I can’t touch my toes. I’m too old for that. I’m a guy, that’s for girls. I have no idea what I’m doing, I’ll make a fool of myself. What if I slip one in the middle of class?
I’ve heard them all, and then some. The reasons as to why people (including myself at one point) are afraid to lay it all out on the mat and give yoga a try.
Have you said one of these before? Then don’t let those eyes wander to whatever other browsers you have up, because we are about to have a serious heart to heart about why improving your flexibility is crucial for your everyday lifestyle, a vital essential to your overall wellbeing, and a necessary compliment to your physical activities.
I’ve received several emails in regards to taking yoga and being hesitant as first timers. Not only am I going to take all your fears, hesitation, and worries out of trying yoga for the first time to help expose you to something that, in my humble opinion, could just be life changing. But wait there’s more, continue reading for tips as well as a voucher to try your first yoga class with me for free! That’s right, I’m pretty much paying YOU to eliminate your fears and try something that is good for you, and that’s one steal of a deal you don’t want to pass up.
Maybe you’ve got your strength training down and even though you dread those agonizing hours of cardio, you do a pretty good job of getting it done each week. Or maybe you’re looking to get back into shape or heck, maybe it’s your first time having to get in shape at all (lucky you, welcome to the real world!) Either way, I’ll tackle each worry and question I’ve received in addition to a few that I had when I first tired yoga.
I’m not flexible – I’ve heard it too many times, “I can hardly touch my toes, how am I going to do yoga?” I always want to respond by asking, “Well how lucky are you that everything else in life has come easy to you on the first go around!” When something doesn’t come easy, then that’s the time you need it most. Those things in life that are the most beneficial for us, tend to require the most work as well. So how do you expect to become more flexible if you aren’t willing to try? Just as improving our muscular strength for the bones in our body is important, flexibility is equally vital to relieve stiff and achy joints as well as reduce the risk of injury.
She doesn’t know we’re friends yet, but I idolize her and am pretty determined to create our friendship sooner rather than later as she is 96-years-old, making her the world’s oldest yoga teacher. She’s even had a hip replacement and yet still continues to have a daily practice. “I love yoga, it brightens my day and makes everyone smile.” There are several benefits to a daily practice including strengthening the mind and body without straining yourself with heavy weights and hours of cardio.
I’m waiting until I get in shape – Okay, so I excuse me while I get a little sassy on this one. So you’re waiting to get in shape, so that you can, get in shape? If what you’re doing right now isn’t getting you in the physical condition you’re after, what will it hurt to try something new? A healthy lifestyle involves many pillars including strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and an overall wellness. Yoga incorporates all of these. Not only does yoga give you the opportunity to find flexibility and strength in the body, but it also helps to invigorate the mind, body, and soul.
I can’t sit still for that long – Oh we are soul mates, as I am the queen of not being able to sit still. Can I tell you how many times I have stood up and had to refocus my energy just to write this blog? There’s a reason it takes me forever to publish one sometimes! What I’ve found helps me is focusing on each inhalation and exhalation and visualizing where that oxygen is going and how it’s revitalizing different organs and muscles in my body. Still too much for you? Try focusing on where you feel any energy or blocked energy (tension) in your body to link your practice together with your breath. Can’t knock it until you’ve tried it! You may even catch yourself doing this throughout your day when you feel stressed or worn out.
What if… – I get stuck in a pose. My leggings split. I kick the person next to me in the face. Out of nowhere I “fluffy” (what my mom used to have us girls refer to as “passing gas out the behind”) and everyone hears it! Then what?? My answer: The world won’t come crashing down, people aren’t going to kick you out, and you’re going to have a hilarious story to tell at your next social gathering. That is IF this happens, which the only thing I’ve really experienced is lightly tapping the person next to me with my foot and hand on accident and to be honest, we’ve all slipped a few clouds here and there, it happens when you’re moving your body around! So don’t be embarrassed and don’t let these reasons keep you from trying yoga.
