I’ve been teaching yoga for many years and I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people don’t try it. I’m not one to push yoga on anyone, so if your reason is that you just don’t think you’ll enjoy it, then that’s fine. But many people say they’d like to try it but there is something getting in the way. Here are some of those reasons and support for how to get on the mat even in the face of one (or more) of them:
I’m not flexible enough.
Most people, when they say they are not flexible enough, mean that they can’t touch their toes. This is generally due to tight hamstrings and a tight lower back. To alleviate this, bend your knees. Bend them in any pose where you’re asked to touch your toes or hang forward. Bend them as you’re moving from standing to folding forward; bend them in Downward Facing Dog to release some of the pressure on the hamstrings. I would say that bending the knees is the most common modification I suggest to people, newer or otherwise.
I’m not familiar with the poses.
Start with a beginner class. These classes are geared towards people that are new and the teacher will explain the poses. However, if you can’t get to one due to scheduling, try a power yoga or flow (vinyasa) class. These classes generally stick to an athletic, functional movement type sequence, versus a class that has a number of poses that are more advanced and require a great deal of flexibility.
I don’t have yoga clothes.
Although there are some great yoga clothes out there to encourage movement, you don’t necessarily need clothes specific to yoga to practice. Wear what you’d wear to the gym or for a run. The only thing to avoid is wearing socks. Even if you’re self-conscious about your feet, try it without socks. You’ll slip less and start to develop dexterity in your feet. This greater awareness will help you as you move through the sequence.
I don’t have time.
Most yoga studios offer classes throughout the day as well as the weekends so there is often a way to find something that will fit your schedule. If none of the options work, try an on-line class or a video. It’s not ideal but is another option. If you’re a beginner, I’d highly recommend trying a few classes before you try to use a home practice as a way to practice yoga.
I don’t know where to go for class.
Stick with something close to where you live. Chances are, the closer the studio, the more inclined you’ll be to attend class. Ask your friends if they attend the studio for some feedback. Check out Yelp.com for reviews. Look for deals with Group On or Living Social. Check your gym’s schedule for yoga classes.
I don’t have a mat.
All studios have mats to rent for a nominal fee.
I’m not spiritual.While yoga is a spiritual practice as well as physical, it is not necessary that you chant, know Sanskrit, pray, read from yoga texts or do anything else of the kind in a class. It also isn’t necessary that you do anything to express your spirituality. It is perfectly acceptable to focus on the physical aspect of yoga; the breathing, stretching and strengthening.
I’ve got a bad knee (or back, or any other body part).
If you have an old or current injury or you have a past history that includes surgery on any particular body part, let the teacher know. He or she will help you with modifications that you can use in class. Also, use your own judgment in class. Avoid poses that you believe will be harmful and feel free to create your own modifications. Start with beginner classes as well so you have the full support of the teacher and a sequence that is general and beginner focused.
My mind can’t relax enough for me to take a class.
This is a similar reason to the one above having to do with “not being spiritual enough.” Even if you take a yoga class and your mind races the whole time, you will still get a great deal of benefit. The physical aspects of yoga: the stretching, the strengthening and the deep breathing will have a positive affect. Over time, if you stick with it and focus on what you’re doing, your mind will begin to slow down.
I like something athletic that will get my heart rate up and get me sweating. Yoga just won’t do that.
It really depends on what style of yoga you practice and what kind of class. If you try a power yoga and/or heated class, you will increase your heart rate, sweat and most definitely get a workout!
As with any kind of exercise, you need to try it before passing judgment on if it suits you. With yoga, I always suggest that people try a few different styles of classes and even different studios before making a final decision on if yoga is right for them. The best approach is to keep an open mind and take the pressure off of yourself to be perfect. Have fun and enjoy another way to be healthy!