I recently moved back to Port Elizabeth after ten years away. I came back to open a Yoga Studio because yoga had such a profound impact on my life and I was surprised to find that here, yoga is not (yet) as natural a part of life as it has become in places like California and London. Advocating strongly for yoga as a lifestyle I have come across a number of ‘humorous’ beliefs about yoga, preventing people from getting involved in this magical practice.
It’s time for these to be exposed…. and binned:
- ‘Those Yoga people are flexible. I can’t even touch my toes’: Telling yourself that you’re not flexible enough for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath. Noticing your own inflexibility is a sign that you need to do something different in looking after your body. Yoga is that something different.
- ‘I don’t have time for something that doesn’t offer a real workout. I do work, home and gym. I’m sorted’: Yoga is not your ordinary workout. You will work on strength, balance, endurance, muscle tone, and stretching muscles that have not been stretched for years. You will have to create space in your spine so you can move properly again and achieve strength in places not known before to support your lengthened and strengthened muscles, joints and vertebrae. To top it all of you will need to find a way to let go, breathe, release, establish softness and, god forbid….relax and expand your mind. Real workout? No, better.
- ‘I will look ridiculous trying these funny moves’: What is ridiculous is depriving yourself of what you need out of fear of what others will think. Forget about others and they will forget about you. You could worry about what you look like or you could have fun with it. At worst you have a laugh; at best, you do your body the biggest favour ever.
- I can’t actually do the postures: Just because you don’t know how to do it today, doesn’t mean you wont know how to do it some day. Do yourself a favour and cut yourself some slack. You’re new at this so taking a bit of time to learn is an exciting journey to embark on. Everyone starts something new from a place of not knowing. The journey is what it is about. There is no destination.
- ‘I will be the only person who doesn’t know what to do.’: In a beginners class everyone is still finding their way in yoga. Practice in yoga means to try and then fall out (smile), get up and try again. So you fall over? So what? In the bigger scheme of things, I’m sure you can think of worse things that could happen. Pick a beginners class with others just like you!
- ‘What I have seen in the yoga photos is beyond what I will ever be capable of’: No two people have the same bodies and no two people look the same in a yoga posture. Once the posture has been set up safely, you are free to explore where your body needs to go. The success of yoga is measured by the joy and peace your practice brings – not the shapes you can make with your body. If you are capable of embracing this notion – you are capable of doing mind-blowingly, amazing yoga.
- ‘Yoga is a weird cult/religion/foreign cultural practice’: Yoga is believed to have been born in India but there are ancient drawings indicating it was practiced by other nations in different forms – for similar purposes – for however long. No one owns it. Yoga doesn’t need to or ask to be owned or ‘signed up to’ for that matter. Your yoga is just that – YOURS. It’s a practice for YOUR health, vitality, balance and strength. It could be a practice to connect your body and mind, and it could be a practice to help you build a connection with your spiritual self. It could be a practice to make you laugh and try new things. It could be a practice to fix your back or a practice to help you deal with stress. It could be any of those things – depending on what you choose for it to be. It’s simply not true to say that it is a religion or cult. Yoga will never judge you. Why would you want to judge yoga?
- ‘I’m not vegetarian…and I don’t want to hear that I should be’: Some of the best yogis I have had the good fortune of meeting the world over weren’t vegetarians or vegans. Some were. Some ate red meat, some didn’t. Some ate fish and others didn’t even ‘talk’ about animal produce, never mind eat it. Some drank alcohol, some sometimes drank too much. Some probably needed a wine. See what I’m getting at?
I hope that squashes some of the misconceptions and unfounded fears for aspiring beginner yogis. Get yourself in a yoga class! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You have more to be worried about by way of your health and well-being if you continue to live in a state of contraction, tension, pain, inflexibility and unnecessary limitation. Love yourself enough to bring yoga into your life.
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