Guide to Understanding Yoga and Taking the First Steps in This Practice

More and more people are turning to yoga , whether because they need to overcome some physical issues, because they have heard that it helps to calm down and deal with anxiety, or simply because they are looking for a balance that they have not yet been able to achieve in any other way. But, after all, what is yoga ? A physical practice? A philosophy? A lifestyle?

To understand what yoga is, we need to free ourselves from the “perfect photography” and acrobatic postures that we are used to seeing as a representation of yoga . Yoga is a real practice — for real people, whatever their body type and/or physical condition — which presents itself as a path to self-knowledge and personal growth. By following this path, we can get closer to our true essence, to who we really are, in addition to all the roles we play in our lives and what is expected of us. The practice of yoga aims to fully express your being, your true nature, and to do so, you need to touch much more than your body.

Yoga looks at our body as a physical expression of what we carry inside. What we nourish, what we feed inside ends up affecting our physical condition, our health and our well-being. By taking care of our body, through the physical practice of yoga postures, it is possible to strengthen, purify and balance not only our bones, muscles and ligaments, but also all of our organic systems, our energy body, our mind and our emotions, even the most hidden ones that we often prefer not to see. Deep awareness of breathing and intentional regulation of it facilitate this entire process, on a physical and energetic level and, in close relation with the postures, opens the necessary space for meditation, a practice that, in itself, constitutes a path towards towards your true nature. This process of union between body, mind and spirit, and the deep awareness of who you are, in each moment, is the essence of living and growing in yoga .

This practice does not consist of the art of putting your feet behind your head and achieving postures that are often not beneficial for your body. It is not something separate from us and our daily lives, it is not something we do one moment and stop doing the next. The practice of yoga leads us to a higher state of consciousness, which touches all areas of our life and allows us to recognize a new way of living, far beyond our mat. Practicing yoga is a way to be deeply connected with ourselves, with our body, with what happens in us now! It is the way to find ourselves in presence and celebrate the present moment, with the tranquility of someone who knows that this moment has everything we need to be happy, real and to be able to grow and improve.

Living in yoga does not change the way events appear in our lives, but it profoundly transforms the way we look at our experiences, allowing us to recognize that we are already everything we were looking for.

Yoga and the Zen Way

When you tell someone that you practice yoga , you often realize that, in some way, it may not correspond to a pre-conceived image, which was created, of what you are supposed to look or be like as a practitioner. The general idea is that those who do yoga are “ zen ” people, super calm and flexible, with soft voices, who dress in a certain way, who are vegetarian and who say and do esoteric things. It is placed within this model, which looks more like a recipe, in which we bring together a set of ingredients to create a special and enlightened being, who lives his life walking from water lily to water lily.

To practice yoga , you only need one thing: desire! Everything else is an (outside) scenario with which you don't have to identify. The big event, the real spectacle, happens within you.

Yoga points to the total and absolute freedom to be who you already are, in reality, and to express and manifest who you are, in all your fullness. Free from constraints, limits or “formats” where it must fit. All of these are nothing more than prisons. If someone tells you how to dress, eat, think or act, be suspicious! This is clearly not yoga .

It is clear that the practice of yoga brings you more flexibility (physical and mental!), which calms your mind and makes you rethink your entire lifestyle, but it is also true that, many times, yoga is disruptive, making you to stir up the waters of your life and break with patterns that don't serve you, because that's all we need at certain moments in our lives. You are not supposed to embark on a path of liberation and then find yourself imprisoned or pressured to always be in “ zen ” mode, or to act in a way that does not reflect how you feel. Your world has its own measurement, don't falsify yourself to fit someone's model of the world. Free yourself and be real. Be just who you are!

What is needed to start practicing yoga ?

When people start thinking about practicing yoga , insecurities and questions often arise, many of them sabotaging, which can even impede or limit their experience: “I don't have flexibility, I have a terrible physical condition"; "I'm too heavy"; " I'm not old enough for those things"; "I'm too stressed"; "Everyone in yoga classes is much calmer than me"; "My health no longer allows me to do so"; "I don't like esoteric and religious things". ...

What you need to know to practice yoga is that none of this is true! Yoga is for everyone. You just need to have a body and the desire to start. If you “ check ” these two conditions, it’s time to “get on the mat”. It doesn't matter your age, physical condition, weight, height, flexibility (the greatest flexibility that yoga will bring you is mental flexibility and the ability to adapt to all situations, regardless of what arises in your life!). It doesn't matter if you are a calm, agitated or explosive person (if so, all the more reason to start balancing that hurricane side!). And more. It doesn't matter what your beliefs or religion are, because yoga is not a religion! None of this should stop you from practicing yoga .

Take note of what you need to start this practice:

  • Willing. A famous yoga teacher, SRI K Pattabhi Jois, said that “ yoga is for everyone, except for the lazy”, that is, if you feel like it, you already have the most important factor to start with;
  • Forget all the opinions you heard and try it. Free yourself from other people’s feedback and experiences. If not all clothes fit everyone, why would a practice be experienced in the same way by different people? Don't limit yourself;
  • Commitment. As in other areas of our lives, in order to achieve a certain goal, whatever it may be, we need to commit. Commit to your practice. Set a time, choose a space, and practice;
  • Respect for your body. Evolution in practice requires time and dedication. Listening to and knowing your body is fundamental for a conscious and healthy practice;
  • To have fun. Yoga is a process of self-knowledge and personal development, but that doesn't mean you can't maintain a good mood while doing it. The process is intense and profound, but if you have a smile on your face when faced with the challenges that will arise, everything will be more beautiful and lighter!

Good habits!


Márcia Viana is a yoga instructor, meditation facilitator and Positive Discipline Educator | marciaviana.yoga@gmail.com

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