By Roxanne Steward | firstname.lastname@example.org
For some, starting yoga can be intimidating.
I started doing yoga when I was 16 and have quit a few times between then and now because of my own intimidation. I came back to it over and over again, though, because the beauty of the practice is so much more important than the fears that may come with it.
Here are the top five reasons I’ve heard from people who are intimidated to start.
1.“I’ll look dumb.”
I can totally relate to this fear. I remember the first yoga class I went to. I walked into a room of about 30 people, all stretching and preparing for their practice. I rolled out my mat in the back corner and waited, terrified, to see what I had just gotten myself into. I felt like everyone was looking at me. I felt like they knew this was my first practice. I felt like they would judge me for it. But here’s the beautiful thing about yoga, or any group exercise really: everyone is really only worried about themselves. This is especially true for yoga. Every instructor I have ever had has started the practice by emphasizing that “your practice is your practice” and to not worry what anyone else is doing.
There’s something in yoga called a drishti. It’s basically your focal point for balancing poses. If you start to lose balance, you find a space or object in the room to stare at and it will keep you steady. There’s just one rule, your drishti can’t be someone else, because then if they fall you will as well. So, yes, you may look dumb, but if anyone is thinking it’s because they aren’t focused on their own practice. And when you fall, they will as well.
2. “It’s only for women.”
This one I hear a lot and it just simply isn’t true. There are plenty of men who do yoga and plenty of men who teach yoga. In fact, at my studio, most the classes I attend are half women and half men practicing.
I think the real fear here for men who say this is that they will be in a room full of women who are better at something than them. This is a normal fear, it’s intimidating to be in a room full of anyone who’s better than you at something. But this shouldn’t keep you from trying. Yoga isn’t just flexibility, it requires a lot of strength. I always appreciate when I see men in my yoga class that may not be able to bend down and touch their toes but can hold a headstand for a whole minute. Your practice is your practice.
3.“It’s not a true form of exercise.”
This is wrong on two levels.
Level one wrongness: it is a true form of exercise. I know it’s hard to believe that something so fun and peaceful can be exercise, but it’s true. There are all kinds of different yoga classes to take, all different intensities. There’s power yoga for those who want more fast-paced movement, but there’s also restorative yoga which is gentler and also still a wonderful form of exercise. Let’s also not forget the fact that yoga is a form of exercise that respects the body, allowing you to both back out of painful poses, or push yourself into uncomfortable and new areas. It’s an exercise that, in 20 years, won’t be causing you injuries, but instead will make your body more able to heal when you do get injured.
Level two wrongness: Yes, yoga is wonderful exercise, but that’s not the point. The worst type of person in a yoga class is the one who’s only there to burn calories. Yoga allows you to move your body for the sake of mindfulness. For the entire practice, you should be in tune with how you’re feeling and, more importantly, breathing. For those who go to a yoga class because they read about it in some fitness magazine and hope to lose ten pounds, you might. But in the process, you will strip away the beauty of yoga.
4.“I’m not good or flexible enough.”
Yoga is all about going at your own pace. It can be intimidating walking into that first class not knowing what to expect, but there are always modifications. I was once in a yoga class where a woman walked in, rolled out her mat, laid down, and stayed laying down the entire practice. This is totally acceptable in yoga. Your practice is your practice. If a pose is too challenging for you, there’s always a way to modify it to your skill level.
Yoga also isn’t all about flexibility. Yes, yoga teaches flexibility, but it’s not necessary. All bodies are different. Some people have long arms and can reach their toes easier. Some people have tight hips and have trouble with hip-openers. The most important thing is learning to accept your body wherever it is during that practice. Your body may differ from day to day as well. Some days my practice feels incredibly flexible, other days I feel strong, other days I feel both. The biggest challenge you’ll face isn’t whether or not you’re good or flexible enough, it’s whether or not you will have the humility to admit to yourself that you can’t do something someone else may be able to do.
This is not a misconception, this is true. It’s the reason I stopped doing yoga for a while. That was until I found some affordable options.
One option is always to do online yoga or there are even yoga apps. You do lose the appeal of doing group exercise, but the practices are typically the same as you’d get in class and it’s better than nothing.
Another option is the first-month deal. Almost every yoga studio I’ve ever been to has had some kind of deal for new students. Whether it’s “40 days for 40 dollars” or “half off your first month” it’s a great discount.