Wild Yoga

yoga and thought from Theo Wildcroft

(In)frequently Asked Questions

What can yoga do for me?

Mostly people come to yoga because they want a low-impact stretch in a safe environment where the teacher really cares and they might get to try something new and explore a few new ideas. Some move on after a term or so, to whatever looks fun next. Some stay. Those that stay find something more – a welcoming community, a non-judgemental space to explore their connection to something more than mundane life, or a practice that helps moderate stress and anxiety, or manage a long-term physical condition.

In the longer term, yoga will gently demand change from you: the regular practice of tuning in with your deeper, quieter self is rare in our world today. The deeper you go, the less you are able to hide from yourself. In the stillness we find the courage and motivation to be the people we really want to be. You start out by learning to trust me. The real practice is learning to trust yourself.

Do I have to be super bendy to come to a class?

Not at all! There’s a lot of photos of extreme yoga poses out there, because contortions look cool. Yoga classes are more into equilibrium than flexibility: just the right amount of strength, balance, bendiness, fitness and calm for you. Being bendy won’t make it easier in class, because you’ll be working on getting stronger, instead of more flexible.

More importantly, there shouldn’t be any competition, and no way to do ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than anyone else. Your yoga class should be one of those times where you don’t have anything to prove.

Will yoga make me fit?

There’s a lot of different ways to do yoga. Yoga can be high or low impact, more or less adventurous. It’s a good idea to know what kind of yoga you’re signing up for. My classes are responsive to the students who come, but they’re not a tough workout. If you’re looking to lose a lot of weight, you’re going to want to do something else as well as yoga, but the yoga will help with whatever you choose.

So the way I teach yoga will probably not make you super-fit, but it definitely can make your fitness more sustainable. It might be more useful to think of yoga as the practice that helps you run better, swim longer and walk happier!

Will yoga make me healthier?

Some research has shown yoga may have remarkable benefits in reducing physical and mental stress; and can help maintain bone density and flexibility as we get older. Yoga also promotes mindfulness, which can help us make better choices and responses in daily life. But yoga won’t make you live forever – it focuses on your quality of life, rather than its length. There’s no real way of knowing yoga will work for you until you try it for a term or so.

Do I have to be spiritual? Is yoga at odds with my religion?

Many people find that from time to time the stillness and self-inquiry of yogic practice naturally opens them to a feeling of reverence or devotion to something. They might see that as their God or gods; or Life or universal love, or just feel a sense of wonder at the intricate beauty of an atheist/animist universe. It depends what you come in with. Yoga practitioners do share a belief that your own heart is a deep source of wisdom. If you’re comfortable occasionally hearing about the spirituality of other people in an environment of non-judgement and without evangelism, you’ll be fine.

 

Can you be a scientific, rational sceptic and still enjoy yoga?

Yes. Some of what we do is explained with more-than-physical maps of the self that we don’t have rational explanations for. Researchers of various kinds are looking into some of that, but there’s no solid boundary between mind, body and electro-magnetic field, and so we occasionally visualise things that may or may not have a basis in physical reality.

The fact is that chakras, prana and other ‘energetic’ forces and networks of the body are just the maps we use because they work. You can think of them as atmospheres or qualities of experience, or sub-conscious sensory information, or circulation or pure visualisation. It doesn’t matter, yoga works better if you work with some of these concepts.

I won’t be asking you to believe in anything that you can’t feel, or any explanation for what you can feel. I’ll just be asking you to imagine breathing in and out of your heart centre (chest) and to see how it makes you feel, that’s all. If it doesn’t work for you, tune that bit out, I won’t be offended!

Yes, but will you make me do weird things?

I like to start the class with the phrase: “With great respect and love, I honour my heart, my inner teacher”; and end it with a non-denominational Sanskrit prayer for the peace and joy of all beings. Students are welcome to listen or join in, as is their preference. Nothing requires that you believe (or not) in anything more than life itself.

If you’re wondering, personally, I do not believe in a creator deity, and would describe myself as a pagan-animist. The idea of converting or evangelising someone to a belief is strange to me. I’m more interested in persuading you to recycle responsibly!

Do I have to be a vegetarian?

Not really. When we do discuss ethics in yoga, they tend to be things to ponder rather than rules for living. Many committed yogis and yoginis try to practice ‘ahimsa’ which is a principle meaning ‘do the least harm’.

That means very different things to different people, because everyone is in different circumstances. Eat like you’ve thought about where your food comes from, as part of living conscious of all the choices you make, that’s all we ask. Yoga practitioners often abstain from certain substances because they mess with our meditation and other practices, but that’s our choice. Just being aware of the consequences of our choices, doing our best, and knowing we can’t be perfect, is all we try to do.

Do men come to your classes?

Let’s be honest, although physical yoga was first developed by and for men, these days about 80% of the people in any yoga class will be women. I have a few male students, and they’re all fine if they turn out to be the only man in the room in a particular class. Sometimes we talk about gender-specific health issues, but we’re very friendly. Honest. It’ll be just fine!

If in doubt, come on Wednesday morning. Most weeks Rowde has a good gender balance. Or better still – bring a buddy.

I have specific needs – is it still okay to come to class?

Yes! I have a particular passion for bodies and neurologies that are different, and I’m a pro-diversity, pro-access ally and activist. Whether you have a long-running health issue, a disability, or a complicated life-history, I’d love to help you to find out what yoga can do for you. I’d be even happier if you talked to me beforehand honestly about your needs and fears, so I can meet them as best I can. Juggling specific needs in a general class without forewarning can be tricky. Just drop me an email.