I remember that when I first started taking yoga, way back in 2009, that I was terrified to ask questions. In fact I think I had so much anxiety, apprehension, and unease to work through first, that it was a long time before I could even realize that I had a question, just like the saying ‘You don’t know what you don’t know”. But it was just like it was in school, every time someone else spoke up to clarify and alignment cue, or to inquire about a Sanskrit word, or any other question, I listened closely. Most of the time, I either had the same question in the back of my mind and was just afraid to ask it, or it was something I just hadn’t thought of yet. Almost without fail, I benefited from someone else speaking up and asking a question. Looking back on that, I thought that it would be helpful to put together a Q & A series where I can address some of the common questions that I encounter as a yoga instructor, as well as some of the questions that you, the reader, have for me. So, please leave a comment, email me, or find me on FB or IG to ask your question and have you yoga questions answered.
Do I have to be flexible to do Yoga?
Nope! There are lots of ideas of what yoga is and what it is not, but by no means do you have to be flexible to do yoga, rather if you aren’t flexible, yoga will likely help you to become more flexible. You also don’t have to be any of the other stereotypical descriptors of a yogi. You don’t have to be thin or young, or peaceful, or wearing Lululemon. The beauty of the practice is that you come as you are, flexible or stiff, strong or weak, filled with inner peace or filled with anxiety. We use the yoga practice to help bring balance to your body. So if you come with limited flexibility, then maybe that will be your focus in your practice – to work on stretching and opening the body. Likewise, maybe you show up very flexible but with limited strength – your focus then would be to create balance by building up the strength you need to support your body. I honestly believe that there is a form of yoga for everyone, but not necessarily that one class or one type of yoga is for everyone. If you or someone you know is hesitant about picking up the practice, please always feel free to ask for recommendations on where to start and what classes would best suit you.
What does ‘Aum‘ mean and why do we chant it in class?
I love when people ask this question, because often I find that people don’t ask, but likely don’t know the answer either. There are different definitions of the word Aum (also spelled Om – the symbol for this is pictured above), but the one that I identify with the most would be that Aum is the sound of the vibration of the universe. Think about that. Creating this sound links us even more closely to each other as equal and essential components of the universe. This is something that I really connect with especially when we chant Aum, because if you’ve ever done so in a full room of yogis, you can’t help but to feel connected to the universe in a deep way. I still remember the first time my teacher had us chant Aum in class – the first time, everyone left her hanging, because we were all afraid to be the only one participating. But she called us out and made us try it just once – the sound was so beautiful it seemed to vibrate in my soul and I was moved to tears. I’ve never abstained from chanting since that day.I still get that same heartwarming, soul gripping, tingling feeling every time I share an Aum with a class. Do you have to participate? Of course not, but I encourage you to try it at least once – treat yourself to the opportunity to be a part of that beautiful symphony.
Can I practice yoga while menstruating?
In a word, yes. However, your yoga practice is just that – your yoga practice. This question has always been interesting to me, because it seems so specific to the yoga community and people have strong feelings on the topic. Frankly, would you ask if it’s ok to play basketball, softball, swim, or dance while on you period? I’ve never thought to ask that, so I’m not sure what causes the question to come up in the yoga world so much. That said, you may just not feel up to playing sports, dancing, or doing yoga during that time of the month, and that is perfectly fine. Yoga should be all about listening to your individual body, and learning what does and does not work for you. On the other you may find that your yoga practice helps to balance out the hormone shift, and some postures may even help to ease cramps. So experiment with it and choose the practice, or non-practice that serves you.