It seems that there are so many sites out there, and folks saying that you ‘should’ be getting your summer body ready, you should be smashing out a work-out, you should keep your #fitsperation images close to your fridge and should check them regularly.
Well, if you know MFML you’ll know that it’s our promise to you to NEVER suggest that you’re anything but summer body ready. You have a body? It’s summer? Great! You’re ready!
We don’t believe that you ‘should’ be exercising or smashing out routines. We believe that you’re already busy enough and feel inadequate enough, by the media always nagging you, belittling you and telling you that you’re not good enough.
So just drop those ‘should’s and drop those unhelpful media images of washboard stomachs, of unfeasibly bendy folks in bikinis on a beach doing handstands. In fact, drop every image which subtly asks you to compare yourself to that image and the answer found wanting. There are multi-million pound industries created around making you feel rubbish about yourself. Unfortunately some of the best and cleverest people in the modern world aren’t solving climate change, world hunger or bringing about world peace. Instead, they are paid fortunes just to make you feel terrible about yourself. Just know that this is an industry, advertising and marketing needs you to feel bad so that they can peddle you something to make you ‘feel better’.
1) Yoga Should Feel Great
So the first reason that yoga isn’t a work-out is that this whole philosophy around working out is plain unhealthy. You just don’t need that kind of negativity in your life! I’d suggest changing your mindset. Yes, you need the discipline to roll out your mat each day, but it’s not another ‘should’, instead it’s giving yourself inner nourishment. It’s like eating. It’s just a thing which feels amazing when you do it, even if you can’t really be bothered to do it – but afterwards you feel even better. Focus on the feeling – in yoga and in life! If something feels great, do it, focus on that feeling, and do more of it. To me, yoga brings me joy, energy and makes me feel like I’m super-woman. It’s not a should, it’s a ‘hell yeah’, I want to feel that way!
2) You Probably Need Cardio As Well
Of course, there are many different forms of yoga. If you’re practicing a fast-paced Vinyasa, chances are that your heart rate goes up, you’re doing plenty of yoga push-ups (chaturangas) and you’re strengthening your body considerably whilst giving yourself a bit of a cardio. Yay. Good for you. BUT – my, maybe slightly controversial advice, is to give yourself a bit of a work-out, have a run or a brisk walk, and THEN do yoga.
The reason for that is that, yes, we need to move more and way too many of us spend too much time sitting down, and yes, we need to burn off our energy and we need to exercise. But, if you’re ‘pushing’ yourself through some power yoga class, or ‘creative vinyasa’, the risk of injury is way too high.
Let’s face it, in yoga, we get our bodies into some interesting shapes. But the risk of getting into those shapes, if you’re breath-less, keeping up with a class – is really high. Alignment in yoga is key. Make sure that you’re practicing alignment-based mindful flow if you like to flow.
I think that the very best yoga is practiced after exercising, to lengthen, strengthen and get into yourself and your breath. Leave the adrenaline of exercise off the mat. In my opinion, the best thing that you can do is to run or hike, so get healthy outdoors – and then settle into yourself in the evening with Yin Yoga. Now that to me is heavenly.
3) Yoga Is About Moving Into A Deeper Feeling
I’ve been in classes where the teacher was more of a cheer-leader. If anyone cheer leads you into ‘you can do one more back bend’ or ‘do it for the people around you’ (yes, I’ve been to classes like that!). Or if the teacher asks the class to do a more tricky pose and you are given ‘tricks’ to do the pose, or are left feeling inadequate for not doing them, step out of the class and away from the teacher. You’ve just stepped into a fitness class. Being bullied into yoga, well, it just isn’t yoga!
The beauty of yoga is that it’s about finding who you are, and finding out that you are not separate from others. It’s not about making shapes and being bullied into them. Yoga is about moving into a deeper feeling, and feeling how you feel – nobody else is in control of your body but you. Yoga is realising that we are not separate to anything, or anyone else – and being forced to make shapes couldn’t be further from yoga.
4) It’s About Your Breath
If the goal of working out is being breathless, there couldn’t be anything further away from yoga! The goal of yoga is to move with a deeper, more fluent, more subtle breath – and as the senior teachers say, if a pose makes you change your breath, that pose isn’t right for you. Working with the breath and turning your attention inwards, to taking note of exactly how you feel before, during and after your practice – this is working inwards, to taking note of the subtle body, not the physical look of the body that magazines will tell us to strive towards. The amazing, magical, transformative power of yoga is in conscious movement with the breath. Without the breath, you’re just working out.
5) Yoga Makes You Strong From The Inside
Yoga can be a fabulous strengthening and lengthening practice for the physical body. For modern day bodies, I personally LOVE Forrest Yoga. Developed by Ana Forrest, the classes are no-nonsense, non-religious, involve no sanskrit names and are super-accessible.
And the amazing thing about the classes is how the poses have been modified to suit our modern, sedentary lifestyles. I feel just wonderful after Forrest yoga, with a focus on breath-work and releasing tension in neck, shoulders and jaw, whilst at the same time building steely strength in the core, shoulders and legs – the perfect antidote to those of us who just don’t move enough.
But, where it’s different to the punishing vinyasa routines is that there is very little ‘flow’, meaning that you’re much less likely to injure yourself on the way to your next pose. I think that Forrest yoga is as close to exercise as yoga should ever be. But it’s the form of exercise which isn’t ‘working out’ for the sake of a physical look – instead the emphasis is upon getting strong from the inside. Better than physically exercising for strong buns, how about working to exercise your resolve, get the fire alight inside of you so that you can take steps to get more active in your community and in the world.
6) Bonus Reason – Yoga Is So Much More
And really, when you step off your mat after yoga class – that is where the yoga begins. Because yoga really is a practice of being in the world.