The fact of the matter is: yoga is none of those things. It's meant to be accessible and enjoyable for everyone. In many ways, it's literal purpose is for comfort. I want to tell this to people on the street. Yoga literally exists to find comfort! Not so that you can learn how to fling a leg behind your head.
One of the most surprising things to realize in our western culture is that ancient yogis only developed the physical postures (asanas) that we practice in order to find comfort for longer periods of time in stillness (meditation). It was actually only a method to stretch and explore the entire body in a gentle way to avoid muscle cramps. This was way before women ever dominated the yoga world or the term "power yoga" was coined or studios were heated up to a sweat-inducing temperature. Nothing wrong with any of those things perhaps, except for an ignorance of historical roots.
|Wholehearter Yoga - motto|
Besides it origins, and in a more practical sense, yoga is also meant to help us to find comfort in our minds. Peace of mind. Noticing negative self-talk and stopping those habits in favor of listening to our bodies. Truly guiding us to a more contented state; a state of comfort that most people don't have.
Saying that yoga is meant to find comfort does not translate to saying, "yoga will always be easy," because it won't and it shouldn't be. There will be times that your mind and body will be gently nudged to go deeper, meditate more sincerely, confront judgement more genuinely or to just notice and be curious about yourself in a powerful way. Achieving comfort absolutely is not something you will experience in every sense after your first yoga class. But a taste of it is all someone needs to get hooked on the rest of the essence of yoga.
The motto of my studio is 'keep yoga cozy' in an effort to distinguish my teaching philosophy from many yoga stereotypes. (Also an excuse to push the boundaries of my wardrobe toward pajamas.) But I remember what it felt like to be intimidated in my first few yoga classes. I didn't understand that my pose didn't need to look like the teacher's pose, that no one was watching me and that, really, I could do whatever the hell I wanted and that would've been even better. All it takes is one attentive and approachable teacher, one comfortable and inviting class or one welcoming yoga community to begin to break down stereotypes. If you practice yoga, you are representing an ancient, sacred and important practice that people NEED in their lives. Help them to understand what you're really doing there. Namaste!