Last updated on July 24th, 2017 at 08:33 pm
I’m Sam, and it’s with great pleasure to have Mike allow me the opportunity to contribute to Superhero Jacked.
Well, that inspiration has led me on a path to being my own hero, and one of the things I’ve done during it is practicing yoga. That study then led me to earning my 200 Hour certificate to teach yoga, and since then, it’s been a continuous exploration both as a student and a teacher. And I’m here to help you along your journey. I’m nowhere near a guru, and prefer the term ‘guide’. So allow me to help you embark on a tremendously powerful practice.
As we all know we’re in a Spidey / Game of Thrones themed month (for their releases), but also continuing our current yoga and meditation kick with our new Jedi Path within The Academy. We see countless celebs and SuperHumans utilizing yoga and meditation to up their game and take their transformations to new levels – and that’s why we’re here to make a strong point for it.
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Most People Don’t Even Know What Yoga Is
A lot of people have preconceptions about yoga, whether it’s through the media or what they see online on sites such as Pinterest or Instagram. It’s something even I have to learn to ignore at times, because it can definitely cloud your perception of what yoga is, and how you are supposed to practice it.
You’ve probably seen a statuesque model on the cover of magazines at the market. Their limbs appear contorted and twisted like a pretzel, and probably you’re immediate thought – other than is that even humanly possible – is:
“That’ll never be me.”
And guess what?
It doesn’t have to be! Maybe it shouldn’t!
In ancient Sanskrit, the meaning of yoga translates to ‘connection’, or ‘union’.
In English, the word ‘yoke’ also comes from it as well! Simply put, yoga is about unifying, or coming together. The true practice of yoga joins together all aspects of our lives, from the way we think, feel, move, and even eat and drink!
That in and of itself is a rich history requiring intense study into the roots and teachings of yoga, but to keep this from turning into a textbook, let’s just say that the yoga we see today is a far cry from the authentic practice that’s been refined and passed down for generations.
What is important to know however is that yoga is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
My yoga is mine and mine alone, and your yoga should be the same for you.
It’s going to have different benefits, each of which is up for you to decide. If you’re only looking for something to help you recover from intense exercise, that’s great! And if you’re trying to become more flexible and really adopt yoga as a lifestyle, that’s equally as good. There truly is no right or wrong way to approach yoga- so long as you respect where you’re coming from on your journey, and treat it with the respect it deserves.
It’s not meant to help you show off a Cirque Du Soleil- type move, nor is it about parading an alleged ‘holier-than-thou’ way of living.
Everyone Fits the Mold
Continuing on that note, a lot of people think they need to have a certain body in order to practice yoga.
Again, they’re looking to social media or magazines for reference.
All they see are slender models bending into an assortment of positions- the majority of which being female, young, and tall.
Let me be the first to say that this is not the case at all. I myself am four foot nine, so count me out for becoming an elite model any time soon.
Second, there are plenty of examples of people with all shapes and sizes practicing it.
Look online, and you’ll find yoga for people with curves, bigger bodies, and even handicaps. People in wheelchairs can (and do) practice yoga. And yes, yoga is not only for women. Ironically, many of yoga’s greatest teachers were men!
Krishnamacharya, B.K.S. Iyengar, Paramahansa Yogananda- all brilliant, profound practitioners helped to progress and enrich the practice of yoga. (If you have the time, look them all up- prepare for some very impressive flexibility and nuggets of wisdom that you can take with you off of the mat! Here below is Krishnamacharya, who is considered as one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of yoga.)
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Did you know that teachers can specialize in guiding children and seniors?
There are even classes that are exclusively for this age group! I’ve gone to classes where my peers are people in their late sixties to mid eighties, and some of them could bend and move better than even twenty year olds!
Want further proof?
There’s a ninety-nine year old teacher by the name of Tao Porchon-Lynch who continues to teach yoga to this date. There’s also Bette Calman, the “Yoga Super Granny” who, up until eighty-seven years old, taught yoga to the public! While she has since retired, she continues to practice it regularly.
So at the end of the day, yoga is for people. It’s not for one specific body type, gender, or age.
As Tara Stiles, one of my favorite yoga instructors, once said, “If you can close your eyes and breathe you can do yoga. The action is on the inside.”
The Flexibility Excuse
It’s almost a stereotype now among yoga virgins.
