By: Davis Burroughs
Hey, I'm Davis, one of the Grip The Mat yoga teachers based in Washington, D.C. I'm excited to help you dig deeper into your practice and be your best you. Let's break down the barriers that make yoga unapproachable. Can't wait to see you in an asana on the mat.
If you’re one of the many people hesitant about showing up to a yoga class based on things like a lack of experience, athleticism, flexibility, or balance, this post is for you.
The perception that there is any “good” or “bad” when it comes to yoga is based on a skewed understanding of what yoga is and why we practice. As a teacher, I hear it most often when trying to recruit new students. They’ll say things like “I’m not good enough,” or, “can I still come to class if I’m really bad?” These concerns are an invisible wall and one that I hope, through a better understanding of yoga, more people will learn to pass through through without thinking twice.
Yoga is a healing practice developed thousands of years ago. Patañjali was a doctor, and everywhere he looked he saw people suffering. He dedicated his life to discovering the root cause of that suffering, and began to question what created illness and hardship, and how he could cure it. He eventually determined that most suffering was derived not from disease, but from turmoil in the mind. So Patañjali developed yoga as a therapeutic healing art, something to be used as a medicinal tool.
Patañjali's second guiding principle (or sutra) states “yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ,” a sanskrit phase meaning that when we practice yoga we form a state of union where the fluctuations of the mind subside, allowing us to be more at ease, opening up space for self-observation. When we identify with the spiritual plane-with the eternal things that are not changing- our infinite potential can be accessed and we can truly find happiness.
Yoga is a process of unmasking, of letting go, of cultivating openness and happiness.
So what do down dog, half moon, and triangle pose have to do with all of this? These are all parts of asana, our physical practice, a small – but no less important – element of yoga.
In the western world yoga has become defined by this physical practice. At many studios, it’s just another workout, akin to a sport. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it opens to doors to many who might not have otherwise been interested in exploring themselves internally.
On the other hand, herein lies the discomfort with showing up to a yoga class: intimidation. If it’s seen as a workout or a sport, the subtle feelings of judgement and competition start to creep in. You might think less of yourself because you can’t touch your toes in a forward fold. You might be thinking the person in front of you is rolling their eyes when you fall out of a balancing posture.
But here’s a secret: No person is healthier than the person next to them because they can warp their spine into a pretzel, or because they’re strong enough to hold themselves in a handstand for 30 seconds.
There isn’t a bar to be reached on this journey. There are no ladders to climb, or benchmarks along the way. The process of enlightenment is never-ending. The learning never stops.
A yoga class is a space to explore yourself. Someone may be more or less learned than you, but they can’t be better or worse. At Grip The Mat, one of the reasons we combine yoga with social events is so we can help break down these and other barriers by broadening the base. Yoga isn’t just for hyper-athletic vegan moms, folks, it’s for everyone!
We hope to see your light shining in one of our classes soon.
Check out our Event Calendar to find the one that's right for you.
Cheers + Namaste,