I hear any number of reasons why people have trepidation stepping into a yoga studio and onto their mats. Trying something new, especially one with such stigma surrounding it, allows the mind to stir and fantasize about how that experience may or may not turn out for you: a beginner. While I understand the hesitation and doubt, as a teacher I can only strongly recommend you move beyond your preconceived notions, your judgment about yourself as a student, your assumptions about teachers and avid practitioners, and simply go in with an open mind, a dose of humility, and dare I say excitement. Trying new things improves all around functioning within the brain, body, heart and soul. Commit to taking at least 5 classes in the next 6 weeks, making it a point to take class with different teachers, maybe even carving out a short practice at home, and then decide whether to proceed. Until then, beware of these popular stereotypes and misnomers, move out of your mind and into the moment.
1. “I’m not flexible,” is the excuse I hear most often.
We see images of boneless, pretzel-like human beings, with limbs in indecipherable places, and we assume because we are nowhere near capable of that level of openness that we must throw the baby out with the bathwater. I often remind my students they wouldn’t pick up a guitar for the first time and expect to play like Eric Clapton (hopefully this isn’t an outdated reference!). The same truth applies with yoga. Yoga brings flexibility (and many other benefits) to and from you, not the other way around. Be patient and consistent and you won’t want to look back.
2. Yoga will turn me into a hippie.
While peace, love and harmony are certainly sentiments echoed in many yoga studios and reflected in texts, the practice in no way makes anyone feel obligated to make decisions similar to the western “hippie” icon we’re all so familiar. Yoga brings an increased awareness to conditioned thought and behavior patters. You become more fully yourself, which of course is one at peace with who you are, the world you live in, and whatever the present moment brings. No granola or tofu required, unless you want it of course, then dive in and enjoy the healthy deliciousness. Yoga simply brings a stillness and an unbridled appreciation for life, which may or may not be reflected in rainbows, an affinity for being barefoot, and an unwavering expression of love.
3. I don’t have the right clothes/equipment to practice.
I’ll just be blunt, and I hope you can feel my love when I call bullshit on this particular excuse. I know these days, in the western world, yoga pants have become a staple in a modern wardrobe, regardless if yoga is being practiced or not. I’d rather my students arrive in pajama pants than jeans, so as long as you’re comfortable, in breathable, pliable material, you’ll be fine. Most studios carry a selection of mats to use, rent or buy, along with straps, blocks, blankets, bolsters, incense and any other yogic tool you can imagine. And if you’re beginning your practice at home, an inexpensive mat, along with blocks and a strap can be purchased very reasonably at stores like Marshals, TJ Maxx, Ross, and most of your one-stop-shops. Here's a great online source. When the time comes, you can invest some hard earned money on a quality mat, on teachers and a studio that resonates with you, and on donning whatever cloth you prefer to practice in. All you need to practice is You. The external stuff is just that: stuff.
4. Yoga conflicts with my faith/religion.
Being born in the East roughly 5,000 years ago, the initial philosophy of yoga emerged out of Hinduism, but has since parlayed beautifully into the macrocosm that is our planet. Not only has the West, and America in particular, become a melting pot of ethnicities, practices and beliefs, but this confluence of cultures has led to yoga reaching across the world affecting millions regardless of their color, faith or creed. Yoga is, without a doubt, NONDENOMINATIONAL. It is open and accepting to all that you are, right now. It’ll only draw you more gracefully into yourself and whatever your faith happens to be. Yoga helps clarify the same truth we all seek. You’ll more fully experience the beauty of life and living. Cleared up wonderfully here in the Sutras.
Yoga, being he(art)ful life, opens you to experience and express the beauty in being, the beauty you Are. Give yourself the gift.