Yoga is More than Handstands

Is social media killing the desire for beginners to try yoga?


Yoga is More than Handstands

If you follow yogis on social media, you may think that yoga is all about handstands,  very deep backbends or twisting yourself into a pretzel. As a yoga teacher, this trend is upsetting. Yoga is so much more than poses that look good on camera. My yoga teacher called this type of yoga "cocktail party yoga" in other words, a yogi might do these things to show off to her friends after a few cocktails. 

I like inversions, handstands are fun and I love backbends - but the overuse of these poses on social media can give someone who is curious about yoga the wrong idea. I'm here to tell you that there is a gentler way to get the benefits of yoga without the intimidating poses. If you want to work up to those poses one day - cool - but don't think you have to start off there and never walk into a yoga studio because you think that is what yoga is all about. 

Yoga means union. This union can mean the union of the breath, body, mind, and spirit. Ultimately, it means the realization of the union of you and your highest Self. In the yoga sutras - an ancient yogic text - yoga is defined as: 

Yogas-citta-vrtti-nirodhah: Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of the mind.

Restricting the fluctuations of the mind really does not have anything to do with pretty handstand pictures on Instagram. What it does imply is that yoga is all about taming the "monkey mind." Taming the monkey mind is much easier when you partake in physical activity and the yoga postures are designed to address the spine, stretch the muscles and challenge you, all so you can sit and meditate without discomfort - therefore restricting the fluctuations of the mind. But, guess what, you don't have to do mermaid pose to sit for a period of time without discomfort.  (In fact, mermaid pose may cause discomfort - but that is a whole other article for another day.) 

In fact, yoga postures are called asanas. Asana means "to sit." The whole purpose of a physical yoga practice is to be able to sit with yourself.  We do these asanas so we can work out our ya-yas and sit for a while undisturbed by achy backs and jumpy monkey minds. 

If you are looking for the benefits you keep hearing about with yoga, then take heart, there are many styles of yoga out there and one of them is right for you. Gentle yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga and Viniyoga are all styles of yoga that are sweeter and gentler with the body.  Also the use of props like yoga blocks, straps, blankets and bolsters are encouraged to support your body in your yoga asana practice.  Most importantly find a teacher that you resonate with. Find one that has been to training and teaches people first and yoga second. Your time on the mat is all about you and your total health, so find a teacher that gets that concept - then have fun - especially if you choose to do a handstand one day!