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December 31, 2014

To My New Yoga Students: Don’t Resolve to be Yogis in 2015.

elidr/Flickr

Every year the same thing happens: the yoga studio where I teach is packed with new faces who share that their New Year’s resolution was to “take up yoga.”

Out of a group of 20 people, the following happens: By early February, at least a third of them are gone and will probably never set foot in the studio again. By the end of March, another third are gone and by April, there are probably only three or four left.

It doesn’t just happen at this studio, but at everyone I have ever taught at it.

Over the years, I have often pondered why this is the case.

My theory: most newbies don’t so much drop out, but rather, they burn out.

In a nutshell, it is a classic case of “too much too soon” and, usually, the ones who attend class three or more times a week are the most likely to burn out by early February.

Ask any instructor or long-time practitioner, and it becomes clear that people come to yoga for all different reasons.

I am the first to admit that what drew me initially was not the philosophical or spiritual aspects, but sheer curiosity as to why so many people were drawn to the practice. (At the time, I was living in London and within walking distance of the Triyoga Center where celebrities including Madonna, Sting and Reese Witherspoon were all rumored to have taken classes.)

Upon moving back to the United States, I started to practice in earnest. The other aspects of yoga—those things that went well beyond the poses—gradually came to me.

While there are some things I wish I had done differently early on, I am glad that one thing I never did was set goals: I never told myself that I was going to attend a certain number of times per week or expected to advance in a certain amount of time. I also allowed myself to take breaks.

Simply put, I listened to my body and my mind. If there was a week or even two weeks that I didn’t make it to a yoga class, then no big deal: yoga was never an all or nothing kind of thing.

For many new students, though, it is.

Whenever new students ask me for tips, my top one always takes some from aback: Relax. Don’t take it too seriously. It’s just yoga, after all.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. Even teachers sometimes forget that.

Like many people who teach and practice yoga, I truly believe that yoga is for everybody. I also believe anyone can be a yogi, but making that a goal—especially if one’s definition of a yogi is someone performing jaw-dropping poses—can be a set up for failure.

Therefore, for anyone new to yoga or returning after a long hiatus, the best tip I will share is not to set out to be a yogi. That will come in time.

In the meantime, enjoy the practice, enjoy making mistakes and learning how the mind and the body are connected.

And also, remember that it’s true: it really is all about the breath.

 

 

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Author: Kimberly Lo

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: elidr/Flickr

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