A checklist on what yoga is and what it is not
The only aim of yoga is to practice mind-body awareness. The outcome of which is presence, relaxation and comfort in both mind and body. Just like a meditation in movement. That is IT.
Forget about the pose it is all about the breath. By resting your attention on the breath, you focus and also get to witness your ability to stay focused (no judgement involved). Get a clear sense of "what is going on” in your mind and body.
Yoga is simply a series of poses intended to strengthen, move, loosen and stretch your whole body. Allowing your body to relax while creating a joyful and steady connection with the ground. A given pose is only an opportunity to explore where your body is at, and a possibility (not an injunction) to create space, release or strength.
The side effect - insight
Watching thoughts come and go, you might get insight into their content and patterns. Yoga is like a bleacher from which to observe the sort of pep-talk going on in your mind as you move. Once, you've spotted and acknowledged what is going on (e.g. distraction, bossiness, judgement or making a groceries list), you can simply return to the breath.
The optional goal: Self-awareness
… you can also enquire into what underlies that constant pep-talk. Enquire into the strings that pulled you to have the thoughts you were having. Develop a non-judgemental curiosity for your inner mechanisms. As you explore your patterns, you tend to become more self-aware.
Like in meditation, you can choose to cultivate certain qualities, such as self-compassion, curiosity, playfulness, loving-kindness, calmness, etc.
Yoga has nothing to do with your body type. Large, small, stiff, flexible. All the same. Yoga is simply about regular practice and movements for strength, lightness and comfort in mind and body.
Of course you need to pay attention to alignment, so you don’t injure yourself. Note that you can be aligned without bending over backward in a full amplitude pose. There is always a simple way to express a pose while getting all the benefits, without taking unnecessary risks.
It all depends on what your body needs. It all depends on your capacity to pay attention to where you can or cannot take the practice. Forcing a pose has no place in yoga. There is no bare to raise, nothing to achieve or prove. Get to know your body, be curious. Learn to move with respect and awareness.
In yoga you only ever get better than yourself, if anything. There is no performance in yoga, although you can bring artistry into your practice. But that is a matter of personal choice in which way you decide to practice.