If you take a look at what services I offer online, you'll find a category called "Asana". I felt weird offering "Yoga" as a lesson, because there are so many aspects to yoga, and this choice actually led to this whole series to explore the eight limbs of yoga.
According to Yogipedia, "Asana is traditionally defined as the seated posture, used for meditation, from the Sanskrit meaning 'seat.'" Patanjali (the dude who describes the eight limbs of yoga) wasn't even talking about the other postures that we see today! Depending on which yogic teaching you follow, asana means a lot of different things.
Most simply, for our purposes today, asana is the physical practice of yoga. It's what you see on the covers of yoga magazines, what you see in Hollywood films, what you scroll through on Instagram. The thing about asana is that it's not properly represented by "pop-yoga".
Accurate representation has never been media's forte, so it's naive to expect the representation of yoga to be any different. It is what it is (for now 😉). Unfortunately, most non-yogis are bombarded with poses that are either hypersexualized or attainable to a very, very, very small percentage of the population. Who wants to try yoga if they think they'll have to go straight into a handstand?
Please let what I'm about to share sink in.
Asana is for every body.
The physical postures of yoga are intended for any and every body.
Yoga is for everybody.
If you've ever felt marginalized or unwelcome to practice yoga, please know that asana is so much more than wow-factor Instagram pictures. My heart breaks when someone who can benefit greatly from yoga feels it's not "for them" because of this very narrow view of what yoga is. Yoga is more than asana. Asana is more than deep backbends and arm balances.
Do I sound upset? Well, aren't you? I won't bash the yogis of the Internet because there are plenty out there who share well-rounded practices with suggestions of props or modifications. Even so, these posts and pictures aren't as interesting to non-yogis than something that looks like your body is made of rubber. It's the nature of the Internet that those who can do something "different" than the average person will immediately get more attention. Remember that other resources and inspiration exist! We just have to find it, share it and practice it.
Most importantly, when you find asanas that speak to you, be kind to your body. Find modifications, use props, ask an instructor to help you find that sweet spot of effort and ease.
I have so much more to say about our perceptions of yoga, but that's asana for now. Feel free to ask questions, reach out, and find your own practice!