At the start of every new year, there are lots of new resolutions and promises made. For many people, their resolution is to include Yoga as part of their wellness plan. It is truly the best decision ever, to make a promise to treat your body and mind with kindness! Please, don’t give up on this resolution after a few classes, pace yourself and build your practice 0over time. This is a resolution that will span your lifetime and could possibly change your body and your life.
For me, as a Yoga teacher, at the start of each year, more than ever, I hear so many apologies!
‘I’m sorry, I’ve never done Yoga before’
‘I’m sorry, I’m not very GOOD at Yoga’
‘I’m sorry, I have an old injury…’
I reckon No.1 apology is…
‘I’m sorry, I’m not very flexible’
I hear this at least once a day. Rest assured that you don’t need to apologise to your teacher, or anyone else for that matter, for any part of your yoga practice!
I wonder, if you apologised to anyone when you went for your first run, and spent a minute at the side of the road coughing your lungs up?
Was your first run 10k? Probably not, I hope! I would expect your first run was around 5 minutes and you built the pace and distance up gradually.
Yoga is just the same. In your first class, you are very likely to have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. You’ll possibly find you’re sweating profusely despite not having moved out of your 3m square mat space, you’ll likely to have no control over your breath even though the teacher is kindly telling you when to breathe in and out, you’ll absolutely hate holding down dog for 5 breaths, 5 breaths seem will seem like an eternity and your poor wrists may feel like they are going to just, give out.
DON’T WORRY! This is normal for a first class (and the subsequent 6-8 classes!)
Yoga is simply about spending time on yourself. Connecting to your body and breath and clearing your mind by focusing on your practice. Dedicating yourself to a practice 1, 2 or 3 times a week, you’ll begin to remember the sequences and postures, your body will become stronger and more flexible as will your mind. Over the period of only 8 weeks, you will begin to notice the difference in your body. You’ll have started to recognise and remember postures. After a year, you will find that your posture, breath and practice are quite different from that first class. You’ll have even started to love Down Dog! It takes time and dedication.
The majority of people are not that flexible. I would estimate that 90% of the people that come to my classes have tight hips, hamstrings and lower backs, many have injuries they are trying to recover from or prevent from worsening. Certainly not all of these people can touch their toes. In fact, if I spot a ‘super bendy’ person in a class, chances are they are an ex-gymnast or dancer. They are not the ‘norm’.
You, the unbendy people, you are the norm!
I got to wondering where feeling the need to apologise for the lack of bendiness comes from.
In an open class for all levels, typically, the super bendy and well-practised yogis migrate towards the front of the Yoga space, they know their practice and they want the finer detail of perfecting postures. The beginners head to the back as they want to take in the big picture and feel safe knowing there are amongst other less bendy people and they can look to the front to copy ‘the bendies’ when they have no idea what is going on. This set up means that beginners think they should be at the same level as bendy Wendy at the front of the class… Not so.
And then there’s the Yogis of Instagram craze? Do you watch videos of very advanced Yoga practitioners contorting their bodies into shapes and balances unimaginable for you?
Yep, so do I! In fact, sometimes I have even found myself questioning if I am any ‘good’ at Yoga at all!
I think it’s fair to say that this is a generally an unreal depiction of the level of a typical Yoga class and sets expectations of one’s own body (and practice) far too high. In fact, you could even injure yourself if you try to push your body into a posture far too advanced for you yet. It takes time. Small steps. And let’s be fair, some postures may not be achievable in this body, in this lifetime. No matter how determined we are, our anatomy may be the dictator of that.
Even if your intention is to become more flexible, detach yourself from the end goal and just enjoy the journey.
The huge majority of Yogi practitioners in class are just there because Yoga makes them feel great. And that is what it is all about.
Let me reassure you that neither I or any other Yoga teacher in the world, is judging your yoga practice or expecting an apology for the lack of your flexibility. We are simply grateful that you turned up.
Most importantly your body will be grateful.
So, get your Yoga Leggs on. Roll out your mat. Breathe and move.
See you on the mat