But, I'm not a Yogi
I can’t touch my toes! I don’t own a mat or any of that flashy “yoga gear”... What’s this “namaste” business? Isn’t yoga just a bunch of laying around?
Have you heard, thought, or said any of the above? If so, you’re not alone! I hear these refrains frequently when talking to people about why they should consider yoga and how ANYONE can do yoga and will benefit from the practice. Whether you’re 19 or 90, there is a style of yoga for you, I promise. And touching your toes or standing on your head is NOT a requirement in order to reap a multitude of physical and mental benefits. Below I dispel a few of the most common yoga myths. If you’re a yoga skeptic, hopefully this gives you a better understanding of how to approach the practice. And if you’re a practicing yogi, feel free to use these arguments as ammo the next time your friend makes an excuse to skip out on your yoga class invitation.
If you think you’re too inflexible: Start where you are. The people whose feet are touching their head on Instagram have been practicing for years. All poses are learned in stages - listening to your body’s limits and working with a teacher to modify a pose will allow you to make small improvements over time - working towards the full expression of the pose.
If you don’t have the “gear”: What is this “gear”, really. It’s clothing you feel comfortable in and a place to put your hands, feet and face that provides grip and isn’t too dirty. If that means sweatpants, an old t-shirt and your bedroom floor, great! If you need a blanket or block to sit on - try a folded up pillow or a stack of textbooks. And if you’re looking for a strap to increase your reach, try a towel or old belt! Also, 99% of yoga studios you visit will have all the props you could dream of and will rent you yoga mats at an affordable price. The yoga industry has turned into a consumer company’s paradise - don’t be fooled by their marketing schemes into thinking that you need to look a certain way to practice yoga (total b.s.)!
If money is an obstacle: Donation-based, free and online classes are your new best friend! Use Google and Facebook to track down the best donation-based and free classes in your community and mark them on your calendar. Some studios also have sliding scale payment plans which allow you to pay a rate that is adjusted to your income! There are also lots of good free yoga videos on websites like doyogawithme.com and youtube.com.
Shameless plug: I teach a weekly donation-based class on Wednesday evenings - the expectation is that you give what you can. No more, no less!
If you don’t get the “namaste” business: Many teachers will end class with hands folded in prayer and the salutation “namaste”. This sanskrit word roughly translates to “the light in me sees and respects the light in you”. It also is used frequently in India as a literal greeting translating to “hello”! So, when you hear namaste, or other sanskrit words sprinkled throughout class, you are not being put under some sort of voodoo yoga spell. This is simply the link from the practice you are going through in a Westernized yoga studio to yoga’s origins in India.
If you think yoga isn’t a workout: A strong yoga practice can provide one of the most well-rounded workouts a fitness buff could hope to complete. Your core, shoulders, lower and upper body all will be working hard to hold your body weight and your balance throughout a typical vinyasa-style class. Yoga poses challenge your muscle groups in ways lifting weights or running won’t and do so in a manner that doesn’t lead to bulk, but rather a lean, toned physique. Further, if you are seeking to lose weight, the breathwork and mindfulness cultivated through a yoga class can be an incredibly powerful tool. By tapping into the relaxation response by extending your exhale, you are actually turning on your digestion. The beauty of your parasympathetic nervous system, my friends (more on this later)!
So, if you’ve been waiting to take the plunge, I challenge you to sign up for one new yoga class in the coming month! And if you are already a regular practitioner, see if you can’t introduce a friend to the life-changing tradition that is yoga.