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Yoga is for everyone: Here’s how to start

I can’t do yoga because…

  • I’m not flexible enough.
  • I’m not strong enough.
  • I don’t have very good balance.
  • I don’t look good in spandex.
  • yoga is for sissies.
  • I’ll feel like a clumsy oaf in a room full of people who know what they’re doing.

Any of these sound familiar?

There are so many great reasons to practice yoga, but, sadly, I often hear people’s reasons for not doing it.

Sometimes they come from people who have never tried yoga, yet somehow “know it’s not their thing.”

Sometimes I hear them from people who want to try yoga, but who are intimidated by that first class.

Sometimes it’s people who have practiced yoga before, but don’t feel comfortable in a studio setting, because they are self-conscious about the way they look.

Many of these concerns are real and can feel legitimate to the person experiencing them.

However, I believe that they all ultimately come from the basic fear of being judged. By others, by the teacher, and most damagingly, by themselves.

Let’s look more closely, shall we?

I’ve never done yoga before

It’s true that if you’ve never done yoga before, you’ll likely find your first few classes quite challenging.

You’ll fumble your way through the poses, listening to the teacher, watching other students, and trying to keep up.

You may very well feel clumsy, uncoordinated, and awkward. You might feel out of shape and may come out of that first class having not enjoyed it very much.

But please don’t give up there. Think about it for a minute: would you storm out of your first piano lesson, upset with yourself for not being able to play Mozart?

Every yoga teacher in the world and every single one of those classmates who look like they know what they are doing, or seem to be doing it with effortless grace, all experienced that dreaded first yoga class.

Many of them struggled and fumbled and fell down as well, but they got back up.

They knew there was something there for them and they kept coming back.

This is what Modo Yoga’s Live to Learn pillar is all about.

We recognize the importance of continued learning and encourage everyone to try new things to learn more about themselves.

We can be so hard on ourselves, can’t we? What if we lightened up a bit? So what if we can’t do a pose the way we think it should be done.

There are a ton of yoga poses that I can’t do now, some of which I may be able to do someday with more practice, others of which I may never be able to do because of the way my body is put together.

That doesn’t keep me from my practice. There is so much that I can do now that I couldn’t do before, and I can continue to grow into those poses without ever achieving some other poses. I’m OK with that.

Self-acceptance and courage are not only huge contributors to taking that first class, but are also developed and reinforced as we continue our practice.

I don’t look good in spandex

This is a common fear, but that’s not what yoga is about.

At its essence, yoga is an inner journey aimed at getting to know ourselves better and growing to accept and someday love ourselves despite, or even because of, our imperfections.

True, yoga does the body good, and if you practice a lot you are likely to lose some weight, develop “yoga arms,” and flow from posture to posture with strength, fluidity, and grace.

But to me, those are the side benefits of practicing yoga, not the reasons for practicing.

Second, spandex is definitely not required! Wear whatever you think you’ll be comfortable in as you move your body in a heated space.

And guess what? In all likelihood, the only people watching you are the teacher (because that’s his or her job), and maybe one or two others who are taking their first class.

I believe that most of the students who “look good” while they practice are so into their practice that they may not even be aware that you’re in the room.

They are most likely not watching you, and if they happen to notice you, they are not likely to be judging their performance – let alone yours.

I’m not strong/flexible/coordinated enough

Perhaps not. But the beautiful irony in that argument is that those are some of the main reasons why you should do yoga.

The chances are pretty high that you will become stronger and more flexible, develop better balance, and become more coordinated if you stick with the practice.

Modo Yoga’s Be Healthy pillar recognizes that as we practice yoga, we will become stronger and healthier, which will improve our self-confidence and support us in making healthy lifestyle choices.

Yoga is for girls

This is an unflattering way of saying that some people’s perception is that the slow, stretching movements in yoga are easy and don’t require strength.

I mean, who ever saw a picture of a yogi who looks like Stallone? They’re all thin and wiry, not strong, right?

I sometimes hear this from athletes who are used to power-based activities.

Any activity regularly practiced will strengthen and stretch specific muscles: runners get tight hamstrings, kickboxers experience a lot of wear and tear in their hips, and paddlers and weightlifters may strain or lose mobility in their shoulders.

Even gentle activities like gardening can strain the knees and back over time.

A well-designed yoga practice stretches and strengthens the entire body, which makes it the perfect complement to any other regularly practiced activity.

When we bend and stretch in ways that are outside of our normal practice, we build resilience in our bodies.

The increased flexibility in our muscles and connective tissues make our bodies better able to handle repetitive motions, bumps, and falls.

If you feel like yoga has little to offer you in terms of a challenge, please just try a few classes and see for yourself what I’m talking about. You may be pleasantly surprised.

None of us likes to be judged – by ourselves or by others.

I sincerely hope that you consider taking that first step to facing that fear, by coming out and giving yoga a try.

You may just discover the joy and beauty, self-awareness, and self-confidence that exist on the other side of it.

— Andrew Jobes, Modo Yoga teacher