People tell me all the time how they have been wanting to try yoga for years but haven’t.
They say they want to practice at home first, so they don’t look “stupid” when they finally come. I hear they are too inflexible to do yoga. People assume that everyone is going to be better than them and some people are freaked out by the spiritual component of yoga. These are all very effective Jedi-mind tricks the ego has put in place, preventing someone from taking their first class.
Opening the door and actually crossing the threshold of the studio for the first time is the hardest part of yoga. If you can begin to view your yoga mat as a giant welcome mat, you’ll soon realize that this is a safe place.
All are welcome. This is home.
Allow me to ease your mind.
1. “I’m going to look stupid.”
Coming into yoga for the first time can be intimidating, I understand. Anything new and unfamiliar is sometimes scary when we don’t really know what to expect. But, what we do know or at least what we think we know, is there are pictures saturating social media outlets of yogis doing incredibly bendy, challenging things and this must be what yoga is.
It is automatically assumed that when you go into a beginner yoga class, the teacher is going to ask a Cirque Du Soleil type act of everyone. That most likely, you will fall on your face, be humiliated and laughed at. I’m here to tell you this is not the case.
A good beginner yoga class will ease you into what yoga is. The teacher will talk to you on a level that you understand and hopefully make you feel very comfortable and at home. The yoga practice is a process. Everyone started somewhere. The people you see in crazy pretzel positions most likely did not walk into their first yoga class and jump into these advanced poses. They too had to cross the doorway of a studio, facing their insecurities and learn just like everyone else.
It’s hard not to put expectations on ourselves when we see these beautiful pictures. Do your best to talk yourself off the ledge of self-loathing and internal put-downs and know that it is okay to start at the beginning. Your beginning.
This journey, the yoga journey, is a personal one.
You have no one to live up to, no goal to reach, no ladder to climb. Yoga is a process of self-discovery. It unfolds physically, emotionally and spiritually in different ways and on different timelines for everyone. This is what makes yoga such a beautiful process. When you can finally get past the idea that you have to “be” a certain way on your mat, it’s much easier to step into the studio.
2. “I’m too inflexible.”
If you are not coming to yoga because you are too inflexible, then you will never come to yoga. Being tight and inflexible is why you should come to yoga. Yoga helps open up our bodies. No one is going to ask you to do the hanumanasana (the splits) when you walk in the door.
Again, it’s a process. Even if you forward fold with blocks under your hands because you are so tight in your hamstrings you can’t touch the ground, it doesn’t matter. At least you are there. A consistent practice will help you open up to eventually lower the blocks, then maybe touch the ground with bent knees, then maybe be able to straighten the legs, then maybe do a full forward fold.
This process might take years, weeks or days. Everyone is different. Even if your hands never come off those blocks, I bet you still feel the release that comes with stretching the body. And if you never take that first step then you’ll always be using “I’m tight” as an excuse.
You know the line, “There’s no crying in baseball?”
Well, there’s no winning in yoga. Pure and simple. We get so accustomed to striving to win in our society whether it be a 5k or at Monopoly or at work or at school; we forget there are some things in life that are not meant to have a listed winner and loser.
Yoga is one of those things.
It’s liberating to know that you can be on your mat, your home and nothing else matters at that moment. It’s all about you and only you. No one else is in your home. The person in their home next to you is doing their own thing. Don’t even pay attention to them.
What do you need to feel good today? Breathe that in. What do you need in your practice today? Do it. What is the purpose you are on your mat today? Tell yourself. Is today different than yesterday? Doesn’t matter. Close your eyes if you have to.
Tune out the person next to you and make the time on your mat exactly what you need. Don’t put expectations on your practice based on your neighbor or what you think your practice should be. Be accepting of where you are in your practice in that moment. Then, you will win every time.
4. “Om, huh?!”
People get different experiences out of their yoga practice. Some people come to the mat to sweat, exercise, turn off their brain and get a great workout. Some people come to feel relief in the bodies. Some come to relieve stress or emotions they are holding on to. Some come to worship and be closer to their God.
Don’t feel that there is some expectation of you on a spiritual level when you come to the yoga mat. Again, it’s such a personal practice that if you are only coming to get sexy triceps, then that’s amazing! You will receive all the benefits of a yoga practice without having to take it to a spiritual level. Always come to your yoga mat from a place of non-judgment of yourself and the people around you. Hopefully, they are respectively doing the same.
It’s funny, the first thing people tell me when they see me is why they haven’t come to yoga. It’s okay, I am not the yoga police. I’ve come to realize that people come to yoga when they are ready—it can be scary and I understand that so, I never give up on people.
The door is open. Welcome Home.
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Assistant Ed: Steph Richard/Ed: Bryonie Wise