Are You Good at Yoga?

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New students often introduce themselves to me with the caveat that they are “bad at yoga” and it always gets me thinking – what is their idea of yoga that they think they can be good or bad at it?

There are so many images of yoga on social media, with people bending themselves every which way, we would be forgiven in thinking that that’s all it is. Creating an incredible shape with your body CAN be yoga, but yoga is so much more than just the shapes.

When people say they are good or bad, I think they mean that they have a hard time touching their toes or can’t do a handstand – that they are “bad” at the physical aspect of yoga. But I would argue that because yoga is a practice and not an accomplishment, you can’t actually be good or bad at yoga, you can only either practice it or not. Taking time to practice (in whatever form, physical yoga or not) means that you are good at yoga, because you are practicing, and practicing is what it’s all about.

For me, yoga is more about my state of mind and the small actions I take every day in accordance with my value system (developed with the help of yoga, of course), rather than what shapes I can accomplish with my body. The shapes are important, don’t get me wrong – the quest to achieve those shapes often allows us to understand and observe what’s going on in our minds and with our emotions. The struggle and slow progress of going from “basic” to “advanced” poses allows us to see our reactions, our thoughts and our feelings along that path. It allows us to have the space and time to notice what comes up when we are faced with challenges and adversity, and hopefully gives us tools for perseverance and resilience (i.e. breathing, letting go of limiting thought patterns that we weren’t previously aware of, connecting with our sense of self). It makes us step out of our comfort zones and helps us to grow and expand.

But yoga can also be practiced in other ways, and outside of the time spent “pretzel-ing” in class. In addition to the physical practice, we can practice yoga by staying present, by observing our reactions and emotions, by listening (to others, to our bodies and to our intuition), by noticing nuance and small joys in everyday life, and by being kind to ourselves and others.

So to anyone who has gone to class thinking that they are “bad at yoga” …. please let that idea go. You are at a class and whether it’s your first or 50th, the fact that you showed up and took time to practice, means that you are good at yoga. Keep it up 😊

I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a message in the comments, or find me on instagram – @laurenewilkie

Photo by Ali Schilling Photography

Yoga vs Pilates

As someone who teaches both yoga and Pilates, I often get asked about the differences between the two. I’ve created a chart to help clear up some of the confusion! Let me know what you think in the comments or use #novemberPilates.

 

YOGA

 

PILATES
Thousands of years old

 

Less than 100 years old
Engages the pelvic floor and abdominals

 

Engages the pelvic floor and abdominals
Improves strength and flexibility

 

Improves strength and flexibility
Specific breathing pattern to assist with movement

 

Specific breathing pattern to assist with movement
Works big muscles groups

 

Focuses on smaller muscles
Includes a wide array of styles and activities and can be physical, mental or spiritual or a combination of all three – i.e. meditation, breathing exercises, chanting, singing, etc are all part of a yoga practice

 

Primarily a physical activity but does have a mental aspect through focus and use of breath
Many different styles and levels of intensity – huge variation from class to class, even within the same style of yoga

 

An amount of continuity and consistency from class to class
Practiced on a mat (can use props), bare feet

 

Practiced on a mat or reformer (can use props), bare feet or Pilates socks (with grip)
Moves from pose to pose and has an element of stillness – poses can either be held for a period of time or move fluidly from one to the next, like a dance

 

The same exercise or movement is repeated to strengthen or exhaust the muscles before moving to the next set of exercises
Shapes/poses can be made without engaging the correct muscles

 

Difficult to perform the movement correctly without engaging the correct muscles
Can be quite a strong practive and not always appropriate for those with injuries Can be an effective way to maintain strength and flexibility despite any injuries – can even help to rehabilitate when done correctly