If you have been considering bringing yoga into your life, you may wonder where to begin. The simple answer is to start where you are. Start now. Don’t wait until you get it all together. Don’t wait until the month after next when you are sure you’ll at last have “more” time. Don’t wait until you’ve lost five pounds and might look better in your yoga pants. Or, for that matter, don’t wait until you’ve purchased yoga gear—any loose fitting clothing will do. Don’t wait until you finally manage to quit smoking. Don’t wait until you’ve broken off that unhealthy relationship. Just start where you are.
If your reasons for delay are preventing you from taking action, you may benefit from writing a list of all of the excuses that you have for NOT starting your yoga practice now or, as was my case not so long ago, re-starting a lapsed practice. After you’ve completed your list, simply acknowledge all of the reasons given and tell yourself that this is your starting point. In fact, every single reason on your list is completely welcome to join you on your mat—from your extra five pounds to your smoker’s breath.
Just over a year ago, I invited my frozen left shoulder and milk-filled breasts back onto the mat that had been sitting in the corner for two years, since a pregnancy with my third child turned into an eight-month battle with extreme nausea. When I finally returned to my mat, that day when my son was 18-months old, I attempted a few sun salutations. My mind remembered, my body even remembered, but my stiff shoulder prevented me from achieving even the crudest form of Downward Facing Dog. Instead, I was forced to my knees in Child’s Pose, with arms that could not extend forward, sort of coiled gently around my calves. In this humbled position, I cried out, “I cannot go on this way.”
It is only from a point of acknowledging the profound reality of the moment, rather than being caught up in what a person would like reality to be, that one can finally make a true change. And so, from this place on my knees, I assessed my own personal reality. First, rather than viewing myself as a yogi, I acknowledged that I was indeed a lapsed practitioner. Second, I admitted that I missed my yoga practice. I also recognized that I would be working with some intense shoulder discomfort when I began to practice, at least for a while. At that moment, however, my physical pain was already so great, I began to realize that resisting the pain of change was likely causing me more pain than if I were to try to work right along with my discomfort. Finally, I acknowledged that I couldn’t do it alone. Even if I only sat on my mat and practiced deep breathing for an hour, I needed the support of a yoga community to make this change. At least initially, I needed a level of commitment beyond my home practice.
The next day, I found a yoga top in the bottom of my drawer that managed to stretch over my abundant breasts, and I attended my first yoga class in over two years. Even though I experienced nip slips worse than Jennifer Lopez at the Oscars, I kept returning to class, wearing t-shirts over my stretched-too-thin yoga tops. Over the next few months of practice, I gently worked with my shoulder, encouraging it to defrost, bit by bit. I also asked my teachers to avoid adjustments of my shoulders. At age forty, I knew that achieving the full expression of a pose was less important than just getting myself to class and accepting where I was on the mat.
One year later, my shoulder is still less mobile than most everyone around me, but I am able to hold a pain-free Downward Facing Dog. And, although I am not looking for a TIME magazine cover any time soon, I am also still breastfeeding my now two and a half year old son. Finally, in spite of my typical frugality, I eventually broke down and purchased some new yoga tops that actually hold my bosom in. If I had waited for my son to wean, if I had waited for my shoulder to unthaw, I might still be waiting.
So, if you want to begin your yoga practice, just begin; take action. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Take an honest assessment of where you’re at in this exact moment, which will be your starting point. And then take action. That’s how you cross to the other side, by first beginning to move.