My girlfriend and I moved to Boulder, CO in December of 2016. I started attending Yoga classes at local studios and have noticed that the ‘level’ of Yoga practice is quite strong and demanding. A lot of the people who attend classes in Boulder appear fit; and why not?? The Denver metro area (including Boulder) has been ranked as one of the “fittest cities in the U.S.” for many years. There is no doubt that the environment of Boulder encourages and stimulates folks to get out and get fit; the majestic flatirons of the Rocky Mountain foothills, 300 days of Sun per year, the altitude, the vast and open landscapes that surround, and of course, the cultural connotation of mind/body wellness that covers nearly every square foot of Boulder’s business and media communication.
A person might see the types of people doing Yoga these days and in the observation of them wonder, “How fit do you have to be to do Yoga?”
The short answer:
“Not that fit…”
The long answer:
To do Yoga, one must embody the practice; to live in the World day to day in a way that honestly reflects the vision of one’s practice and respects the current conditions and situations of one’s life. To sincerely honor the past line of teachers that have committed their being and humanness to serve and advance the practice. To hold space in one’s self for growth and change going forward. My conjecture is that by proxy of having a body, a mind, and a complex nervous/emotional system, one is fit to do this.
The Devil’s advocate:
We have limits. Real limits: physical, mental, emotional/nervous limits, among others. These limits are very convincing and regardless of what we learn or want to learn, do or want to do, these limits will be present, consciously, subconsciously, and especially unconsciously.
Advancing the narrative:
What is fitness?
Let us see what old Webster has to say about this: with a little of my own commentary
- The condition of being physically fit and healthy : “If that is not didactic enough for you…”
- The quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task : “Now we are getting closer…”
- An organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment : “I know I have bumped right up against my question of survival in some Yoga practices, and hell if Yoga teachers aren’t reproducing themselves in the particular environments of Yoga around the World…”
It seems to me that fitness in Yoga [particularly in the West] is often measured by a narrow bandwidth of physicality and form, of which as far as I can see has the byproduct of a degraded mental image of one’s own fitness in relation to the practice. My experience is that Yoga allows a much more fluid, accepting, and expansive view of fitness; that a practitioner’s relative fitness bares no final judgement on their potential for practice. In this regard, let us take the word ‘fitness’ and apply it to the whole body/mind:
- Cardiovascular fitness – the ability of the heart, blood cells and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle tissues and the ability of the muscles to use oxygen to produce energy for movement.
- Digestive fitness – the ability of the salivary glands, mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine, colon, and rectum to get food into and out of the body and to make use of it.
- Mental fitness – *The following 3 definitions are the view of the writer
- The ability of the mental faculties of a human being to take in, digest, and make use of the input.
- The ability of a mind to stay in a non-conclusionary state.
- The ability of a mind to be non-dogmatic.
*** WE HAVE NO CONSENSUS ON THIS!!! Everywhere we look: business, psychology, medicine, coaching, etc. all seem to make up their own definition of what mental fitness is. I suggest finding out for yourself.
- Nervous/Emotional fitness – The ability of the mind/body to perceive the present sensation and feeling of what is, without habitual mental reaction or clinging to any one sense or feeling. *The writer’s view again
*** Many definitions of emotional fitness have to do with thinking positively in the face of any emotion or feeling. The reason I do not consider this emotional fitness is that it depends on the mind to only think positive thoughts, which is as far as I can see is a vast denial of a majority of our being, a dishonest demand on World culture, and frankly, putting the cart before the horse… Not to mention the source of spiritual bypassing… Rant done. Thank you.
Sincere Yoga practice builds [or at least offers the possibility of building] fitness in all categories of life. If I had to wait until I was “fit enough to do Yoga” I would never start! I suggest to leverage your strengths in fitness, be they physical, mental, or emotional. At the same time, sincerely study the tradition of Yoga to discover what it has to offer to increase the fitness of your weak areas. Above all, take no bullshit feedback that is not verified in the honest and deep listening into your body, mind, sensations, and feelings.
By: Brent Kuecker – Yogi. Musician. Educator.
Join us at the second annual Udaya Live, Yoga and Music Festival. Share in diversity and acceptance of Yoga practitioners from around the World! Music, meditation, more Yoga than you can dream of in 5 glorious days! Fitness for the mind, body, and heart!