Yoga vs. Stretching

To some yoga is just an elaborate form of stretching, to others it is a mystical experience that is hard to define

Maybe people can be divided into two categories: Those who love yoga and those who will forever think it's just an elaborate form of stretching.

This occured to me when a friend passed along a New York Times article on the pros and cons of stretching. In it, a woman equates yoga with stretching and says it doesn't appeal to her. My friend -- a serious runner, cyclist and gym rat -- has similar feelings about yoga.

In fact, she's told many of her friends -- all diehard yogis -- that she has no idea why people do it.

"It's a good way to stretch out your quads," she told us. "But I get so bored and leave before everyone lies down to take a group nap."

To me, that comment illustrates she has yet to experience any real mind-body-spirit connection. From her point of view, she can burn a lot more calories on an elliptical trainer than on a yoga mat.

A few of us tried to explain why we're devoted to the practice. I said that the "group nap" at the end of a class -- or shavasana -- is essential to any yoga pratice. Without it, maybe yoga really is just a stretching class.

Someone else mentioned yoga's rich history, its link to ancient Hindu philosophy, and how she finds a spirtiual connection in her practice.

Others listed off many of reasons to love yoga: It's soothing, it relieves stress, it increases our physical and mental flexibility, it's mediative, it clears the mind, it just feels good and (my favorite reason) the clothes are cute.

In the end, I found I couldn't explain the magic that happens on a mat. If anyone reading this has a good way to articulate yoga for non-yogis, please share it.

Meanwhile, I remain mystified that yoga doesn't click for some people and they remain mystified that it does click for so many of us.

Personally, I remember walking out of my first yoga class with a glow and the sense that I'd tapped into something powerful and amazing. So I'm honestly baffled how anyone can leave a class feeling bored or indifferent. Then my inner yogi pipes up and reminds me to be grateful that I'm one of the lucky ones.

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