March 30, 2014

I Want to Rebrand Yoga! ~ Kirsty Norton

kathryn nulf yoga

Yoga needs a new identity.

It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now. It sounds shocking to us converted yogis, but I’m talking about a way to introduce more people to the incredible benefits of yoga.

Whenever someone finds out I’m a yoga teacher, I often hear similar responses, along the lines of: “oh I’d be no good at that, I can’t even touch my toes.”

What a shame. Before they’ve even tried it, they’ve dismissed it.

The fact is, there seems to be so many preconceived ideas that I want to relaunch the brand. (Relax, I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek).

There seems to be this impression that you need to be skinny and flexible, eat pure foods, or act in a certain way.

No, no, no.

The message is “come as we are”—whatever our flexibility, whether we’re party animals or quiet mice, whether we are 100 pounds or 250 pounds.

If we can breathe, we can do yoga and feel the incredible effects.

Becoming more flexible is definitely a by-product of doing yoga, but there are deeper and more beneficial aspects to the practice that I want to bring to the masses.

Effectively what yoga asana practice does is shift the blockages in the body. Physically, the poses help us stretch our muscular and fascial systems. The breathing helps lengthen these systems and make space in the physical body.

In terms of our nervous system, calm breathing helps soothe it and tells the muscles to relax. Blending your poses with the breathing helps improve your digestive system and boosts your immunity.

In yoga we talk about “prana,” simply put: our life force, our energy.

Just like how in Chinese medicine there is the concept of chi, in yoga there is prana. It stokes our vitality, dissolving blockages whether they are mental, physical or emotional. That’s why after a yoga retreat we look so much brighter and feel so amazing—we’ve been shifting things and letting go of the ‘stuff’ we don’t need, bringing more prana into the body.

From my understanding, when we are living in a fast-paced and busy state, our bodies respond by producing chemicals that tell the body to be ready for anything.

This means the body is in a “fight or flight” mode ready to respond to any threatening situation. This is really useful if we’re in the middle of a road and a bus is coming at us and we can quickly react.

However, if we’re living in this state day to day because we are stressed, the chemicals build up and our systems get exhausted. No doubt we’ll feel tired, possibly even have anxiety and we are in this loop of constantly living on the edge.

 Yoga helps break this feedback loop between the brain and the body.

Your calm breathing soothes the parasympathetic nervous system, which then tells the brain that it’s safe. The brain then stops sending out the chemicals that put the body into overdrive.

The practice of yoga helps to counter balance our modern day, fast-paced living.

If the word yoga conjures up fancy poses and balancing on our heads, then we should scrap that and start exactly where we are. With the breath.

This is such a powerful tool of yoga. It is said that pranayama is to the mind what asana is to the body. You will feel stronger, clearer, lighter and frankly much better!

When I teach one on one, more often than not I’m really teaching people how to relax and how to be okay with breathing deeply and fully. I love seeing how their eyes soften and their shoulders drop as they realise they’re in  a safe, held space where they can let go.

One of the teachings I pass on is is that less time we have for relaxation, the more we need it.

Yoga doesn’t have to be fast paced, it doesn’t mean we have to touch our toes. We can get the essence of what yoga has to open up in ourselves with some simple breathing and relaxation.

Please don’t get caught up in this idea that we have to be a certain way.

If you’re feeling on edge all the time, have no time to relax and are in need of some calm, as you’ve lost yourself in the midst of life, then your answer is right here: yoga.

Okay, so I don’t really want to change its identity, I just want people to be better educated in how transformative and life-changing it can be. Big words but true.

When are you coming to a class?


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Editorial Assistant: Bronwyn Petry/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Kathryn Nulf, elephant media archives

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Kirsty Norton