I talk about yoga. A lot. To yogis and non-yogis alike. I talk about yoga like other people talk about snowboarding or skateboarding. You know, the ‘bro’ talk, but more girl-ish.
What I’ve found through my incessant chatter is that I’ve noticed some alarmingly repetitive statements from people who have spent little or no time with this several thousand year old practice.
“I want to try yoga, but I’m so inflexible.”
“I tried it once, but the teacher made me feel like I wasn’t good enough.”
“I’m bad at yoga.”
Allow me to take each of these in turn…
1) “I’m not flexible.”
Most people in this world are not flexible. We sit in cars, in restaurants, on trains, on our couches, at desks. We walk and bike and maybe do some other active things. How often do we stretch? Not nearly as frequently as we should.
Most people, by force of culture and habit, are not flexible.
Let me tell you that I’m more flexible NOW, at 29 years old, after 4 years of yoga than I was at 15 after 10 years of dance and gymnastics.
And you know what is more flexible than my body? My MIND. Because that’s what yoga does WITHOUT YOU EVEN KNOWING IT.
BAM. Two for the price of one, baby.
2) “I tried it, but the teacher made me feel bad.”
This one breaks my heart for so many reasons. I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard people say it was an instructor that turned them off by throwing an attitude of superiority or impatience. I would like to have words with these particular yogis.
About the fact that you’ve now just turned someone away from yoga because of your ego. Your EGO. That thing you’re supposed to deflate through the practice of yoga.
There is a WHOLE LOTTA ego in the Western world which unfortunately affects the yoga industry, as well.
My advice here? Try again. There are so many amazing instructors who are wonderful with beginner yogis. Do a little googling to find one in your area. The studio I frequent most in Portland, YoYoYogi, has ‘Yoga Virgins’ and ‘Rockin’ the Basics’ for newbies. Look for classes geared to Level 1-2.
3) “I’m bad at yoga.”
Guess what? We’re ALL bad at yoga. As one instructor likes to say, “for every pose I can do, somewhere someone is doing a pose I CAN’T do.”
For awhile I thought I was GOOD at yoga: balanced and focused, stretchy and strong. Then I realized my shoulders have zero range of motion. And my knees and hips started to feel a bit too loosey goosey. And excuse me, but there are THREE separate series of Ashtanga?
And then there’s the battle of the brain monkey. For every second my mind quiets down to a sea of calm (a rarity), there is an hour (or five) of background radio telling me all sorts of things. But, after awhile, you start to realize the incessant chatter is never going away completely. All you can do is learn to watch those thoughts come and go.
This is why yoga is referred to as a ‘practice.’ It’s a lifetime of learning. And it’s addictive.
The good news is that we’re actually all good at yoga, too.
For simply coming to the mat.
For taking time to *attempt* to clear our thoughts and focus on our bodies.
For taking a step back when our joints get too stretched out rather than pushing forward and hurting ourselves (which unfortunately does happen when that ego thing gets in the way).
Mostly importantly, for recognizing there is no good or bad place to be in terms of a yoga practice, there only is wherever you are. And it’s the perfect place to be.
(Photo above of the ever lovely Jill Knouse in Reverse Warrior.)