Think you understand yoga and meditation? Scott Robinson, AKA, the Yogibanker reveals five things you may not know about the ancient mind and body practises.
Yoga was originally for men
When we think of modern yoga today, it is heavily dominated by women. Most classes on average have a ratio of five women for every guy.
But go back to the early part of the 20th century and you’ll discover that yoga was exclusively aimed at men. It took influential teachers such as Swami Sivananda and Krishnamacharya to open the doors and allow women and non-Indians to join. From there, there was no looking back.
You don’t need to be flexible to practise yoga
We all feel stiff when we wake up in the morning! Eric Schiffman, a well-known American yoga teacher is famous for saying that when it comes to practising yoga, “stiffness is a gift”.
In yoga, the aim is to gently open up the joints and connective tissues through passively stretching them. In the more ‘yang’ styles of yoga, being stiff and inflexible can actually be a blessing. Sure, some of the poses may feel harder and there may be initially less range of movement, but the potential is there. Whereas, for those students who are very flexible (or even hyper-mobile), there is a greater risk of injury as you operate at the far end of what is possible in terms of range of movement. Building mobility is the key to reducing such risks of injury and knowing your limit.
Yoga is not just ‘posture’
Within the yoga tradition, there are many different styles and traditions. Some traditions do not emphasise posture at all. Rather, there is more of a ‘mind’ focus, for example: mantra or devotion (bhakti yoga); wisdom (jnana yoga); and selfless action or deeds (karma yoga).
When you look at the original yoga sutras written by Patanjali over 5000 years ago, very little is said about posture. Sthira Sukham Asanam (meaning posture should be steady and comfortable) is commonly cited as the basis of modern yoga classes. Being able to master a handstand wasn’t what the original yogis contemplated (although with precision and skill, that same feeling can be generated).
Meditation is about ‘contemplation’
The meaning of the world “meditation” comes from the latin word “meditari”, to contemplate. From this, there are any different approaches to meditation, depending on the tradition. At the heart of meditation is an object of attention, which may vary according to the practise. It could be the breath, the body, anything external to the body or a mantra itself. It is through placing the mind in a gentle, yet firm way, that over time the quality of mind starts to shift and the self-realisation of meditation occur. In this way, it is truly “contemplating”.
Meditation isn’t for everybody
Whilst meditation may have positive benefits, it may not be for everybody. In fact, for some people with certain mental health conditions, the practise itself may trigger or produce adverse effects. Always approach meditation with an attitude of acceptance and curiosity. If the practise makes you feel uncomfortable or produces negative side effects, then cease practising in that particular style. There are so many different modalities within the wellbeing space that other forms of meditation, gentle hatha yoga, breath work or sound healing might be more appropriate.
Read more about yoga and meditation here and learn to be more mindful day to day here.