Yoga. What do you hear when someone says those words? Do you envision someone twisted up? So flexible you can’t figure out which part is up or down? Or do you see a group of people bowing down to a statue, humming along with their movements in some strange form of worship. Or do you see a fitness group that is only for those thin girls that are able to manipulate their bodies into a pose so difficult your body aches just thinking about it?
No matter what we know about yoga, we all have these preconceived notions about what it actually is. We have this picture about what it’s supposed to be, and we think that we need to fit into these narrow standards. If we don’t fit into the standard view of what yoga is then clearly, it’s just not for us.
So many people have said this to me, I have to literally bite my tongue and watch myself for fear of rolling my eyes and lecturing every person who has those words fall from their lips. As I explain to someone that I am a certified instructor, I get the typical “Oh that’s so nice for you to be doing that. There is no way I can do that.” That’s just the most basic of replies I get, I have gotten several other replies before consisting of “I’m not flexible enough” “don’t you need to be able to touch your toes?” “Yoga? Isn’t that a load of hooey??” just to name a few. In response to these, yes it is nice, yes you can do it, no you don’t need to be flexible and you don’t need to touch your toes. And NO it is not a bunch of “hooey” since yoga in itself isn’t actually promising some magical cure all. I might be getting a little bit snarky, but the amount of people who have never tried yoga but tell me that it would be impossible for them to even try gets so old so fast.
I’m not sure what started this idea that you need a perfect body, perfect flexibility and vast knowledge of all things yoga to attend a class. But that is not the case, in fact it is so far from the truth I can’t even imagine how we came to believe these lies society gives us.
Yoga is not about doing each pose perfectly, matching some model pulled off google who has been twisted into the most complicated version of whatever pose is being modeled. No, yoga is so much more than those ideas we somehow have come to believe. Yoga is a way of relaxation, a form of semi intensive exercise and breathing practices. Breathing actually plays a huge part in yoga, although in the modern world of yogic exercise this part of yoga generally gets forgotten.
Yoga helps with my back pain, it can help focus and ground my mind. It can bring peace, and it can help to loosen up some very sore muscles. And it did all that before I learned to touch my toes. There are actually so many poses that I am still unable to hold. My handstand looks more like a wobbling pillar (or more like a crumbling, collapsing pillar), and I still have trouble balancing on my left side. Me and the ground are really good friends when I practice balance.
And I know that yoga isn’t for everyone, I don’t like every form of exercise out there. That’s fine, I don’t mind if someone doesn’t enjoy doing it. But to have never even tried and then say that you can’t do yoga isn’t an accurate statement. It’s just that so many people jump to the conclusion before they even try. I used to be the same way, I loved the idea of yoga and I had always wanted to try. But I was telling myself I just wasn’t flexible enough, and that I didn’t know enough about it or how to do it.
But this is why we take classes, to learn. We don’t tell ourselves we can’t have an eduction because we don’t know it all, we don’t say that we can’t learn something knew because we don’t fit some standard. So why do we do this with yoga? Once I got out of my head and tried it out, I loved it. So much so I became certified. And I am so glad that I did.
So give it a try, because yoga can fit all types. With props and modifications anything is accessible in yoga. I still use a strap for my practice, and I love doing so. It makes so many poses more accessible to me. Instead of saying that you can’t do it, ask how you can do it. Yoga is a practice that can be beneficial to all, if only we take the time to try it out.
So yes, yoga isn’t for me, at least the preconceived notion of perfection and flexibility isn’t for me. However the practice of yoga is for me. Because that’s just what it is, a practice. We don’t call it a yoga performance, because we aren’t perfect. Practice is what we do to get better at something, and that is what we are doing with yoga. And literally anyone can practice yoga, Buzzfeed actually made a pretty good point of this when they made a video on yoga. Actually they have made several but this is my favorite one. Another good one is plus sized women prove yoga is for everyone.
And while it may seem that yoga studios or classes only cater to a certain group, we can change this way of thinking if we learn to embrace something new and stop making assumptions that are purely from bias and not fact. Not every class or studio is going to be perfect. Not every class or studio will be welcoming. It might actually take a while to find something that specifically fits your needs. But it is so worth it. There have been a few classes that just did not click with me. I have a couple awkward yoga stories (for another post) that shamed me to no end. But all in all I had found that this practice was for me and that I need and wanted it in my life.
So before passing judgement on something you have never tried, try it. However, if you have tried it and hated it then judge all you want. At least you tried.