Have you ever felt that you are “not good enough” or “not flexible enough” to attend a yoga class? You may have been attracted to the idea of doing yoga, you may have tried a few classes, but felt too intimidated or discouraged to become a regular yoga student. The portrayal of yoga in the media, with all the flexible and amazing looking yogis and yoginis, does not help.
Today I would like to cheer on all those who think that yoga is not for them
purely on the basis of the stereotypes of modern-day yoga, or on the basis of one negative experience.
Firstly, yoga is not only about flexibility. Some people are too flexible and need more strength. Others feel their muscles are quite tight and they can use some releasing. If you are more strong than flexible you may be good at some poses, such as tree pose and shoulder stand, but need to work at others. Very often, part of one’s body is flexible (e.g. hips) while another part (e.g. hamstrings) is not at all. Your body is always somewhere on the scale between strength and flexibility and yoga can help you work towards a better equilibrium.
Secondly, there is a yoga class for everyone. I agree that there are quite a few classes for those who are fit, flexible and strong, but there are also many classes for people who like gentle, slow and careful yoga. Besides, acrobatic yoga is not necessarily the most advanced one! We have to remember that yoga is not only meant to benefit on a physical level, but is essentially holistic, advantageous to body, mind and spirit.
Scientific yoga research is increasingly recording the positive effects of a regular yoga practice on our health and emotional wellbeing. It has not found that one style of yoga is necessarily better than another one. However, it goes without saying that a yoga class has to ‘feel right’ and not be intimidating. We all have different needs, and these needs change in the course of our life. It is important to find a yoga style that corresponds to these requirements.
There are many yoga styles and variations within these styles, and different teachers within each style. It is important to try a few classes and not give up until you have found a class that makes you feel happy and content. If you are a beginner then choose a class that welcomes beginners, or a “hatha yoga” or “gentle yoga” class. Talk to the teacher to find out about the aims and level of the class, and how many students are in the class. If you have an injury or health challenge, find out if the teacher is familiar with the condition and knows how yoga could help.
If it feels difficult to find a good local yoga class, maybe a private session is what you need right now: someone to help you adapt the poses, understand the basics, learn which poses to avoid and how to use the breath.
The most amazing benefits from yoga come from the attention that we bring to our practice. When people say things like: “yoga changed my life!” it is not because they were able to stand on their head for 5 minutes or touch their toes in a forward bend. It is because the practice put them in touch with a sense of inner peace and wisdom.
My golden rule is that after a yoga session I want to feel that the world is a better place, and that it feels good to be in my body.
Have you ever had the sense of not being “good enough” for yoga? Don’t hesitate to share your experience below. And if you would like regular yoga tips, please subscribe to this blog.