This is a very common question I have heard. Some have asked me this question in some variation and many ask this question on social media posts every single day. So, what is the answer? Do you and I have the body for Yoga? Do we have the correct body proportions, the correct shape and size to practise Yoga? Before you read further, think about these questions and the answers you come up with for yourself. Remember your answers as you read more and see how they connect with each other.
What is a Yoga body?
These are questions that, to be honest, surprise me no matter how many times I hear or read them. Every time I see a variation of the questions I mentioned above, this is the question that springs to my mind – What exactly IS a Yoga body? The answer to this question is crucial to answering the earlier questions. What does it mean to have a Yoga body? What size, shape, proportions are we speaking of in this context? Do scriptures give us this information?
Many old texts on Hatha Yoga say that Yoga practice should be done by everyone irrespective of their health status; there are a variety of practices to choose from based on personal ability. Yoga Sūtra by Sage Patanjali makes no mention of what a person’s body must look like for the practice of Yoga; it only speaks about the will to learn, the discipline to follow the teachings, and the ability to listen and observe to gain wisdom.
In my limited understanding of Yogic scripture (I say limited because it is such a vast body of knowledge and there is always so much more to learn and know), Yoga asks us to start wherever we are and work towards two different goals:
- Santōsha – Accept ourselves as we are, be content with ourselves, and work towards being better people every day but with a sense of joy, not with a sense of lacking
- Abhyāsa – Make constant effort towards learning, growing as people, gaining wisdom, managing the mind, and developing spiritually
We need to accept ourselves as we are and work towards becoming better people from a place of contentment and joy, not a place of lacking or being less than.
Going by this explanation, can we now attempt to answer the earlier question about Yoga bodies? Given what Yoga scriptures clearly say by admission or omission, do you think we need to be a certain body type, age, and so on to be able to practise Āsana?
I say Āsana because, let us admit it, most commercial classes that expect us to look and dress and be a certain way are focused entirely on a physical practice and on making the body twist and turn into different shapes. It is only modern forms of Yoga that have shifted focus almost entirely to the physical aspect and have often moved away from the idea of physical movement as given in the ancient scriptures. Physical movement to work on the mind and not to look a certain way has always been the core focus of physical practices in Yoga.
I have and have had students as senior as 80 years and as young as 7 years of age, people with all kinds of body types, healthy people and people with physical and mental health conditions, people with and without full functional range of movement in the body. The only reason I have ever had to refuse a class was that it did not align with my understanding of Yoga – I do not conduct Yoga classes for weight loss, anti-ageing techniques, reducing cellulite, and so on. My classes focus on making my students feel fresh, light in the mind, confident about themselves, and happy.
When I see students happy, knowing that I was able to help them practice movement and stillness safely in a way that made them feel good, in turn, makes me feel good. I create health and joy for myself by helping someone else feel joyous and healthy. I encourage people to fall in love with who and what they are just like I have fallen in love with myself to experience the joy that comes with shedding self-doubt and negative self-conversation.
What we look like, what we wear, what mat we use matters not if we have the thirst for knowledge, the will to learn, and a constant itch to grow every day. If we have this, we have a mind and a body that are ready for Yoga; we are ready for all the wisdom that Yoga encompasses and freely gives to anyone genuinely willing and open to learning.
I hope this removes any doubt from your mind about whether you have a body that is correct or ready for Yoga because, if you have a body and a will to learn Yoga, you have a Yoga body! No matter your health status, there are always practices in Yoga that will be available for you to practice, to help you grow spiritually, to learn how to be happier as a person.
I’m here for feedback, questions, thoughts you might have after reading this. If you would like to learn with me or have questions for me, do not hesitate to reach out to me here on the website or on my Instagram.