Although Yoga has been known in the western culture for some time, there is much confusion about what it is. Many believe it is a religion, it’s only for flexible people, or that it’s only stretching. We’re here to help break down these common misconceptions to help unveil the mystery of what yoga is and why it is great for YOU.
What IS Yoga?
Yoga is a practice that was developed over 5,000 years ago in India. The practice includes a system to benefit the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being of a person. According to Yoga Alliance, “Yoga is a system, not of beliefs, but of techniques and guidance for enriched living.” Yoga is a dynamic practice as it combines movements of stretching, balance, core strengthening and over time improves your mobility and increases your strength.
From owner / instructor, Melissa Lowe’s guru – who taught yoga in a non-dogmatic approach – Ganga White, stated:
I am very concerned with awakening the mind as well as the body. Yoga is far more than simply a healthful exercise system. The most important purpose of Yoga is to bring about a deep transformation of the individual – an awakening of intelligence that is free of dependencies and romantic beliefs and ready to meet the accelerating challenges of the 21st century.
Ganga further explained in training that yoga is scientific and artistic and outlines three points of learning: intention, knowledge and technique. Ganga stated that that there is something to learn from all the different yogic lineages and there are many evolutionary teachers to learn from.
From Yoga Alliance, a non-profit membership trade and professional organization for yoga teachers:
Among Yoga’s many source texts, the two best known are the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. Both explain the nature of—and obstacles to—higher awareness and fulfillment, as well as a variety of methods for attaining those goals.
Simply stated from the dictionary:
Yoga: Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.
Now that we have a foundation of what yoga is, let’s unveil what it is not.
IS YOGA A RELIGION?
This is an incredibly controversial topic as many religious people do not want to compromise their beliefs – and rightly so. There is no simple answer except yes and no. The historical roots of yoga come from the eastern culture, and has religious undertones. Because of that, and the unfamiliarity of references and stories, it’s easy to feel uncomfortable and simply blanket “yoga” as religious. However, since yoga has been westernized and continues to evolve, today yoga is recognized more as philosophy. It is common to hear conflicting opinions on this topic, so Yoga Journal sought out many yogi’s opinions and are shared HERE.
Instructor and owner of Yoga House, Melissa Lowe stated:
I was conflicted about the religious aspect of yoga – especially when I was becoming an instructor because I didn’t know all the history or influential people. I simply loved the aspect of yoga and its benefits. I feel fortunate training under the White Lotus Foundation as they helped me realize that practicing yoga doesn’t make me religious, or compromise any other belief. It’s simply my own personal journey through practice.
YOGA IS ONLY FOR FLEXIBLE PEOPLE
Well. How shall we start? We weren’t all flexible or totally understood alignment or the use of breath in movement when we started. We love that it’s called “practice” because after consistent practice, then we’re able to move deeply into poses and asanas. Instructor and owner Melissa Lowe recounts her own personal journey:
I remember being dedicated to a practice thinking I was flexible before I started yoga. Yoga taught me how to safely move in and out of poses and asanas using alignment, breath, and ultimately patience. I then became an instructor and took my practice to a whole other level, but soon afterwards I was burnt out – mostly because I didn’t feel like, look like or act like a traditional yogi – especially with my skydiving background.
I eventually took a break from yoga and recently (before opening Yoga House) recommitted to my practice and am quickly regaining the benefits of better posture, strength, balance, and inner calmness, because ultimately, yoga isn’t all about the Instagram yogis, or being flexible – it’s about your own personal journey with practice.
Just to let you in on a little secret – we practice yoga so we can work on our flexibility. However, the wonderful thing about having an established practice? Is you reap the many other benefits!
YOGA IS JUST ANOTHER FORM OF STRETCHING
Okay, sure. Yoga can be seen as stretching. However, stretching is purely a physical act. Yoga incorporates the breath to increase flexibility as well as de-stressing, increased strength, balance, cardio conditioning, refining posture, and overall well-being. As Guru, Ganga White believes, “it’s scientific and artistic.”
Yoga House Philosophy
Founder of Yoga House Melissa Lowe shares her personal yogic journey:
I remember when I finally signed up to become a yoga instructor. I was terrified I didn’t know the sutras by heart nor all the gurus or swamis that came before me. I was nervous because I certainly didn’t feel like I fit in any stereotype of what a yogi or a yoga instructor was. I loved the athletic element of yoga, but wanted to discover more as well as deepen my practice.
I felt incredibly fortunate to learn under Ganga White and Tracey Rich as they were incredibly open-minded, offered a non-dogmatic approach, and were incredibly approachable. This made me feel that I could incorporate yoga the way it what worked for me, and that’s what inspired me to create Core Values into Yoga House, and welcome a variety of instructors who taught different styles and had different approaches to yoga – so that the Montrose community could find what resonated with them.
The benefits of yoga are a laundry list of positive things. Yoga can take you places (inwardly and outwardly), but it’s your own personal journey.
Is Yoga For Me?
We’ll we admit it – yoga isn’t for everyone and that’s ok – just like Crossfit or Zumba isn’t for others. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice / exersise (although Yoga House is non-dogmatic, there’s no denying that a consistent practice helps uncover deeper feelings or inner reflection – but that’s yours to discover).
Yoga welcomes all skill levels, body types and physical backgrounds. The way to know if yoga is really for you, is to try a class and see.