Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago about yoga, if I thought it could help her back pain, if it's good exercise. Then she asked "But how is yoga different from Jazzercise?" Before I started learning about yoga, I wouldn't have understood much of a difference. Yoga is exercise, right? It helps you stretch and a lot of gyms offer it along with kick-boxing classes. I have also been asked many times why the yoga teacher-training course is so long and involved. "Aren't you just learning to teach poses?"
In one of our first teacher-training classes, we talked about our yoga "elevator speech." What is your brief yet informative description that can get someone interested to learn more for themselves? I have found this challenging, because it's hard to put into words what yoga is, and what it has done for me. I also don't want to sound all "new-agey" because that will turn people off quickly! Most people come to yoga for the physical benefits. It is great exercise, good for strength and range of motion, good for all levels of conditioning and all body types. It can give you a great butt, and help you lose weight. That's all true!
But yoga is more about the mind than the body. It is a system based on ancient philosophies that shows us a path to enlightenment. (See, I lost a bunch of you, now didn't I?) Yoga poses, along with the spiritual teachings, help us to calm and focus the mind, to be kinder and more loving, to remain calm in the face of adversity, and to aspire to see the connections between every being. Let me try again. Yoga helps calm and focus the mind, reduces anger and irritability, AND has the added benefit of being a great physical practice. Now THAT could be related on an elevator ride to the 10th floor!
The more I study, the more I realize that what I'm learning is the tip of a gigantic ancient iceberg. The Yoga Sutras are the main text about yoga, written thousands of years ago in an ancient, now mostly dead language called Sanskrit. Yeah, Sanskrit. So what can that have to do with modern life? Well, the very first sutras tell us that yoga calms the mind to allow us to realize our true nature: joy. Happiness. Divinity. They go on to tell us how to deal with difficulties, how to be kinder and ultimately, how to live a meaningful life. Isn't that what we're all looking for in the end?