During my two years of being a yoga instructor, I have received some interesting comments about my beloved yoga! Perhaps I have made a few of these myself prior to becoming more immersed in my practice. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have preconceived notions about yoga itself, however it would be a shame that people don’t even try yoga because of them. So, here are my thoughts on these perceptions which may provide you with more of an insight into the practice of yoga.
“You need to be flexible to do yoga, don’t you?”
What?! This is, by far, the most common question I get asked and is the most ridiculous! Look, I get it. When you type yoga into Instagram, there are so many photos of super flexible bendy yogis in these crazy poses that you could never do a million years. I can’t do them either. However, you need not be flexible at all to start yoga, this is just a by- product of a regular practice. It is like saying, ‘Don’t you need to be fit to go to the gym?’ Everyone needs to start somewhere. Perhaps you are a little self-conscious initially because you think people will judge you. I promise that the only person who is judging you is you. A yoga practise is one of introversion. Everyone in the class is only focusing on themselves and their own bodies.
“I tried a yoga class once and didn’t like it”.
Really?? I read a book once that I didn’t like, did that turned me off reading altogether? Nope, there are so many types of books out there and similarly, so many styles of yoga and instructors. A slower style of yoga may not suit everybody, so perhaps try something stronger. Try a few different teachers to find one that resonates with you. If I am honest, there have been some yoga classes that I have attended that I haven’t loved either. However, how do you know if you don’t try it? There really is a yoga class for everybody.
“Yoga is too easy, it’s not a workout.”
Have you ever been to a power yoga or hot yoga class? When I first fell in love with yoga I gravitate towards these classes because I loved a good workout, I felt strong, sweaty but also so balanced. Yoga (even the slower kind) can really compliment a fitness regime, it can build strength and help to reduce those aches and pains to minimise the chance of injury. For me, it helps to improve the way to do other forms of exercises by turning on the right muscles and not overcompensating others. It has also helped me to become more mindful of the way my body feels understanding when it is ok to push a little harder and when I need to pull back.
“I don’t like yoga because I can’t sit there doing nothing”
For many people, slowing down and finding time for introversion is difficult. In yoga you learn techniques that help you calm the busy mind and meditate, and just like any skill, it takes practise. Try a yoga class where there is more movement. Finding a balance between concentration and effortlessness. This means that the poses are not so hard that you struggle, but not so easy that your mind wanders off and you can remain present. Perhaps finding stillness is uncomfortable for you because of the thoughts or emotions that arise. Most of our struggles are created in our own minds. The unnecessary overthinking and worrying. Yoga provides you with the tools to handle whatever life throws at you.
“Yoga is just stretching, isn’t it?”
Yes, it is, but it is so much more. What it is for you will vary from person to person. ‘Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down’ (Jigar Gor). According to Patanjali aim of yoga is enlightenment. That’s it. The primary aim is not to become super bendy, get fit, heal injuries, relax, improve your relationships or whatever else you are seeking. These, however, are some fantastic benefits of the practise, and to be honest this is what I use to promote my yoga classes. Why? ‘Come and join me on the path to enlightenment’, does not really resonate with most people, often my students just want to learn how to reduce their anxiety and find some peace. In this modern world, yoga can really be whatever you need it to be. Whether it is embracing the full yogic lifestyle or using practise to reduce stress, yoga can meet you where you are and provide you with the tools to live a healthy, happy and balance life.