Whenever I meet someone who has never practiced yoga, I often hear a number of reasons why they have never taken a yoga class. I’m not sure why people often feel compelled to tell me their stories, but I am always happy to listen for it always fascinates me as to the reason why people avoid taking a yoga class. This by no means is meant to decrease what may seem like the most logical reasons in the world, but it is to challenge you (if this describes you) into a new point of view. Things I might hear:
· I’m not flexible; I can’t even touch my toes
· I have no idea what I’m doing; everyone else will know what they are doing and I’ll feel stupid
· I once went to yoga class and had no idea how to do the poses. I would need to go to a beginner’s class or work with someone individually before I to go another class
· I don’t have time
· I don’t have a mat
· I’ll be self-conscious in public in yoga clothes
These are just some of the things I hear and in your head, you may be hearing something different when it comes to why you haven’t taken the first step to go to a yoga class. Maybe on some level, you know it would be healthy for you; you see your friends have done it, started it, somehow gotten up the nerve and worked through the awkwardness of learning, but you’ve got no sense of how you would do it. So, you sit, trapped somewhere between your head and your feet and nothing happens.
This kind of paralysis happens with lots of things. It might be what’s holding you back from taking a new job, or even looking for a new job. It might be what’s holding you back from networking with people you don’t know all that well. It might be what’s holding you back from starting a new romantic relationship or growing further with the one you have. It might be what’s holding you back from learning any new skill, taking a new class or going back to school.
The mind is always at work, and oftentimes, it’s not to push us further into new territory, but instead to keep us locked up in the box of what we already know. What we already know is rooted for many of us in how we’re raised, our environment, our cultures, our past experiences. To grow into new areas and try new things means to avoid listening to those voices and to proceed anyway. This can take an amazing amount of self-talk and many of us lose that battle day after day.
Negative self-talk also can be fueled by our perceptions of what other people’s lives are like. The growth of social networking has brought us new ways of staying connected with each other (although some might counter this and say it has actually gotten in the way of building relationships the old fashioned way; in person!) but with it has come a new way to feed unhealthy perceptions about the lives our friends are leading. Perception is killer; as soon as you get caught up in the idea of what other’s lives are like, all you do is cut off your own ability to do what you want to do, in your own way. It’s a fine balance; exposure to new ideas can help us grow but it can also feed our feelings of inadequacy. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
So what can yoga teach us about moving past the head and into action? Yoga is an individual practice that’s all about the connection between mind and body. The definition of yoga is to “yoke” or “join” and to join “body” and “mind” translates into action. It is the pure expression of hearing, integrating and putting into action movement. It is through this experience that we begin to conquer our fears about what is possible in our bodies. And through this experience, we begin to quell those voices that tell us, “I can’t” or “my body doesn’t do that” or “I’m the only one in the room that doesn’t know the poses.” And with every experience where we take action and “act as if” we build confidence and demonstrate to ourselves that we can move past our fears, our feelings of inadequacy and move into the joy of accomplishment. And it doesn’t have to mean we did it perfectly and it doesn’t mean it wasn’t challenging and it doesn’t mean it wasn’t fraught with pitfalls. But it means that despite it all, we did it anyway. And in that, there is nothing but pure joy.