Creating Space for New Yoga Students

As I hit the third month of my Hatha teacher training program, many of my family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors are abuzz with questions for me about yoga. Most of these folks have never tried yoga before, but they're wildly, wonderfully interested in starting to practice.

They are hungry for information. How HOT is Bikram? How much do classes cost? What studios are good for beginners? There is a part of these conversations, though, that is more important to me than the rest – the part where they start to give voice to all the reasons why they feel like they are not “good enough” for yoga.

Here’s what I want to tell everyone who’s apprehensive or even just inquisitive about yoga. I want you to know that yoga is an invitation. You are welcome. I don’t care if you’ve never, ever stepped foot in a yoga studio before. Actually, just knowing that will make me more excited to show you the kind of pure peace yoga can usher into your life. I don’t care if you can’t touch your toes. Yoga is not a for-flexible-folks-only club (no way!). I don’t care if you’re uncoordinated and have no balance. I’m actually pretty confident that you are far more coordinated and capable of balancing than you believe. I don’t care if you have the tightest hamstrings in the history of twentysomethings or fiftysomethings. In fact, yoga might help you have a little bit more love for your crazy tight legs.

Lastly, I don’t mind if you come to me and say, “I hated that Kundalini class more than anything.” From my perspective, that’s like saying you don’t like strawberry flavored ice cream. It doesn’t mean you hate every single kind of ice cream, right? Maybe you’ll try a different variety of yoga and fall in love with it. Maybe you won’t. I firmly believe you will find yoga if and when you are supposed to. I’m not interested in meddling with that process whatsoever.

I repeat variations of the above in short versions or long versions to interested parties, and I find myself more conscious of the responsibility yoga teachers and experienced practitioners have to build an inclusive community. Our sisters, cousins, coworkers, brothers, bosses, mothers and boyfriends can all benefit from yoga in the same way we do. And each time we go out of our way to show a new student where to leave his or her shoes before they enter the studio or how to set up his or her mat, we take our yoga practice off the mat and into our lives. Each time we admit that we too are not perfect that there are poses we can’t do because of old injuries or because we still need to build up more strength, we reinforce the idea that yoga welcomes you exactly as you are.

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