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I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible.
If I had a dollar…. I’m not flexible is just one of the many myths that prevent more people from enjoying the benefits of yoga. Saying you’re not flexible is precisely why you should do yoga, among other benefits which I’ll get into later.
Instagram is chock-full of pictures of beautiful people standing on their heads, twisted up in a Cirque du Soleil-like fashion. If that’s your only exposure to yoga, then I totally get it. That is pretty intimidating, enough to scare most people away. Luckily, that’s only a small representation of what modern-day yoga actually is.
Yoga is for everybody.
There is a yoga level for everybody. From high power flow to chair yoga that my Nana did in her 90s. And everywhere in between. Know what your goals are and what to look for.
What is Yoga really? It’s new and trendy right?
Yoga actually has roots in thousands of years of history. But I won’t bore you with that, you have other things to do.
The short answer is: yoga is a practice that joins the mind, body, and spirit. It uses asanas (poses) and breathing techniques. Some common pose names that have made their way into the mainstream include downward dog and child’s pose. You may have heard of them.
The primary benefits of yoga include flexibility, balance, strength, and relaxation.
Yoga has also been incorporated to help manage other health conditions including migraines, stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and insomnia just to name a few.
There are many different types of yoga geared toward different ages, ability levels, goals, and interests. Hatha, Power, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Restorative, Yin, Iyengar, Bikram, Hot Yoga. And more.
You just said a lot of words.
Point being, whatever you need, there’s a yoga for that! If you’re a beginner and you find your way to an advanced power flow class, there’s a good chance you’re not going back.
How to make Yoga more approachable.
Yoga is very accessible no matter what your price point or location. You can access tons of free yoga classes on YouTube. There are also affordable download and streaming options.
Many yoga instructors do not recommend starting with a home practice if you have no prior experience. Check out a YouTube video of beginner yoga just to familiarize yourself with some basic poses. When you get to a class, you’ve had some exposure.
If you’re comfortable with the basics, a home practice can be a good way to add extra yoga into a busy schedule. It’s also a great way to save money on those pricey classes!
If your gym has classes, check out their yoga selection.
Be sure to read class descriptions as yoga classes may be disguised as stretch, flow, or fusion classes. The description will also tell you what level the class is intended for. If you’re a beginner look for the words gentle yoga, level 1 yoga, beginner yoga, or all levels welcome.
Another cheap and cheerful way to dip your toe in the yoga water is local studios that offer community or donation-based classes.
Libraries or other community centers may be locations for these classes. (Sometimes local Lululemon or Athleta stores feature free classes!) Donation-based classes are a great way to check out a studio without committing.
Finally, there are private studios. This is where you will typically find the best quality instruction. Studios offer many yoga classes several times/days per week and can provide that zen experience. Average prices range from $10-25 per class, depending on the studio and location. Sales and new client packages are a great way to score deals.
But wait, I’m new and afraid of looking silly.
No one is there to judge you. Everyone is working on individual goals and challenges. And are just as concerned about you judging them. Just like real life, worry about you. Any good studio or class will be welcoming and judgment-free.
Here are some other tips to help you get ready for your first class!
Introduce yourself to the instructor and let them know you’re new.
Inform them of any injuries or conditions that may affect your ability to perform various poses. Some common conditions include osteoporosis, pregnancy, arthritis, joint replacements, recent or chronic injuries, etc. If you’re not sure, ask.
Find a place for your mat.
Somewhere you can see and hear the instructor clearly. Take advantage of mirrors, they will help with form. Be mindful of personal space when setting up. It’s considered disrespectful to walk on someone else’s mat.
Don’t be that guy.
Observe the tone in the room. B
Make sure your phone is silenced, nothing ruins a Savasana like an unexpected call!
Props are your friends.
Blocks, blankets, straps, bolsters. Stock up.
They exist to make you more comfortable and to enhance your practice. There is no shame in using them. I use all of the above whenever I get a chance. Gather a few props to keep near your mat during the class. You can seamlessly grab a block and get right back to it.
Wear comfortable clothing.
Wear something that does not restrict your movement. Bring a long sleeve top or sweater as studio temperatures are notoriously unpredictable.
Mats and props may be available.
Confirm this prior to class. No worries if you don’t own a mat. Bring a towel for hygiene purposes if using a community mat.
If you’re looking to invest in a yoga mat, check out Clever Yoga’s selection.
Resistance vs. pain.
Always remember – listen to your body no matter what the instructor is telling you. No matter what the person next to you is doing.
Everyone is different and has their own injuries, comfort levels, and challenges. It’s not a competition.
As you move through poses, there will be different sensations such as stretching, pulling, resistance.
Pain should never be one of them.
Listen for modifications to help protect you. And if all else fails, take a child’s pose.
Some days are better than others.
Balance can be off, you can feel tight, mind distracted.
Do what you can do today. Manage your expectations and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Try multiple instructors.
The reality is not everybody loves everybody. It’s cool.
If you don’t care for a class or teaching strategy, etc., just try another instructor. You’ll find someone that resonates with you, but don’t be discouraged and give up forever.
…and avoid eating a large meal too close to class.
Including yoga can help you create a well-rounded exercise program. Even adding one time per week or smaller 20 min sessions at home to fit your schedule will have a positive impact on your overall wellness. Flexibility is often forgotten, start today.