One of the biggest ironies about yoga is that many people turn to it as a way to relieve stress and anxiety but often times, being in class can be stress-inducing.
(Just getting to class on time especially right after work and then trying to find a space in a tightly-packed class can cause anyone to feel not-so-Zen.)
Add to that anxiety over appearance, the “right” sort of clothing, etc. and it’s possible to end up leaving feeling more stressed than when you entered.
However, that doesn’t have to be the case. I’ve practiced yoga for over a decade now and can say with some degree of authority that many of the things that students—especially new students—stress over are really nothing.
While this may not relieve all of your stresses, it can at least help to greatly release some.
1. I’m too old, too fat, have the “wrong body” etc.
It’s easy to feel this way especially if you walk into some classes and everyone including the instructor is young, slim, and flexible. However, yoga is really for every body.
You may not be able to master every pose—indeed, I have yet to meet anyone who can—but usually there is always some sort of modification that is possible. Any teacher worth their salt will know how to modify.
If they don’t or will not, then that’s a clue to find a new teacher.
2. People in class are judging me.
Not true. Most people who come to yoga are only thinking about one person and that is themselves. That’s not a bad thing. Actually, it is very good thing because the practice should be all about oneself.
While comparing yourself to others is natural, I have never heard anyone mutter about someone “not belonging” in class or making disparaging remarks about another’s practice. Not one. I am not saying this has never happened in the world but for the most part, people who practice yoga are generally tolerate, accepting people.
Granted, there are some “mean girls” and “mean boys” in the yoga community but for the most part, that drama is confined to the people they know.
3. My yoga teacher will not like it if they know I eat meat, smoke, etc.
As an instructor, I could care less about my students’ personal lives. I never ask questions and cannot think of a situation where I would even ask about their dietary habits.
Also, most yoga instructors I know eat meat and drink alcohol. In fact, I have even met yoga instructors who do both and smoke to boot. (That last one is rare, but it happens.)
Yoga teachers are not perfect and those that claim to be or go out of their way to suggest they are perfect are lying. It’s as simple as that.
4. My yoga teacher is going to be upset if I don’t advance in three months, six months, a year, etc.
Yoga isn’t a sport—instructors don’t require that students hit certain marks at various times.
Even many advanced practitioners don’t acknowledge this but at some point, everyone reaches their peak: there is no more advancing and things have to be taken down a notch or two.
However, even before reaching that physical peak, advancing may not mean going to one’s absolute maximum.
As a student, I know firsthand that making progress can feel good. Some students tell their instructor if they want to reach a specific goal-i.e., achieving drop backs—and they work towards that.
However, for some, just getting to a point where they feel less stiff and leave feeling better than when they walked into class that is progress enough.
Going to yoga is one of those things that can and should be a reward. And ideally, reduce stress levels rather than contribute to them.
When I first started, I was worried about many of the above things. However, after awhile, I forgot about them and instead began to focus on the practice.
Hopefully, that will the case for others as well if they can just remember not to worry about those little things that really don’t matter.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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