In my experience as a yoga student and teacher, I’ve run across a number of reasons why people avoid taking a yoga class. I thought it might be fun (and helpful) to list out what I’ve heard and to try to debunk some of these excuses. Take a read and let me know what you think:
I don’t know how to do it
I don’t understand the different styles of yoga
I’m not flexible; I can’t even touch my toes
I don’t have time
I’m not religious or spiritual
I’m a runner/cyclist/triathlete/ golfer/ gym rat and I don’t need yoga to stay fit
Everyone else knows what they’re doing except me
Yoga is for girls
I don’t have a mat or yoga clothes.
You may have your won and please feel free to add your own by sending me a comment. The more I have, the more I can provide a counter position and that only helps as I meet new students. There’s usually no shortage of reasons to not practice yoga or try it for the first time but there are just as many reasons to do it!
” I don’t know how to do it.” I teach a lot of kids. I start them as young as three years old and I can tell you, many of them have never tried yoga before. Not once, have I heard a kid say to me, “I don’t know how to do this.” Ok, so maybe once or twice I’ve heard that. In fact, one child came up to me before class and said,” I just wanted to let you know that I don’t do tree pose very well.” Ok, well he got points for honesty. But truthfully, if you’re going to let a little bit of “not knowing” get in the way of trying yoga, then you’ll be missing out on the chance that you may find tremendous strength and peace in something but you’ll never know. In most cases, the emotion behind this statement is fear. Fear of not doing it well, fear of looking silly, fear of the unfamiliar. Kids have a zest for living and diving into the unknown. Be a kid again and see what happens!
“I don’t understand the different styles of yoga.” I recently wrote a blog post where I outlined some of the different styles of yoga you might find at your local studio. All studios list on their website each class and a description of each, but that doesn’t always mean you can understand what you’re in for by reading the information. So, if you read what’s posted and you don’t know your “vinyasa” from your “ashtanga,” call the studio. Talk to the owner or whomever answers the phone and see whta you can find out. Or, check out some of their descriptions and do a little reading up on the style. Yoga Journal has a great website (www.yogajournal.com) and you can search any term and get some really good background on the style. Also, a somewhat less scientific approach is to just try a class and see what you think and see how it feels. Ultimately, that’s the best measure of what will work for you.
“I’m not flexible; I can’t even touch my toes.” Wow, if I had a dime for every time I’d heard this, I’d be rich (well, maybe not rich but I could go out to dinner for sure). Believe it or not, there are some days I can’t touch my toes and I’ve been practicing for over a decade. Guess what? It makes no difference if you touch your toes or not. Yoga is not only about toe touching and leg lengthening; it’s about committing to health through breathing and moving. There are no points given, no scoring involved. You modify what you’re doing to make it suit your body type, your level of flexibility. Hopefully, your teacher will throw out suggesting for how to modify the practice but when in doubt, bend your knees. It takes the load off your hamstrings. Use blocks under your hands (the tall ones, not the little ones).
“I don’t have time.” We’re all strapped for time. In this world of high tech, we can all manage effectively the time we have but we can’t seem to make time for the one thing that should mean more to us than anything else: our health. Making time for your health can’t be something you push off to tomorrow because what if tomorrow never comes? Making time for exercise only improves our life all around. So, how do you do it? Making time for yoga should be easier than any other kind of fitness routine because it’s completely portable and can be done anywhere and with very little in the way of equipment. If you can’t get to a local yoga class at a studio, you can very easily practice on your own. Yoga Glow has some great classes online (www.yogaglow.com) as does You Tube. Even your local cable provider will have yoga classes you can watch on TV. When all else fails, get up 20 minutes early and do some sun salutations and a few other poses on the feet and then a few on the floor. Doing a little bit of yoga 3 or 4 times a week is better than doing yoga for an hour once a week. It starts to create a healthy habit the more you do it!
“I’m not religious or spiritual.” I have a friend of mine that once said to me, “Yeah, I went to a few yoga classes but I couldn’t get into all of that new-agey spiritual stuff so I figured what was the point of going?” Yes, yoga is a spiritual practice as well as a physical one. But spirituality can be a unique and personal experience for everyone. What’s spiritual and touches your soul is very different for me. And, the good news is there’s not a “right way” or a “wrong way” to be spiritual. So, you go, you hear a few “Oms,” you see a few yoga statues or hear some Sanskrit terms. You might be asked to “open your heart” or “push yourself outside what you think is possible.” I don’t know; every yoga teacher is different. But there’s nothing to say you have to be spiritual to take a yoga class. Some of the most inexperienced yoga students I’ve ever taught have had more insight and deep spirituality than I have ever seen. Spirituality knows no age, race or gender. If you go to yoga and find that you’re just there for the exercise, great. Maybe over time that will change but if it doesn’t, don’t let that be a deterrent to continuing.
“I’m a runner/cyclist/triathlete/ golfer/ gym rat and I don’t need yoga to stay fit.” Yoga is one of those things that is great for everyone, regardless of age or experience level. I just started teaching moms and babies and I can say it’s amazing to see how mothers and babies interact while breathing and moving together on the yoga mat. If you’re an avid athlete of any kind, yoga is crucial to include in your exercise regimen. It will build flexibility, it will reinforce the strength you already have and build new strength where you lack muscle. It will evenly work all sides of the body; the front, back, right side and left side. This can be so important for athletes that tend to do the same movements on the same joint planes over and over again (think swinging a golf club or baseball bat; riding a bike, running). It will build core strength to give you a stable mid-section. It will improve your coordination. it will give you mental toughness and an ability to stay with a physical challenge. When you read these things, there’s no way you can skip at least a once-a-week yoga practice.
“Everyone else knows what they’re doing except me.” This kind of goes along with the first excuse but it’s fueled by the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Once we get it into our heads that everyone else knows how to do the “yoga moves” except us, we get fearful that we’ll look silly and like an odd man (or woman) out. Well, guess what? The person next to you probably is thinking the same thing! Even though I’ve been practicing for a while, I feel this way when I go to a new studio or try a new style of yoga. Sure it’s unfamiliar but the best thing you can bring to something new is your attitude. Bring an open mind and an “I wanna learn” perspective and see how powerful that can be!
“Yoga is for girls.” Lance Armstrong, 7-time Winner of the Tour de France. Tim Thomas, goalie for the Boston Bruins. Kelly Slater and Laird Hamilton, World Class Big Wave Surfers. Enough said.
“I don’t have a mat or yoga clothes.” Yoga has become a big business and there’s a product for every yogic need ( and some products meet needs you didn’t even know you had!) But you can always just go to class in something you’d wear for a regular workout. Start there and don’t let clothing be an excuse!
So, there you have it. Some things you’ve probably said to yourself before and maybe some you’ve never heard. Remember, most of what we throw out as an excuse is just fueled by fear of the unknown. Be compassionate with yourself, be fearless and jump on your yoga mat!