As a yoga teacher, I often hear phrases like these: “I want to do yoga but I’m not good,” and, “I’d love to try yoga but I’m not flexible.“
No more! No more can I stand by while people let fear and misconceptions keep them from one of the most sacred, life-changing, empowering, beautiful experiences they can give themselves: a yoga practice.
The first time I went to yoga, I was overweight, had deep anger issues, was in the midst of a breakup with a drug addict, and had a history of almost failing high school because of multiple F’s in gym class.
I wasn't “good at yoga.” So if I can do it, anyone can.
1. Remember that there's no such thing as being “good at yoga.”
Being “good” at yoga postures (asana) is something that doesn't exist. Remember, yoga is a practice that helps us to deeply explore ourselves while learning to quiet the mind. Allow yourself to grow with your asana, with your practice, and just let go! There’s enough pressure everywhere to be good, to be perfect, to get it right — let yoga bring out the wild reckless abandon of your heart! Close your eyes, and flow.
2. Don’t think; just practice.
This gem, whispered into my ear by Sri Dharma Mittra while I was avoiding crow, has transformed my life. I have found that talking about going to yoga usually keeps me from actually going to yoga. Turn on autopilot, get yourself there, and let the rest come. Showing up is the hardest part!
3. Know that no one is judging you.
If, as you first enter a studio, you feel the vibe doesn’t suit you, kindly and gracefully leave (before class begins). Yoga is energetics, and it’s your right to feel comfortable and welcome in the space you’ve chosen for your practice. You’ll be able to tell as soon as you walk in if it’s the place for you.
If you’ve found the perfect space but still find yourself worrying during down dog that everyone is judging you, remember that others are also practicing and are unable to look at you, let alone judge you. Breathe into the collective consciousness and let your mat to be a personal and private oasis.
4. Be kind to your body and yourself!
Ease in! The way we treat our bodies during yoga is a manifestation of how we feel about ourselves. Don't be unkind to your hamstring because it's tighter than you’d like. Instead, grant your muscle compassion and breath, and it will open. There are times I don't practice for a week, and when I begin again I'm not as strong or flexible. That’s OK! I allow myself to be exactly where I am, and before I know it, my strength and flexibility return. Only the internal dialogue of chastisement can keep you from enhancing your practice — nothing else! Simply start and be kind to yourself.
5. Practice non-judgment, presence and patience.
Choose to go into your practice with an open mind and an open heart. The first class I went to was pure torture and I wanted to leave, but I stayed out of respect for the teacher and other students. I’ll never forget leaving that first practice, thinking, “I'm NEVER coming back.” But then I found myself on the city streets, feeling something vital had taken place and that already I was different. I haven't looked back since.
Don't judge the practice, don't decide it’s not working or that nothing is happening, Welcome yoga in and let the poses take you somewhere magnificent, just as they’ve done for thousands of people for thousands of years. You have every right to a holy yoga practice! You deserve to communicate deeply with your body, to strengthen inside and out, and to change all that does not serve you.
I was deeply angry, severely depressed and overweight; I’m so grateful that I allowed myself to explore all that yoga could do for me. I hope you’ll grant yourself the same freedom! You are perfect and so is your yoga, even if you’ve never done it at all.