As a yoga teacher I hear many excuses from others who think they cannot do yoga. I used to have a few myself. But it wasn't until I finally made it to the mat that I stopped saying I couldn't do yoga entirely. As a matter of fact I stopped saying I couldn't do a lot of other things in my life. Yoga is like that.
A regular practice can remove the fears and doubts we hold about ourselves, and it can free us up to do things we never thought possible before.
Here are seven of the most common excuses for not practicing yoga and why you might want to overcome them:
1. I am not flexible enough to do yoga.
This was my primary excuse before I ever tried yoga. I would check out those bendy yogis on the covers of magazines in the grocery store checkout line and think to myself, I could never do that. But I eventually realized that no matter how inflexible I thought I was, a consistent yoga practice creates flexibility, usually beyond anything you could have ever imagined.
It warms my heart each time a student walks in with a big smile on their face and wants to share how they touched their toes for the first time in decades in Forward Fold, or how they were able to reach both ankles with their hands in Bow Pose. With dedication and a little patience, you WILL become more flexible when you practice yoga.
2. Yoga will conflict with my religious beliefs.
Yoga is a study of the self — helping practitioners to understand their inner world through movement, breath and meditation. People of all cultures and religious backgrounds can practice yoga. Although yoga is not a religion, it is true that it's generally seen as a spiritual practice. But it's up to you to define what that spiritual component means to you —whether it's a study of your true Self or finding a connection with the Divine.
Some teachings will resonate with you, while others may not. Ask your yoga teacher about his or her approach to this sensitive topic if you have concerns. And if you're not comfortable with the teachings, you can always try a different teacher or style of yoga altogether. As with any classroom, the teacher-student connection is important, as is your comfort level.
3. I am too busy to do yoga!
The more crazy life feels, the more important it is to carve out time for yourself. Think of likening your time on the mat to plugging your phone or computer into an outlet to get recharged.
When I make my practice a priority I'm able to achieve more in my life, in less time. I am better able to focus on what is important, while being a more compassionate person through it all — not only with others, but also with myself. I sleep better at night and feel more rested the next morning.
Try to consider choosing something else in your life to be too busy for — like television or social media. Placing higher priority on yoga will allow you to receive all the beautiful benefits a regular practice provides.
4. I am too old to do yoga.
I recently received an email from an individual who had read my article, "An Open Letter To Anyone Thinking About Trying Yoga." She asked if it was too late for her, given her age, to start a yoga practice. I wrote back to her and explained that there is a yoga class for everyone and that there are many geared toward the aging population.
Yoga for older adults requires more intentional honoring of their body, because of limitations in the joints, balance issues and health concerns due to aging. Poses are modified and the pace is generally slower than in a typical class. Props are heavily incorporated and a hands-on approach is highly effective. Safety, self-pacing and alignment are prioritized, especially for the elderly.
All yoga students are honored for where they are and what they are capable of, limitations and all. Yoga is not only for the young. All we can do in life is to start where we are and move forward from there.
5. I have too many injuries and/or other physical ailments.
There are many yoga programs designed for various health concerns like cancer, chronic illness, back issues, stress, insomnia, etc. Of course it is always wise to check with your doctor before starting any kind of physical activity during any process of rehabilitation or treatment. But there IS a yoga class for everyone. If you do some research and are committed, you will find one.
6. I don't "look" like a yogi.
What does a yogi look like? There is a lot of buzz around the issue of body image in yoga, in general. A recent issue of Yoga Journal was devoted to this topic. The truth is, a yogi can look like every possible version, shape and size you can imagine.
You don't need a perfect body or fancy, tight yoga pants, and you don't need to be able to pronounce (or even understand!) unfamiliar Sanskrit names of yoga poses. You just need to show up, get on a mat and dive in.
7. Yoga studios intimidate me.
I remember how terrified I was the first time I went to a yoga studio. I wondered if everyone would be watching me, secretly laughing as I non-gracefully tried to contort my body into a pose.
But I soon realized this was not the case. The other students were REALLY into what they were doing on their mats, maybe because they were new to yoga like me, or because they were NOT new at all! The more advanced students dive deeply into that deepest place within — a place I was hoping at some point to get to myself.
I soon discovered that most yogis are generally friendly and supportive. With the widespread popularity of yoga in the West, there are studios everywhere. But if a studio isn't your thing, you could also try classes at a community center like the YMCA or even your gym. Just like there's a style of yoga for everyone, there is also a location.
So what's holding YOU back? Stop making excuses and just give it a try. Wear whatever you're comfortable in, respect your body's limits and open your heart and your mind to all the possibilities. Then you can decide whether or not yoga is right for you.