New to Yoga? The One Tip you Need to Make it Through Class. ~ Tova Payne

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I love teaching brand new yoga students.

There’s nothing like your first time to something, and most brand new yoga students always come to me saying “I’m not that flexible and have no idea what I am doing.”And in that instant, I light up.

I respond “Well, all you gotta’ do is practice listening to your body—the poses are tools to take care of your body, so just make sure you move gently enough to feel the pose, and make sure that you are using this time to help your body, and not hurt yourself.”

To that I get a look of relief, a smile, and sometimes, a slightly confused look, like I’m not going to force them to touch their toes.

Yup, that’s right—all you need to do to make it through class alive is practice listening—to yourself.

But of course, it makes sense that people walk into a yoga class a little intimidated, as if they have entered a bootcamp for flexibility and wild contortions. I mean after all, isn’t this what the cover of the yoga magazines and billboards of yoga studios are showing us? How often do you see a tight a person advertised for a yoga pose?

What about somebody overweight…or over the age of 45?

Yoga advertising has bought into mainstream advertising, and so it’s no wonder that there are heaps of stereotyping around yoga: that you have to be beautiful, hip, fit and flexible to even start it.

So it’s a miracle when people who don’t fit that stereotype give it a try. And I love when they come to my class—it makes me really zoom in on what this practice is all about.

Isn’t yoga the art of listening to your body? Isn’t yoga the art of living a more fulfilling life? How the hell are you going to feel fulfilled if you can’t  love and accept your own body?

Isn’t yoga here to teach us to embrace who we are, and take care of ourselves exactly where we are in this moment of our life, today.

Is it not okay to just be where we are and let this be okay?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t strive to get my heel further out in pigeon pose—I just do pigeon pose because it feels like such a gift to release the tension in my sore butt and hip.

And I certainly don’t care how long you can do an arm-stand or headstand, an eight angle, or 200 angle pose, because really, this practice is so personal; how can we compare to anyone else?

Isn’t yoga an internal practice? Isn’t yoga about learning to listen to ourselves and be in the moment and practice presence?

Since when has yoga become this competition that’s propagated through the media and mainstream channels as a beauty competition, a spiritual competition and how many words of Sanskrit you can understand?

Oh my, I swear, I love when newcomers come to my class, because I just hope they finally get the message:

Come as you are. You are perfect as you are. Do the pose so that you can enjoy and appreciate all that your body does for you, and maybe for just a moment, you can forget all the shit about yoga that’s being fed through the floodgates of mainstream marketing. Maybe you can just take this precious time from your day and practice gratitude, acceptance, and a little more inner love.



Tova Payne is a Life Empowerment Coach. She is an expert in all elements of health—from nutrition, yoga, meditation, and living with more passion and purpose. She writes, speaks, and coaches others to live their best lives through living healthy lives in body, mind, and spirit. This year she will be releasing a ground-breaking inspiring book on nutrition that makes the mind-body-spirit connection. For a free guide to empowered living, and updates, sign up with Tova at



Like elephant yoga on Facebook.

Ed: Bryonie Wise

Source: via Kelly on Pinterest


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anonymous Oct 26, 2013 2:15pm

Beautiful! Thank you

anonymous Oct 24, 2013 7:04am

wonderful article! As a yoga teacher, I have realized, that I am trying to get people out of their cognitive senses more so. So i replace "listening" with feeling. Sensing. Or I make a verbal connection with it in my classes. It wasn't until I started feeling with my body and getting out of my head that my world really started changing, that my practice was brought into the rest of my life.

anonymous Apr 14, 2013 8:03pm

YES!! thank you, tova, for such a great article & to all of you who posted. i kept nodding my head as i read….. thinking this sounds just like me, except as someone else said, a bit more eloquent!!!
i am a kripalu-certified teacher; kripalu yoga is foremore about listening to your whole body & practicing compassion to yourself & others… 😉

anonymous Apr 12, 2013 2:56am

So true!!!

I am 38 and the youngest at my yoga class. We are all women, most of them on their fifties. There are 3 regulars over 70 and I always look at them with love and admiration, for taking their yoga practice ahead during the years.

There is no fancy clothes in our group, no competition. We all have our favourite postures and also ones we like less and we tend to support each other especially at the tough ones. Of course all these is possible because we have an amazing teacher, James Jewell, who opens a world of kindness & respect for us every time. He always tells us what you are saying here: 'listen to your body, adjust the post to your needs, be grateful to your possibilities and accept your limits. All is fine.'

That's what yoga is about for me and I could not live without it 🙂

Thank you so much for your beautiful post.

anonymous Apr 11, 2013 8:51am

This article is fantastic! I'm sharing it on my fb page because I feel like this is what I've been trying to express to my students (new & returning) for the past five and a half years; oftentimes it really "clicks" when the same thoughts are echoed and even more eloquently expressed by someone else . Awesome, awesome, awesome. Thank you Tova!

anonymous Apr 11, 2013 3:46am

I love this article – thank you!

anonymous Apr 11, 2013 1:15am

Thanks everyone for the lovely comments so far. I'm happy the article resonated 🙂

anonymous Apr 10, 2013 2:43pm

Tova, thank you so much for this. I couldn't agree more and I also love newbies. Especially the ones who don't really think they like or can do yoga. I love to watch them catch on and get it!

anonymous Apr 10, 2013 6:10am

Amen Sista! Thank You Tova!

anonymous Apr 9, 2013 12:37am

This is so true! I am 47, overweight but my teachers are amazing. I can’t do a proper forward fold because of my tummy but as long as I can get a stretch, it’s not important to them. I do 5 hours of yoga a week and I could not give it up now.

    anonymous Apr 11, 2013 3:45am

    Pauline, the forward fold you are doing is the "proper" one for you. You don't need to do it the way someone on the cover of a yoga magazine does it for it to be yoga. Enjoy your yoga – it's for you, nobody else (it sounds like you have this figured out already anyway!). Michelle x

anonymous Apr 9, 2013 12:22am

Hi Tova,
Have you heard about The book YogAlign–Pain -Free from your inner core? It was written by Michaelle Edwards. Her website is I think it is align pun intended with your thinking about noticing, appreciating and feeling good about your body. It is great to see other yoga teachers are going towards a more balanced approach about loving and accepting your body and getting away from performing painful poses and expecting good outcomes. Thanks for sharing your keen insight.

anonymous Apr 9, 2013 12:18am

What a wonderful message for anyone brand new to yoga. I agree with you…after looking at any of the yoga magazines, people must be pretty intimidated to walk into a class never having done it before.

anonymous Apr 8, 2013 4:47pm

Thank you! That's beautiful.

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