Getting real about yoga

"So you are, like, really relaxed and floating above the ground after your yoga classes?"

I get this question a lot when I tell people that I practice yoga. Depending on the person I either nod and smile cordially or begin to explain what yoga is and why I like it.

The thing is, I do not practice yoga to relax and float above the ground. And I don't really know any kind of yoga that will do that to you. Meditation and mindfulness will or is designed to, anyway (well, not the floating part). Yoga is designed to reinforce your muscles, sense of balance, flexibility, and posture. Yoga is all about strength.

Of course, there are more and less demanding types of yoga. Some are very physically taxing like Astanga and Iyengar, others focus more on synchronizing breathing and movements like Dynamic, Flow and in part Vinyasa.

They all have their specific benefits. I personally like to practice different kinds of yoga, mostly Iyengar and Vinyasa and sometimes Dynamic, because I get to use my muscles and body in different ways. But common for all of them is that I've gained flexibility and strength over the years. I can do more sit-ups and push-ups than most women my age (or younger for that matter) and have achieved greater flexibility.

So forget the old-fashioned, stuck-in-the-hippie-age, faulty perception of yoga. Or better yet, try it out yourself.

Newcomers will benefit from starting with gentle Dynamic yoga that will help warm up muscles and joints over time and ease you into the yoga practice. Then, take a step further with Vinyasa to challenge your strength, flexibility and balance. After a while, move forward with Iyengar to build up your stamina.

Just don't expect to wander around in a heavenly buzz or float above the ground.

Jens Astrup took this photo. And photoshopped it too.

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