For someone who has been practicing yoga for eight years, I hear this statement a lot: "you must be able to do the splits and stand on your head!" Sorry folks, I am no yoga superstar.
Usually the first image that comes to mind when hearing the term "yoga" is a flawless body contorted in an unfathomable pose. These images which are so popularized by magazine photos and the media are really just the tip of the yoga iceberg. It takes a keen mind and heart to realize that the foundational beauty lays below the surface of the yoga waters, and this is where 99.9% of yogi/yoginis swim.
Anyone can “do” yoga because yoga isn't about bending backwards and mastering the splits. Rather it’s about having the patience and integrity to give yourself compassion in your practice. If one can figuratively bend over backwards to be compassionate to themselves in their practice of yoga it will be a rewarding and fulfilling journey.
Here are some lovely reminders I like to tell myself before I begin my practice when I find that my ego tries to take over. I hope you find at least one helpful to you.
Yoga can not be diluted down to just the poses (asanas), remember that there are so many aspects that make up yoga, find the aspect that most appeals to you and develop yourself in that area. Everyone has their talent that will shine!
Kissing your asana edge with compassionate grace. Every body is different in build, strength, muscular structure and flexibility. It is wise to know your own physical limitation and remember to listen with large ears to your body’s voice. Bring your respect to the pose, begin in the first degree of a pose and allow your body to become comfortable there before deciding to move gently deeper. Always remember that whatever level you are at, it is still a perfect expression of that pose. There is no yoga law that states you have to perform every asana at the extreme expression of its form. Your physical safety is of utmost importance.
Incorporate the wise characteristic of compassion (ahimsa), mentally. Open your practice with the attitude of having self compassion. The first step in this process is to reprogram our minds. Put a halt to the negative commentary in the mind when you notice it arising. There is a tendency for our mind to say, “you’re not good enough”, “you don’t look the way you ought to”. And the list can go on. Changing the familiar negative patterns of thought with attitudes of self-acceptance and self approval will enrich your practice. With patience your mind will begin to shift from the “I should” to actually being in the moment and enjoying the experience. Having mental compassion will help you to appreciate the fact that you are indeed doing your best.
The next time someone says, "I wish I could do yoga but I am not flexible enough," you will know exactly how to respond because a you know that a little compassion goes a long way.