Yoga is becoming more and more popular in the west as it is becoming a widely accepted practice due to the phenomenal health benefits associated with the practice. In a society where heart disease is resulting in premature deaths, cortisol levels are through the roof (which can lead to adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue and on it goes), digestive issues are running rife in the body - it makes sense as to why so many are now turning to this ancient practice for healing and balance.
For those managing illness or injury - it is never too late to start yoga and manage these conditions more effectively. My career has been in Rehabilitation and it frightens me when I think about how many unnecessary surgical procedures I’ve witnessed people go through, resulting in permanent disability which could have been addressed in a far safer, non-invasive way (had they had the knowledge and support available). More often than not, I’ve seen people come out of those procedures worse off than when they went in. It’s tragic but it’s true. Whilst surgery is absolutely necessary in particular cases, more often than not patients and surgeons tend to jump too quickly at this option. Society is impatient, hence we want the quick fix. Trouble is, this option will never lead to a quick fix. My love of yoga came through witnessing first hand how a commitment to my practice combined with learning correct technique (to avoid further injury) could address my chronic low back pain. I could have opted for surgery many times - but this was never going to be an option for me as i know my body and I know it can heal itself with the right sequence and, more importantly, the right attitude.
Note I mentioned right sequence. Not all yoga teachers are created equal. Some are highly experienced, with years of training under their belt, whilst others have never been formally trained (scary). If you’re a practitioner seeking to address specific health concerns, I would strongly advise seeking a teacher who will work with you one on one to ensure your sequence is tailored to you and your needs. Remember, yoga can be wonderfully beneficial for the body if practiced correctly, but it can also be harmful if the incorrect asanas are performed (hence why group classes are not suitable for all).
For beginners who are seeking to be proactive with their health and maintain a balanced lifestyle, yoga is also very appealing as it really does promote this lifestyle. However, what I’ve found is a number of people say they’re not flexible enough, or strong enough to begin their practice. Due to this, there is often a fear of looking silly in a group class and as such they never show. Does this sound familiar? The reality is, group classes really can be quite intimidating. I totally get it! I will never forget my first group class back home in Adelaide. I was one of about 50 others and the teacher kept yelling across the room at me telling me to straighten my leg, move my foot or do some impossible asana which would have left me crippled had I tried. Not an ideal start to yoga and you can see why people can get put off easily. This isn’t the case for all group classes, so don’t worry, I’m sure times have changed (I hope) but regardless, there is still that worry of others looking etc.
The reality is, people need to feel comfortable and safe in their practice. I always encourage people suffering injury/illness as well as beginners to attend private classes so these students are given the best attention with the most beneficial sequence for them. When there is a level of progression one may feel more confident walking into a group class and know how to work through the asanas at their pace and within their limits - rather than feel forced to work at the pace of others. This self confidence and belief is key to making the most of your practice so why not prepare yourself with the right tools to build it up.
At the end of the day - we only get one body. Respect it, be patient with it and give it the attention it deserves. There is so much to lose should we choose to ignore this and so much to gain should we face it head on. So what do you choose?