First, go to Target, Walmart, Sports Authority, even TJ Maxx, anywhere that sells a basic non-slip yoga mat for less than $25. Most places will also have mats to rent but consider this your first investment and commitment to begin your yoga journey! Find one that excites you when you put your hands on it, maybe it’s a fun color with a wacky design. Or maybe it’s a simple color that allows you to focus on moving your body and channeling inwards. Find the mat that calls out to you! Cheesy? Just wait until you are standing in front of an array of mats of all different colors and sizes and trying to pick one out, then you’ll get where I’m coming from. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or the color of your mat, but the first time you step into a yoga class I want you to be so excited it overcomes all your fears! And sometimes a fun yoga mat (and possibly your favorite pair of yoga pants you’ve been wearing to run errands) is what it takes to get you excited.
1. Start with a beginner class, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! We’ve all been beginners at something in our life, and everyone who is your yoga class or teaching will have been a beginner at one point and can relate to what you’re feeling.
2. Listen to your body. If something feels uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to sit it out by going into child’s pose (sitting back onto your heels, belly resting between the thighs, and arms stretched out in front or beside you) or taking a savasana laying down on your back. Your teacher will gladly provide modifications that can help you find that juicy twist or satisfying stretch your body is looking for.
3. Introduce yourself to your teacher and the students around you. I have made several of my close friends simply by talking to them after a yoga class and making a connection with them. This way you have another reason to get out of bed and make it to that 6:00 am class or find the energy to find your zen after work, when you know a friend will be there waiting.
4. No comparisons! This one is still challenging even for those who have been practicing for years. Looking around to see what everyone else is doing can be helpful for guidance into postures, but also realize that every person’s body is different. Some people have hamstrings that need a little more love in the flexibility department, other people’s shoulders need a little more coaxing than others. Your body is going to differentiate between what can be pushed a little stronger, and what needs to hold back for some TLC on a day to day basis. Comparing what you may have been able to do once to what you are able to do now doesn’t allow you to grow in new directions than you’ve been before.
5. Hydrate and be comfortable! I’m not saying to down a gallon of water before class, but consistency is key. Drink throughout the day and make sure you’re fueling your body as well. That way you are able to go into class on an empty stomach (preferably) and have energy without feeling as if you starved yourself all day.
6. I repeat, consistency is key! Don’t allow your frustration to get the best of you when the person in front of you goes into a handstand with their legs tangled up in each other and you’re sitting back straining to even get your fingertips to touch your toes. (First off, I’ve never seen that pose in a beginner class and only ONCE in an advanced class. I had to gently release my jaw from the floor before I could sit back and be amazed.) Like I said earlier, we’ve all had to start as beginners at many things in our lives so you know just as well as I do that it takes time, patience, practice, and giving yourself some much needed love at the end of the day in order to move forward with our goals in life. Celebrate the fact that you made it to class and from there, allow the benefits of yoga take over your body and simply be in the present moment.
7. Don’t push it. I love Salt-N-Pepa just as much, if not more, than the next person. But yoga is something where you definitely don’t want to push it “real good”. Just because you can stretch to a certain spot or maybe you’re just a few inches away from where you want to be so you’ll try to just push your way into it, doesn’t mean you should as overstretching can cause your body some serious pain. Listen to your body and allow your breath and mind to tell you when it’s okay to go a little farther and when it’s time to sit back and enjoy the spot you’re in.
8. I’ll end with that, give it time and simply allow yourself to be. You are in an atmosphere where people are loving, kind, welcoming, and encouraging. Have you ever seen an angry yogi before? If you feel or have felt unwelcomed or uncomfortable in a yoga class, I will highly encourage you to try other places. We all have our go to coffee shops, places to shop and eat with friends, even our favorite people in our life and it took time to find these but as soon as we did, we knew it was “our thing” because it was a place where we felt welcomed and appreciated the way we felt when we were there. Give it time and know there are many different types of yoga and a variety of places and classes to try out and see what fits your needs and personality best.