by Ali Valdez
Every woman on Earth can do yoga. It seems the only thing the yoga community is fostering is competition and the aggrandizement of the one thing it is supposed to be transcending: the ego.
There is now so much hype and sadly, spiritual materialization that has consumed the practice as simple downward dogs have blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry. Everyone seems to be doing yoga, and an expert on yoga but there is still a bit of a divide in the sisterhood of it. It’s easy to poo-poo this direction but I feel like it is a reflection on its universal availability once you move past the media’s projection of it. Here are five top things every woman needs to understand about yoga:
1) There are Choices. With yoga, it’s not a one size fits all proposition. You hear about yoga at the coffee shop: the super sweaty, ninety minute torture chamber known as Bikram and you cower over your latte and scone. You walk down to the park with your dog, and people are glowing after meditation and you want to run the other direction. Yoga is an ancient tree with a very thick and deeply rooted trunk. There are a swarm of fads circling around (naked yoga, Doga -with your furry friends- etc.) but from the trunk are strong branches and offshoots from those branches. The practice is about balance in the body, a metaphor for elimination of dualistic thinking and moksha, a fancy word for liberation. You must enjoy the yoga you are doing to reap its benefits.
There are classes that are slow-moving, restorative, vigorous, free-style, or rote and serialized. Not sure where to start? Personally email me, and I will get you to the right kind of practice for your body, mind and spirit (see below).
Try a few styles, practice it more than once, and then stick with it. Again, choice; you can always change your mind and try something different later. Also every studio offers beginner series and everyone has to start somewhere so give yourself a break and grab those extra props.
2) Yoga is Inclusive of All Body Types. You spend half your time in tight skirts, crippling heels and the other in sweats at home. The last thing you want to do is walk in your first time to a studio surrounded by a sea of $400 athletic pants and fancy slingy slipper shoes. The way you look affects how you feel faster than finding the exit sign to high-tail out of the joint. Studios are increasingly diversifying their class types and offering beginner series. Also, apparel makers are getting savvy and offering a full range of clothes to accommodate all bodies comfortably and beautifully. I gained 100 pounds during my pregnancy and it drastically changed my body. I realized the benefits of the practice far outweighed any emotional insecurity of how I wouldn’t look the same in the mirror as I did teaching in my late twenties. Now when I teach, I know exactly what the gal in the back of the room is feeling as she looks around.
Also if you are one of those quintessential yoga body types, we hold no grudges and are not jealous. It’s awesome to see one of the many benefits of the practice.
Yoga benefits all of us, and is the ultimate learning ground for loving and appreciating our bodies and our humanity.
3) Yoginis are Moms, Stockbrokers, and Bartenders. You need not stock up on hemp milk and chia seeds or quit your job at Microsoft to become ‘legit’. I am in my mid-forties, a single mom, working 100 hours per week and eating the occasional brie or over-indulging one weekend on churrascaria and caipirinhas in Brazil, and yet I wake up the next morning still a yogi, the same opportunities to grow available to me on the mat as the day prior.
The real fruit of the practice are the qualities of yoga that you take with you when class is over.
Yoga helps you manage stress, the challenges and frustrations of caring for children, the physical stress that some jobs demand, and makes you feel better in spite of the strain and drain of everyday living. The real yogi can be in the world being all namaste without having to flee to the monastery. They have found it within.
4) Yoginis Are Changing the World. We are using yoga to heal the planet one downward dog at a time. The yoga movement of the West has been an absolute showcase for women partnering in a non-male way to bring awareness and good to the world. Catty competitions aside, yoga is architecting global transformation and women are at the forefront. Some great examples are Off the Mat, Into the World, and my favorite that Sattva Yoga Online sponsors is Yoga Gives Back where I volunteer as one of the global ambassadors. Take a look here at this documentary about the impact our micro-lending is having for mothers in the poorest parts of India and their daughters who would otherwise never be educated and possibly be sold into human trafficking. (http://yogagivesback.org/ygbfilms). Most cities are offering yoga services to the incarcerated, youth at risk, homeless, and other underserved members of society, definitely making small steps to bring more joy into the lives of everyone. See I told you yoga is good for everyone.
5) Sharing your Practice Deepens Friendships. Yoga operates and effects change on many levels, not just the physical. Encourage your friends to come with you without being pushy. No reason to sit back espousing all the benefits when someone you love might be curious but feel unable to ask to come along. I have found my yoga buddies are my spiritual soul sisters, and the depth of our conversations are expanding and our friendships are increasing in meaning.
If you have ANY questions about yoga or the right kind of practice for you, please email me; it would be my pleasure to share my insights with this incredible community of women: firstname.lastname@example.org