Being the wonderful practice that it is, Yoga is something that everybody can benefit from. Apart from the physical benefits from practicing yoga, its breathing and mindfulness aspects are invaluable in enhancing one’s mental wellness and improving the quality of life.
A common misconception of Yoga is that it’s something exclusive to the young, fit and flexible, which is not true at all! As said by T. K. V. Desikachar in the book The Heart of Yoga,
“Anyone who wants to can practice yoga. Anybody can breathe; therefore anybody can practice yoga. But no one can practice every kind of yoga. It has to be the right yoga for the person.”
Understanding that yoga is in essence, a mind-body connection practice, we can see that there can be many paths and many approaches to it. Making yoga inclusive and accessible through customizing a practice to different individuals has always been what Yoga is about. It is unfortunate that with the recent trend of group classes in commercial settings which are purely driven by profit, people tend to have the misconception that yoga is only for the flexible, fit and privileged individuals who have the means to purchase studio memberships and lavish yoga gear.
Yoga can be and should be unique to each individual. Making yoga accessible requires yoga teachers to rethink how they guide their students, especially to students who are differently-abled or from certain social demographics. Adaptive chair yoga, trauma-informed yoga, yoga therapy as well as pay-what-you-wish yoga classes are but a few excellent examples of how yoga can be customized and adapted, using a variety of props and set up, making it inclusive and accessible to all.
The very first step we can take is to see every individual as unique in their needs and background, and the intention of yoga is to enable them to live life better. It is not about fixed ideals of yoga poses that showcase physical prowess. Yoga is an inward journey that is personal and unique to each individual. As long as we can acknowledge that, we can explore different ways to share yoga to all. Yoga is an art and a science, that can enable everyone to embark on a journey of self-exploration, self-awareness and finding harmony the our bodies and minds.
Let’s have an open mind and open heart to the many different paths of yoga, with or without a yoga mat, and make the light of yoga inclusive and accessible to all.