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One of the most beautiful things about yoga is that appearances truly don’t matter. In fact, society’s narrow notion of beauty is often turned on its head in a yoga studio. I have practiced next to women the world might deem “too heavy” or “too big” whose practices were so fluid and so graceful that they took my breath away. Next to these yoginis, women who perfectly fit today’s definition of “pretty” simply faded into the background. I have taken classes with teachers who at first glance seemed too old or too stiff to have much of anything to offer, only to bowled away within minutes of the opening chant by their profound and beautiful understanding of this practice.
In yoga, we learn quickly that beauty comes from a much deeper place than our exterior. Beauty on a yoga mat comes from attitude – a pleasant smile and a kind greeting. Beauty on a yoga mat comes from a steady mind – a soft focus, a quiet determination, a little laugh at a mistake, a willingness to try again. Beauty on a yoga mat is about grace – easy movements synchronized with breath, fluidity, a balance between the hard work that the practice requires and the choice to softly release or let go in each posture.
As much as beauty doesn’t make anyone a better (or worse, for that matter) yogi, yoga itself is quite beautiful to behold. The individual postures are lovely to look at – placing the body into elegant, symmetrical and sometimes awe-inspiring shapes. To my way of thinking there is almost nothing as captivating as watching an experienced practitioner move gracefully and strongly on his or her mat. While meant solely to benefit the person practicing, the interplay of lightness and strength that is displayed on a yoga mat could easily earn a standing ovation from an audience. The beauty of the practice comes from its smoothness, its efficiency, and its grace.
Ironically, a regular yoga practice makes a person look more beautiful — and not in the most obvious ways. While muscles do become leaner and more toned, fat does tend to melt away, the skin does tend to be dewy and radiant from a good daily sweat, and the eyes do glow with an inner contentedness, these things are not necessarily what you first notice about a person who practices. Rather it’s their easy smile, quiet centeredness, willingness to listen, and sweet stillness that first strike you when meeting someone who has been practicing for years.
But the most lovely thing about a person made beautiful by their practice is that the beauty is almost incidental. I have yet to meet anyone who is still practicing years or even decades later because of yoga’s physical gifts. In comparison to the life-changing and life-giving inner gifts of the practice, these physical changes are just not great motivators. That said, yoga teaches us a lot about gratitude and appreciation and I haven’t met anyone whose body has been changed by the practice who isn’t grateful for the changes.
Speaking of beauty and feeling grateful, I am excited to launch a new look for Yoga With Spirit – a new logo and a brand new website. I designed my old site myself nearly ten years ago. It has served its purpose steadily, but technology has improved greatly since its launch. My simple site didn’t allow for many pictures, which are so compelling when trying to convey the energy and feeling of a place. Also, as the offerings of my studio expanded year after year, my little old site had become cluttered and difficult to navigate.
I think the designers of the new site did a beautiful job and hope you do, too. As beautiful as I think it is, however, like the beauty of yoga, that exterior beauty pales in comparison to its efficiency, smoothness and grace. Its design is simple, clean and efficient, hopefully making it much easier for you to find out what is going on at the studio. It strikes a graceful balance between the challenges of conveying a great deal of information and being accessible and easy to navigate. The calendar is not only easy to read and navigate, but is customizable to your interests. Finally, the spaciousness of the pages dedicated to these essays makes reading them much more enjoyable – and you can now access more of my archived essays.
Mostly, however, I love that the new Yoga With Spirit site celebrates not only the beauty of yoga postures and the human body (because they are indeed beautiful to behold), but of the relationships and community that are the lifeblood of Yoga With Spirit. In short, my hope is that the new site will be as warm a welcome to Yoga With Spirit as I would give you personally were you to walk into the studio tomorrow.
Welcome! Enjoy! I hope you come back again very soon,
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