Why Yoga isn’t about Scary Handstands

I’ve had a lot of people visit my blog and say, “Your blog doesn’t seem to be about yoga. I was expecting articles and pictures about yoga.”  I believe yoga is more than yoga poses. Making yoga solely about doing yoga poses isolates a huge part of the population.  Furthermore, it removes a huge part of yoga out of yoga – the healing. So I’m here to say, you don’t have to do yoga poses to be a fellow Yoga Nerd.

I can’t tell you how many so-called yogis I have met in yoga studios who are the opposite of yoga. Yes, many of these yogis can perform complex poses. But, just because you can to a handstand with your legs in splits doesn’t make you a good yogi. Many of these yogis throw a fit if someone is in “their spot” in the room. They are upset if someone places their mat in front of them so they can’t see themselves in the mirror. They have no respect for other people’s svasana time. They are there every day and judge others who are not. In fact, I just heard a story the other day of a yogi who walked into a studio, saw that someone had placed their mat in the yogi’s spot and left to go do whatever before class started. The yogi picked up this person’s mat, threw it aside, and placed their mat down to reclaim their spot. When confronted about this in the locker room after, the yogi said, “I didn’t do that.” Another woman there said, “Yes you did. I watched you do it.” Didn’t matter. This yogi considered herself in the right.

I call these people asshole yogis. Don’t be an asshole yogi.  Instead, open yourself up to ALL that is yoga which is so much more than asana (yoga poses). Open and surrender to the healing.

I look at yoga as the practice of self-development. Patanjali (the sage who first put the yogic path in writing) saw yoga as “meditative practices culminating in attaining a state of consciousness free from all modes of active or discursive thought.”(Edwin Bryant’s translation.) In other words, yoga is a practice to learn to become present in the now.” Cool. How do I use yoga to get that?

Pantanjali documented the yoga sutras which are the yogic path. The yoga sutras consist of ethical rules called the “Yamas” and behavior practices called the “Niyamas.” Without getting too bogged down in details, here are the Yamas and Niyamas.

Yamas

  • Non-violence
  • Truthfulness
  • Non-Stealing
  • Sexual Restraint
  • Non-possessiveness

Niyamas

  • Purity of mind, body and speech
  • Acceptance of others and one’s own circumstances
  • Persistence
  • Study of Self
  • Contemplation of Spirit (God, Universe, True Self, etc).

Pretty comprehensive stuff. And it’s totally obvious how doing the perfect handstand is a practice of the yoga sutras. Just kidding. I don’t see how purity of mind, body and speech would be important in a handstand. So, what the hell is yoga as we know it doing in the yoga sutras?

That’s where the idea of opening up to ALL aspects of yoga comes into play. For example, breath is a huge part of yoga. The practice of focusing on the breath in equal portions in and out of the nose while practicing asana is a form of meditation. It helps you be present in the moment, present in the body, present in the mind. It helps to bring oxygen into the body while releasing toxins. It helps you get through uncomfortable moments. It helps to release tension in the body. It helps to shift the body from fight or flight to rest and digest. Breath is a powerful tool. And through the connection of breath and movement of body you open yourself up to healing. Some people receive messages during their practice. Or all of a sudden the solution to a problem pops into their head. Here is an example of an “aha!” moment I experienced in a class.

The theme of the class was, “What is the message?” Throughout the class the teacher would say, “What is the message?” But she didn’t say it as a question. She said it more like someone leading a séance to connect with ghosts. At one point she had us in the splits, at least the best splits we could do, which wasn’t much. And she just kept holding us there and saying, “What is the message?” For those of you who have never tried to do the splits, even with the assistance of blocks propping you up, it is excruciatingly painful. But I stayed in the pose. “What is the message?” And I’m waiting, and waiting, and waiting. “What is the message?” Finally, I snap. I start yelling at the teacher in my head, “What the hell! You can’t hold us in this pose for this long! Do you even know what the hell you are doing, lady? F- you!” And right then it occurred to me, “Wow. I’m a really angry person.” That was the message. That was the lesson.

Now you may be saying, “But Heather, I don’t want to do yoga. Do I have to do yoga to be a Yoga Nerd?”

Nope. You don’t have to do yoga to be a Yoga Nerd. Based on the yoga sutras, there are many ways to practice yoga. As far as I’m concerned, any tool that teaches us to be present and leads to self-development is a practice of yoga. Meditation is one way, and anyone can do it. And it is extremely powerful because it incorporates breath. Another way is learning about yourself through the Enneagram. Journaling is a yoga practice. Being in nature. Learning to eat healthy and take care of yourself. All of these are practices of yoga.

Now you see how petty pursuing a handstand really is. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be able to do a handstand and it is on my list of goals. But I know damn well that if I never learn to do it, I’m still a good yogi. I’m definitely not an asshole yogi. *shudder*

But I am a Yoga Nerd. I enjoy learning new things about myself, shedding old belief systems and behavior patterns that are no longer helping me move forward. I love learning new tools to help me on my path of self-healing. I love helping others on their path of healing. I get so excited when I see people grow, discover who they are, and walk comfortably in their skin. That’s what makes me a Yoga Nerd. That’s what makes you a Yoga Nerd. And here is the truth of the matter.  Yoga Nerds are Awesome.

If you are a Yoga Nerd, or just starting your Yoga Nerd journey, subscribe to my blog. I try to pass along Yoga Nerd tools and bits of advice and wisdom once a week. Sometimes twice, but not more than that. I also try to add some fun parts of life like movies and corgis. Fun is a huge part of healing.

I would love to hear from you about some of your “aha!” moments. Or other tools you use to walk the yoga nerd path. We are a community here on Heather the Yoga Nerd, helping each other. So please don’t be afraid to share!

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About

I am a yoga and meditation teacher, energy healer and I teach Enneagram workshops. I'm here to help people grow and find their true selves.

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