This Is the One Truth About the Yoga Lifestyle

There Isn’t One Truth About the Yoga Lifestyle

Yoga always surprises. You might think you know what yoga is. You’ve seen the people, the websites, the magazines, and the clothes! You have friends who take classes. You know what types of people are into yoga. You aren’t that person. Right?

Wrong.

Forget everything you think you know—the clothes, the diet, how often, the kale shakes, all of it. None of it is true—and all of it is true. There are so many different ways of living the “yoga lifestyle,” that there isn’t one lifestyle that fits. The “yoga lifestyle” is a marketing construction. Forget your preconceptions and read on to see how yoga fits into your life.

Do or Do Not Do—There Is No One True Yogi

Yoga articles nearly always use a stock photograph of an attractive, fashionably yoga-attired, attractive child-woman executing an advanced pose with a smile on her face, in attractive lighting, with the natural world artfully blurred behind her. (There’s probably one on this post right now.)

These images teach us that the ideal yogi is young, fit, limber, and prosperous with unattainable bodies for most women (and, in another sense, for most men). They make for pretty websites, but they also make real yogis self-conscious, and discourage would-be yoga converts by contributing to stereotypes (men don’t do yoga; after a certain age, it’s time to hang up your mat, etc.). If yogis are all Kale-smoothie-drinking-vegetarians, how can the rest of us ever hope to live up?

Longtime yogis know these photos sell an aspirational lifestyle marginally related to yoga. Real yogis will surprise you. Some look like the photos; many do not. Some are vegetarians; many more love meat. Many eat junk food; many eat healthfully. Most eat somewhere in between. Yoga people struggle just like everybody else. They try to do the best they can.

Yoga Cannot Be an Addiction

A sign of yoga’s popularity is a trend in social media posts about “yoga addiction.” These “humorous” posts are fashioned after 12-step recovery questionnaires designed to self-diagnose substance dependency. Meant to be fun and humorous, the posts’ comedy is second-rate at best, but of more interest is the current of criticism and behavior policing that runs beneath their tone that isn’t funny at all.

These “signs of addiction”—after an injury, your first worry is that you will miss yoga,” or “you’re never seen without your mat”—tease those who’ve thrown themselves wholeheartedly into the yoga trend, with the underlying suggestion that the only reason to do so is because yoga is a trend. Therefore, these people have lost their free will and decision-making skills as a result: “You find yourself in a downward dog pose at the office,” is another of the “signs” of yoga addiction.

Suggesting yoga is akin to a substance capable of overriding the will is a fundamental misunderstanding of both yoga and addiction. Yoga allows for a stronger and more harmonious connection between body and mind. Substance abuse seeks to disconnect the dysfunctional relationship between body and mind. This is why recovering addicts attend yoga—it complements a spiritual program of recovery by helping them to avoid feelings and behaviors associated with the need to drink or use drugs. One way to shut down a listicle about trendy yoga addicts is to describe the recovering addict who used to drink entire days away, before they got into recovery and then tried yoga.

Three Moves to Open Your Hips

Our hips, oh our lovely hips, are often referred to as the emotional junk drawer. So powerful, so mobile, yet often so… stuck. Our hips bear the weight of our bodies as we move throughout the day; however, lifestyle changes find us to be much idle. The stationary positions we find ourselves in most often put our hip musculature in a shortened position. Long hours + these positions = stuck hips. To bring openness to our hip joints we must sink into stretches that target not only the outside of the hips but all sides. While dozens of hip openers are available, we’re going to check out three poses that will help you release the entire hip joint – front to back, inside to out.


Supported Saddle Pose


We sit all day long, shortening our quads and hip flexors. Ever feel the need to stand up and just stretch your hips forward? That’s exactly what we’re targeting with the supported saddle.

  1. Find yourself seated on your heels with a bolster or block underneath your sit bones.
  2. Because we are typically so tight on the front of the hips, taking saddle in a supported form is going to help ease into this opener.
  3. Recline yourself back, either resting completely on the bolster or propping yourself on your elbows.
  4. As you hold this posture, you’ll feel yourself sink deeper into your supportive prop.

Challenge yourself to stay here for at least two minutes. Just breathe, you’ll make it, I promise.


 

Reclined Cow Face


Working deep into your hip sockets, reclined cow face gives a great stretch to your glutes – from their origin on your sacrum to their insertion on your trochanters. This pose holds closest to traditional hip openers; similar to the double pigeon or fire log pose, you’ll note a few differences. A reclined position gives a restorative nature to this pose.

  1. Lying supine with your knees bent over your hips, cross one leg tightly atop the other. Note: your top leg will get a deeper stretch.
  2. As your legs are crossed, allow your feet to splay outward.
  3. As your hands reach to find your ankles, gently pull your ankles towards your body and feel your hips move into a deeper stretch.
  4. Relax as your glutes and abductors gradually melt.
  5. After holding this pose for a minute or two, shake it out and switch sides.


Frog


We place such an emphasis on stretching the outer portion of the hip capsule that we often dismiss our groin muscles. Frog pose lengthens our adductors – the muscles that squeeze your legs together.

Heads up: laying a blanket down adds some comfort to the inside of the knees.

  1. Blanket down, find yourself on your elbows and knees.
  2. Slowly allow one of your legs to slide outward until you feel a pull on the inside of both thighs, running from your groin to your knee.
  3. Allow your elbows to bear some of the weight so you can sink in a bit further.
  4. To add a layer, keep your knees positioned at a 90-degree angle rather than letting your feet come in towards your glutes.

This position of the knee joint will stretch the adductors just a hair more.


We say our hip tightness is linked to our emotions – tension, trauma, and stress; but sometimes we just need to stretch it out a little more. Sinking into these few stretches can help to increase joint mobility while moving out stale energy. Relax, breath through the tough bits, and let go. And hey, maybe you use this advice to work through those emotional issues too. Thanks for reading!