I’ve been teaching yoga for decades now and I’ve been able to observe how yoga practice has affected my students. Each person has his or her unique strengths and weaknesses. Each is strong in some areas, weak in others; flexible in certain joints and stiff in others. We tend to judge ourselves by our weaknesses but yoga gives us an opportunity to celebrate our strength and flexibility. It also provides us with a chance to gently and lovingly strengthen our bodies (minds and spirits) where they are weak, and encourage them to flexibility where they are tight.
In the process of all this, yoga helps us to really move into our bodies. Many of us have spent years pulling back from the physical being. We are taught, “no pain, no gain” and so we devalue the feedback our bodies give us. We “work through” the pain. We go to work while our bodies are sick and need to be cosseted. Athletes are honored for pushing on despite injury and pain. This is the moral high ground of our culture. This is how we prove our worth to the world.
The yoga I love honors body wisdom and the mystery behind physical being. It is a constant meditation in the here and now. This kind of yoga dissolves the barriers between mind, body and spirit. It enables us to, little by little, become beings who are fully present in and to our lives. It helps us move through the dark night of the soul into the radiance native to that same soul.
This is what I see in my students. They move differently after a few months, with greater grace and strength. They respond to life differently, with less angst and greater compassion. Sometimes the changes are subtle, but they are always beautiful.
Teaching yoga has moved from a discipline to make sure that I do yoga into a joyous dance with people more diverse and creative than I could ever have imagined. Even the most physically challenged make progress and receive real benefits.