Yoga is the mystical art of bending and stretching your body to its limit. It is the art of making yourself into a pretzel, and it is the art of learning how to better cope with wanting to kill your coworkers and classmates. It is simple, elegant, and beneficial to your overall well-being for many reasons. Because of this, yoga is something that I firmly believe anyone can do. It's not for everyone, but it's for anyone.
One of the things I love most about doing yoga is that as a student, broke and trying to get my life together, you can do it with literally no money. Most hobbies and fitness regimes require you to have things--woodworking requires, well, wood; sewing requires fabric, thread, and so on; being a musician requires and instrument, and usually lessons; cycling requires a bicycle or stationary bike; the list goes on. But yoga, simple and enriching, one of the few hobbies or exercise options that don't require anything special, only requires that you decide to do it.
But what could possibly make anyone decide to do yoga? It's hippie shit, for vegans and paleo-dieters and buddhists, right!? Wrong.
Here are five things I love about yoga that should convince you otherwise (or at least convince you I'm not crazy).
1. You can start where you are.
This is not one of those things where you have a threshold to meet before you're able to participate and do the "real" yoga. You don't need equipment, or special clothes (as nice as they are to have for motivation). In ballet, you have to learn a lot of stuff before you just start dancing; you can't just pick up an instrument and play. But, from the moment your feet hit that mat, you can do any asana (fancy word for yoga pose) in any order, that you want. Even if you do it badly.
2. You get a little better every single time you do it.
The saying goes that when you start to work out, in two weeks you'll feel it, in four weeks you'll see it, and in eight weeks you'll hear it. In yoga, you feel it every time you hit shavasana (corpse pose, used at the end of most yoga routines). When I first started, I felt the difference in my ability to meet the poses on the second day. It wasn't a dramatic difference--I couldn't suddenly touch my forehead to my knees (still can't), but it was easier than the day before. After only three or four sessions, I was able to double my session length without pause. I admit that if weight loss is your goal, weight loss comes slower than usual with yoga, but the muscle building and the flexibilty starts immediately.
3. You can lose weight...or not.
As mentioned in my last point, weight loss comes slower with yoga because it's not aerobic. But, for older people, people with joint pain, bone problems, heart trouble, etc, it is still a way to lose weight without the heavy impact on your joints. And, if you're someone like me who has trouble retaining weight, it's a way to stay active and keep loose without having to fear burning off lots of weight.
4. You can modify any asana to make it accessible.
In yoga, you can use blankets, bolsters, blocks, balls, wheels, straps, weights, and more to help make it easier to reach any poses you struggle with until you build up the strength to be able to do it, or to accomodate injuries you may have. It's all about listening to your body, and doing what you can do.
5. It's spiritual.. and it's not.
For my final point I want to start by saying, yes, yoga has roots in Indian culture and beliefs. But it doesn't have to.
Yoga incorporates many aspects and comes in many styles, and modern yoga has been adapted to be suitable to anyone of any belief, or lack thereof. For me, a Christian, the meditative aspects of yoga are easily and wonderfully used for prayer, or as a time to clear my mind entirely and just reach a more peaceful state of grace. For others who choose no faith, it can be a great way to feel connected to something other than just yourself. Mindfulness is for everyone, everywhere. Even me, in my messy living room.
Yoga is magnificent, fun (in a "what can I try today" kind of way) and a great way to supplement both your mental and physical health. There are many more reasons for which I, and others, love yoga, but this is the short list. Will you be giving it a try?