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Yogi’s First Fears and Why You Shouldn’t Worry

Have you been giving the side eye to the yoga craze?  You’ve observed friends and neighbors make time between work, childcare, dinner, errands, and social commitments to throw on a pair of yoga pants, sling a yoga mat over their shoulder, and jet to Joy.  You’re curious about classes, but you’re hesitant, too.  Heck, you have a whole list of reasons why yoga is not for you.  You find yourself thinking:

(Myth) “I can’t do yoga; I’m not flexible enough.”

(Fact) Yoga asanas, or poses, are designed to slowly guide the body in developing more strength and flexibility simultaneously.  Most people find that they rely more on one (strength or flexibility) than the other.  Teachers are trained to give many bus stops along the way, demonstrating plenty of variations of poses, so that all students can work with their own strengths and limitations in a personal expression of each pose.  Did you know that these are both versions of the same pose: trikonasana (triangle)?

(Myth) “People who do yoga are skinny; I don’t look like that.”

(Fact) Yoga is not about being skinny; it’s about being healthy.  It’s a shame that many yoga magazines and blogs feature only slim yogis because this creates a false belief that yoga is only compatible with one body type.  In yoga, we don’t fight our bodies; we work with them and nourish them.  Yoga is about loving your body right now, always. 

(Myth) “I don’t know the names for poses, so I will be lost during class.”

(Fact) Knowing the names for poses is not enough for a student to have a great class.  If this were the case, we could all just write a list of poses and complete them sequentially in our living rooms.  Students come to class because teachers are trained to cue each step of every pose so that students can learn how to do the poses safely, and with good alignment.  No matter how long a student has been practicing, alignment and activation cues from the teacher will guide students to practice poses with integrity, and find challenging but safe expressions.

For a standing pose, cues may sound something like this:
  • “feet should be hips-width and parallel”
  • “zip the inner thighs together”
  • “knit the ribs together”
  • “shoulders fall away from ears”
  • “crown reaches toward the ceiling”
With such specific cues, you won’t be lost at all!

(Myth) “I have an injury, and I don’t want to make it worse.”

(Fact) Safety is paramount in yoga. There is not one right way to practice yoga, which is why modifications are offered for all poses.  Before class, inform your teacher of your injury, and he/she can tell you when to be prepared to modify a cued pose in class in order to remain safe.

In fact, many students with injuries find that yoga helps to heal the body in many ways by: strengthening muscles surrounding an injured area, developing better structural integrity in the body, creating more body awareness, etc.

(Myth) “Everyone in class will be better than me, and I will look silly.”

(Fact) Yoga is for everyone and every body.  Yoga is a personal practice, during which students are encouraged to go inward.  While we practice in community, there is no competition or comparison in class.  In yoga, the only person we are showing up for is ourselves; we come to take care of our own bodies, to complement other activity (or lack thereof) in our lives, and to find a slice of peace in the commotion of daily life.

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