Usually when I meet new people in a group setting and mention that I am a yoga instructor, at least one of them will say, “Oh, I always wanted to try yoga, but ______________.”
The majority of the time, at least one of the reasons below are cited. Despite the fact that it has almost become a mantra that “yoga is for everyone,” many people still do not believe that yoga is for them.
While I am hardly a yoga evangelical, I nonetheless have a desire to clear up some of the common misconceptions and fears about yoga including:
1. I’m not flexible enough.
This is by far the most common thing I hear. The fact is, none of us under the age of 18 is “flexible enough.” Years of sitting in chairs, driving for long periods of time and being hunched over computers add up. Also, some people are more naturally flexible than others.
However, flexibility is not necessary to practice or benefit from yoga. Nearly every yoga pose can be modified.
Over the years, I have taught people with all sorts of challenges ranging from injuries as a result of a severe car accident to arthritis. In each case, they were all able to do yoga with proper modifications and props. Also, when in doubt, go with less rather than more.
For example, if your heels are almost touching the ground in downward facing dog, do not force them to the ground. They’ll get there if and when they are ready. Being patient has its rewards, especially when it comes to yoga.
2. I’ll injure something.
Any sort of physical activity comes with the risk of injury. (I once threw my back out while vacuuming.) I’ve injured myself doing yoga as have many other people I have known.
In my case, every injury I ever had could have been prevented and was a result of ignoring my body’s warning signals.
Many instructors talk about “feeling the sensations” and working through them. Sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish between “sensations” and pain. Much like #1, the same rule applies here: when we find ourselves in that situation, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
3. I’m not a vegetarian and/or the yogic lifestyle doesn’t appeal to me.
I’m not a vegetarian and chances are, the majority of instructors in a “typical” studio aren’t either.
Despite how mainstream yoga has become, some people still see it as a cult. The truth is while yoga is not a cult, some instructors and studios can nonetheless give off a vibe that will not appeal to some.
If you’re only interested in asana practice, then the best thing to do is to research various studios and instructors. Asking friends and acquaintances is always a good start. Plus, consider asking the people that you consider “yogic” where they practice and with whom. It may be that the instructors and places they love are not the right fit for you.
4. I’m afraid I’ll end up with one of those arrogant instructors I heard about.
By now, all of us have heard a tale or two about the yoga instructors from hell. Some of these stories are enough to make anyone think twice about going to a studio.
However, while bad instructors exist, experience has taught me that by far the good ones outweigh the bad.
Again, referrals are always a good idea. However, if the worst happens and we end up in a class with a jerk for an instructor, we always have the option to leave the class rather than suffer through it. Also, don’t be afraid to call them out on their behavior even if it means doing it in front of others. In the case of a possibly misunderstanding, it’s better to say something after class when the other students have left. However, if it appears that the instructor is being disrespectful, then find a new teacher ASAP.
In closing, the above yoga fears are common but are by no means are true. Those who are interested in trying yoga but have been worried about any of the above should not let these things hold them back.
While not everyone who tries yoga is going to automatically fall in love with it and be a lifetime yogi/yogini, trying it out need not be an ordeal.
At the very least, the above are four less things to worry about when you decide to finally take that first class.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman