I wanted to try yoga forever.
I loved the whole idea of it: the cool clothes, the new agey music, incense, the gorgeous, toned bodies of the yogis. My doctors had recommended it and even my husband practiced.
In fact, he’d lost almost 30 pounds since he started.
The transformation in my sister had been nothing short of miraculous as well.
“You have to go to yoga. You’ll love it,” everyone told me.
But I was scared. Really scared.
Finally, my sister managed to drag me into a class and guess what? It didn’t kill me and I was hooked, but it took a long time to get over my insecurities. Yoga can be intimidating to newbies, but don’t let your worries and misconceptions prevent you from trying (or continuing) yoga.
Here are the top ten fears of new yogis and how to get over them:
- “I’m Not Flexible!”: You don’t have to be! Each yoga class is filled with people at varying levels and degrees of flexibility. We all have different bodies and some people are naturally more flexible than others. It doesn’t matter. A consistent yoga practice, over time, will help you to become more limber. When I first started, I couldn’t even touch my toes. Two years later, now I can, but I still have a lot of trouble with tight hamstrings.
2. “I’m Going to Fart in Class!”: This is everyone’s biggest fear and unfortunately, it never really goes away. The only thing I can tell you is to make sure not to practice on a full stomach, avoid gassy foods and go to a class with loud music in case a toot slips out. If it’s any comfort, I’ve been in plenty of classes where someone has farted and to date, no one has died from the embarrassment. Mostly what happens is everyone pretends not to have heard it, we all give thanks it wasn’t us and class goes on.
3.“I’ll Look Stupid.”: Everyone looks silly in Happy Baby. How about Lion’s Breath? It’s nearly impossible not to look absolutely ridiculous doing some of these poses, but the good news is that you will be in good company—an entire room full of people in funny spandex outfits with their butts in the air and their tongues hanging out. And chances are, there will be people who look sillier than you. In every yoga class there has to be at least one certifiable nut job, you know, the woman who gets tangled up in her (totally inappropriate for yoga) flowing robes, the dude in the loin cloth, and they will serve as a convenient distraction from you. Remember too that yoga is a meditative practice that requires concentration. No one is looking at anyone else because they are focused on their own work.
4. “Everyone Else is Better Than Me!”: No they aren’t. The best thing about yoga is that there really are no levels. There are no colored belts, no grades, no graduation. You go at your own pace and do what you can. In each yoga class you will find beginners as well as advanced yogis, plus everything in between. Some people come once a week, some twice a day. Some may have been working on these poses for decades, so don’t compare yourself to them. You will get better with time and dedication, if you want to. If you view yoga as a competition, with yourself or anyone else, then you’re doing it wrong. Keep in mind too that just because someone else can put their feet behind their head, it doesn’t mean that they’re perfect or that they have their act together in other areas of their lives. It just means that they can put their feet behind their head.
5. “I’m Just Not a Yoga Person.”: Yoga’s beauty lies in the fact that it is for everyone. There is no stereotypical yogi. Period. You don’t have to be thin, beautiful, New Agey, Indian, young, flexible, vegan or anything else to practice yoga. It’s all inclusive. I’ve seen everyone from senior citizens to high school football players in yoga. There are the patchouli scented hippie types, sure, but I also see high-powered attorneys, housewives, plenty of doctors, goths, nerdy-writers (like me!), hipsters and business men in class. Everyone is welcome.
6. “It’s Too Hard.”: Of course it’s hard! You’re a beginner. It takes a long time to get good at something new. That’s why yoga is a “practice.” Avoiding things just because they are hard is a sign of a weak will. Embrace the challenge. Celebrate the milestones and achievements along your journey. Take a few beginners or “gentle” classes if you’re just starting out so that you can go more slowly and learn the foundations of yoga before you jump into trying the more difficult poses and you will be a lot more confident as you progress.
7. “I’m Going to Fall Down.”: I confess. I struggle with this fear a lot. The fear of falling is primal and instinctive and it makes sense, so it’s hard to get over. No one wants to fall, especially onto a hard bamboo floor in a room full of strangers. Falling in yoga isn’t so bad though, as I’ve learned from experience. For one thing, you’re not going to fall very far if you do fall and chances are, you’ll land on your mat. Don’t worry about humiliation either. Yoga classes are loving, accepting environments. Everyone has fallen down, even and especially the teachers. Falling and getting back up and trying again is how we learn, how we build strength and how we improve.
8. “What if I Pass Out?”: Yoga can be hot and it can be strenuous. Make sure to bring a lot of water and keep drinking it throughout your practice. My absolute favorite thing about yoga ever is that breaks are not only allowed, but also encouraged. If you get lightheaded or your heart beats too hard, get into child’s pose until you feel better. No big deal. Resting is a way of showing respect to our bodies and there is no shame in it.
9. “The Teacher Won’t Like Me.”: Your yoga teacher is not your seventh grade math teacher, thank goodness. In yoga, there are no teacher’s pets and no students singled out for shame or punishment. All students are equal. Yoga teachers aren’t drill sergeants. In fact, “teacher” isn’t even the best word for them. Yoga teachers are more like guides or facilitators, there to help each person in the class achieve his or her goals at his or her own pace. The only people that yoga teachers really don’t like are people who are rude.
10. “I’m Afraid I’m Going to Cry in Class.”: Certain asanas, like hip openers and heart openers, can crack open the parts of our psyches where we store negative emotions and memories. Yoga releases toxins and bad karma from our bodies and sometimes this process of letting go can be dramatic and it can feel really strange. It’s happened to me. Camel pose gets me every time and yes, I have cried in class before.
Teachers are very familiar with this phenomenon and they understand it very well. It’s hard to feel so vulnerable in public, but rest assured that getting rid of the negative energy is healthy and important and afterward, you will feel amazing. Just don’t cause a scene in class and no one will even notice your tears. If you feel the need to heave and sob dramatically, just go outside and get it all out, and come back when you feel better.
Fear not, yoga newbies. You’re going to be just fine.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Tiffany Assman