Has anyone ever told you about a yoga class they tried and then quickly dismissed because it was ‘too slow’ or ‘too boring’; there was ‘too much breathing’ or they weren’t ‘flexible enough’ and couldn’t ‘do any of the poses’? Perhaps you’ve had this experience yourself?
I get a lot of these responses from people when I tell them I’m a yoga teacher. A lot of people, sometimes without even trying, think yoga is simply NOT for them.
I have to laugh because I used to have the same attitude about yoga. I used to think that yoga was for the skinny, bendy, twisty types. Bring on a spinning class (if anything) please…
Over time, I have proved myself wrong. Very very wrong. And every day I am so thankful for that. I’ll tell you why…
One of the most common misconceptions about yoga is that you have to be flexible. Let’s just say that, back in the day, I was lucky to get my hands past my knees (let alone to my ankles) when I folded forward at the hips to try to touch the ground. I was tight and inflexible, a gymnastics reject and with lower back issues to boot.
But against all of these odds I decided to trial out a yoga class anyway. There was something drawing me to the practice – an innate sense that this ‘yoga stuff’ carried some of what I needed.
My instinct was correct. The more classes I took, the more flexible I became so that now I can place the palms of my hands on the ground without bending my knees (and without pain). I healed a back injury. I got strong and less stressed. And then I got certified to teach.
The simple fact is that there are no prerequisites for yoga other than an open mind (or what we call ‘beginner’s mind’). I would also add to that patience and the obvious checks you would do with a specialist before getting involved in any physical activity following injury or trauma to the body. However, a yoga class can be a great place to cultivate patience if you haven’t got much and also to heal an injury if you choose the right kind of yoga.
That’s right – flexibility isn’t the only benefit from practicing yoga. There are many styles of yoga that address various energetic, physical, emotional, and mental needs.
The kind of yoga I teach is mostly dynamic and energising vinyasa flow mixed with restorative postures. The overall aim is to leave my students feeling better in their bodies and minds before they exit class, whether that be by the simple act of moving in new and challenging ways, finding strength and stability in poses, quieting busy minds through meditation or lengthening spines and limbs through breathing.
Basically, the more you practice, the more you realise this ‘yoga stuff’ goes much deeper than stretching…
With yoga, the possibilities are endless. But you have to be curious and you have to devote some time to trialing out different classes and teachers. I would say try 5 different classes/teachers minimum before you decide yoga is not for you. And remember that a lot of the things we think we need to have before we take a yoga class (flexibility, strength, patience, balance, a fit body to name a few) are what we gain as a result of a dedicated practice. And there’s no better time to start than now.