There is so much yoga on the internet these days, I wonder if there is any place for Big Yoga anymore. There are beautiful young women showing up on Instagram doing the most amazing arm balances, handstands and pretzel-poses that I left behind as I got older. You can check out “instructional” videos on You Tube and learn a lot–but is it really Yoga?
I learned Yoga back in the day when a living Yoga master, Sri Swami Satchidananda, was in our midst! Everything I learned wasn’t from a book, but from a living, breathing Guru who came from a lineage of yogis going back centuries. Satchidananda’s Guru was Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, who used a catch phrase, Serve, Love Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize. Always service came first. As I reflect on that, another phrase comes to mind, this time from Swami Satchidananda: “Yoga isn’t just about standing on your head, it’s about learning to stand on your own two feet”.
When I started Big Yoga, I meant for it to be a Yoga plan that was accessible to bodies that don’t conform to the common idea of what a Yogi could look like–a Yoga for bigger bodies if you will. But using the word “big” has a secondary implication–that of being vast, expansive, and inclusive. I was familiar with a variety of Yoga practices because of my own training with Integral Yoga which offers a . It follows the ideas found in the Yoga Sutras of Sri Patanjali which tells of the various limbs of Yoga, beginning with Yama and Niyaama, the things to DO and the things Not to do. This is where the moral and ethical principals of Yoga are revealed, a sort of “10 Commandments” of Yoga.
Yama includes practices of self restraint, such as non-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation in sex and other appetites, and non-hoarding.
Niyama includes practices or observances that help to purify the mind, making it fit for meditation. These include purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, self-study, and surrender, or more likely, accepting life on life’s terms.
The other limbs of Yoga include the things we study at the Yoga studio–asana (the physical postures), pranayama (the breathing) dyana, dharana, and samadhi ( concentration and meditation ). But real Yoga begins with service. It is through service to others that our strengths and weaknesses are revealed. Keeping to these simple (but not easy) practices helps to keep the mind calm and conserve energy. So next time you get a twinge of jealosy when you see a beautifully demonstrated shoulder stand by an under 30 model, remember there’s more to Yoga than looking good in a onesie.