. Clearly, as a Yoga teacher I’m well placed to help her, but she’s a little anti-yoga as I’m so into Yoga! If yoga was a small part of school life, it would be normal rather than just something your slightly eccentric Mum kept banging on about.

Anyhow, I hope I’ve maybe opened the door to Yoga for at least one young person and look forward to being invited back to Praze Youth Project for another session in the future. Thank you to the teenagers of Praze who gave it a go despite their misgivings, I thoroughly enjoyed my half hour with them.