I came across this posting today in the forums for a site humorously titled “3 Fat Chicks on a Diet”:
In essence, the author of the post expresses amazement at how “sore she is” after deciding to take a yoga class to do “some stretching”.
Now, I could get really macro here and attempt to encapsulate EVERYTHING yoga is really about, which gets really deep. Among the many facets are: living with “right mind” and “right words”, breathing, meditation, exercises), etc. See: Patanjali’s Eight-Fold Path for a more comprehensive explanation.
But, instead, let’s just focus on one element: Asana, which is the physical exercises or poses. That is the general focus of most westernized yoga classes anyway.
Anyone who thinks Asanas are just: “doing a little bit of stretching” needs to get off the couch and go get in a class. In fact, try taking, say, 3 classes one week, for two weeks, in several different styles or from several different teachers to get a more comprehensive taste of what the experience is like. Just experiencing Asanas will tell you amazing things about your body….and not just about “how much you can stretch”. You’ll become much more in tune with your sense of balance, your nervous system, your digestive system, your strength, your skeletal alignment, even emotional factors…for example, you may discover places in your body in which you are storing tension, stress and anger (typically our shoulders, chest and hips), so working those parts in an Asana can trigger some emotional release.
Yoga class should not be “easy”. I don’t believe in making classes overwhelmingly hard to students, so that it’s impossible and discouraging. But classes should be challenging. I’ve done some Asanas that would challenge top athletes and get you sweating profusely in no time. One that comes to mind is Warrior 3 or Virabhadrasana 3. If a pose in its essence isn’t challenging enough, it can be modified to be even more challenging. And depending on the style of your teacher or class, poses can be sequenced in a way to be very vigorous, challenging you by incorporating a lot of flowing movement or repetition or by holding poses for a long time. Even in my personal practice, in which I try to do a half hour minimum every day, I often discover the next morning that I have a slightly sore muscle group somewhere.
A little “light stretching” would more aptly describe the first 3 minutes of any 80s aerobics video!