Misconceptions of Yoga

Before the 200hr course, I never had much exposure to any depths of yoga practice beyond focus on the physical benefits. Yoga seemed to affect its followers in a cult like fashion and although my exposure was minimal, I felt as if I wanted to distance myself from those aspects I found odd due to years of conservative religious upbringing and influence by mainstream society. I had heard plenty of instructors chant Om and end a class with Namaste, although neither were ever explained to me and I therefore made my own assumptions. A misunderstanding of what seemed so serious and spiritual contributed to my perception of pretentiousness in the yoga community. I find myself turned off by anyone who takes themselves too seriously and felt the yoga community often exuded this attitude. I never could have guessed that Om simply channels vibrations in our spine and that Namaste is essentially a greeting.

The religious order with which I was raised believes that meditation and mantra are a form of worshiping a god other than God(blasphemy). My grandmother who is a widowed preacher’s wife certainly wouldn’t approve of worshiping any ‘false gods’ and I remember her uneasiness even with my listening to Enya at bedtime, as if the calming music that helped me sleep would somehow brainwash me. I still sometimes play an Enya song in my head to calm my thoughts that are always annoyingly active at bedtime.  Although I never quite believed meditation was any form of worship, mantra appeared as a prayer.  The idea of both meditation and mantra made me uncomfortable (or giggle thanks to The Simpsons and various other comedy outlets).  Only four weeks into class, I now find myself cheerfully chanting mantras in my head most of the time and had the most blissful, productive and creative day after our long meditation session.  Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, I find it hard to believe any god would find fault in the relaxation of meditation and the positive meanings behind mantras that have no religious reference.

I entered the course with few expectations and an open mind, although I must admit my main apprehension was that I may not be able to wholeheartedly represent the yoga lifestyle as an instructor. Don’t yoga instructors have to be vegetarian, ‘worship’ whatever god drives their practice and channel this god by chanting Om and mantras? While I will by no means profess to have a full grasp of the depths of yoga before even finishing beginner certification, I am delighted by the many misconceptions that are being unmasked for me. How intriguing that the vast imbalances in our mind, body and spirit can build over time with so many simple roots and yet be solved by what is essentially a simple solution. I have been pleasantly surprised by the paradox of simplicity in such complexity and look forward to peeling away further layers. I typically prefer to chose a path not knowing where it might lead me instead of setting out a specific or controlled path. I cannot say how delighted I am to have chosen my current path – who knows where I may be led.

Lastly, I acknowledge that it must seem odd for a expectant mother who only had minimal experience with yoga to attempt certification.  However, while I never quite understood yoga, I somehow felt benefits of practice even if I didn’t have full awareness. My main draw to yoga (apart from what seemed like an outlet for adult acrobatics through inversions) was that I felt it could calm the fire inside of me. I have spent my entire life competing in some sort of sport or competing in career. While I am happy to have walked away from the finance industry, I still oddly miss the shouting and intensity from the trading floor and find it difficult to channel this energy into a positive outlet.  In joining the course, I hoped for calmness that would help me have a healthy body and mind, which I hoped would lay the path for a healthy pregnancy and healthy lifestyle for my child and my family.  While my lovely Grandmother will surely never understand the many layers of yoga, bless her heart (a southern saying), she will certainly notice the personal benefits I am reaping from yoga practice.

Namaste 🙂