The ones who refuse to even step foot in a class because of some preconceived notion that in order to do yoga, you must have a natural flexibility as if it’s some sort of requirement!
Amongst other things, you become flexible by doing yoga in the first place!
And you maintain it through regular practice.
Now, true enough, there are some people out there who stretch regularly as part of their recovery, or even some lucky folks who just naturally have a good foundation of flexibility.
It happens; just like that one friend who can seemingly eat anything they want and never gain an ounce of weight. Everybody is different.
That’s why The Academy is set up with over a dozen variations of Workout Paths, Nutrition Classes, and customizations to choose from. Each goal is different, each person is different, and not each person can use ONE specific plan.
But for the vast majority, consistency equals results. If you’re afraid of giving yoga a try because you can’t possibly imagine yourself moving like you’ve never moved before, then take a breath, and be rest assured that as I said before, yoga is for everyone. And that includes those who aren’t as flexible as even the most seasoned of students.
By the way, you have a few options on this front. Some studios offer beginner level classes to help you understand the basics, familiarize yourself with the practice, and understand early on how your body responds to certain positions.
Another choice is to show up a few minutes early before the class and talk with the instructor beforehand. Introduce yourself, express a genuine interest to give the class a try, and tell them that you’re a beginner. Mention any past or current physical ailments as well.
Now, if you’re really shy, and want to try in the comfort of anonymity, then you can pursue online guides and programs- such as the Jedi Path within The Academy – or instructional videos on YouTube (which we also link to our favorites within our Jedi Path as well).
Over there, you have a lot of different videos to choose from according to your level of experience, and can tailor a whole class to your needs just by combining a number of videos together into one.
(Just be forewarned however that you won’t have a teacher to spot you for any misalignment or potential injury. It helps to practice in front of a mirror, and in a space with plenty of room to move around in.)
The Push-Compare Trap
Here’s a bit of a friendly warning I want you to heed: do not, ever, compare yourself to a fellow student. Easier said than done, understandably, but get it out of your head as soon as possible.
Because it leads to what I call the Push-Compare Trap.
The Push-Compare Trap is when you push yourself in a class in order to keep up with or outdo another person who you perceive to be better than you. They’re the person that you compare to yourself. And you may come across them almost immediately starting at the beginning of class. They’re like a star student, already crossing their legs into a meditative lotus position, or stretching their hamstrings in a split. All that’s missing is the ability to levitate and you might as well call them a master yogi.
That’s it, throw in the towel, game over, done- right?
If you think you can race up to the top of the mountain before them, then prepare for a world of hurt.
I’ve seen people try to imitate other students who look like perfect candidates for the next cover of Yoga Journal magazine. They think they can bend over backward without breaking a sweat, or bring their foot to their head…only to whince in agonizing pain after realizing that their body just wasn’t ready for that kind of work.
Here’s the truth: that person at some point was just like you.
You don’t know how short or how long it had taken them to get to the point where they could move their body in such a way. You don’t know because you’re not on the same journey as them. Yours has only just begun, and you have to embrace the start of that in order to gain some humility.
Through that, you can actually stop seeing yoga as some kind of a rat race you need to engage in and look at it as a never-ending practice towards self-improvement.
And that goes for your ability to partake in the class. If you push yourself, you’re preventing your mind, spirit, and body from growing. Whether that’s trying to show off or let your ego gain control, you’re not going to progress with aggression. The body itself doesn’t like that. You need to calm yourself, let everyone around you disappear, and look deep inside. Once you do that, the focus is solely on you, and where you’re currently at. Use that focus to really explore yourself. Try to understand where your emotions are coming from, and what it feels like to move your body in new and perhaps exciting ways.
Then you’ll see that there is no competition.
How can anyone compete if they’re following a path of their own making?
So, like a Jedi Padawan, you’re only at the start of something new.
Something that will lead to a greater future, but it only comes true the moment you take the first step. And for many people, it’s easier to believe that such a decision is impossible to make.
From body image issues to believing their inflexibility is a hindrance, these type of people wind up turning their backs on a practice that could just be the key to unlocking a part of themselves that’s been asleep for the entirety of their lives.
Yoga is not just about looking cool or speaking in Sanskrit.
It’s about uniting every aspect of the self- the mind, body, and spirit. Look beyond these limitations, and learn how to channel the teachings of the practice to your personal journey.
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