According to Psychology Today, over 85% of people who did yoga reported that it helped them relieve stress. But how many people never even give it a try? How many are intimidated by yoga beginner pictures that feature the model’s foot higher than her waist? That’s just not realistic for a lot of people.
Not when starting out, and sometimes not ever.
So people are defeated before they even begin, feeling that they will never be good at yoga.
Definitely not cool. We are all born with different levels of flexibility, and I have always struggled with it. So I was really nervous when I started to take up yoga. I tried to measure my progress against what I could do, not what everyone around me was doing. And then came the day I was finally able to touch my toes in a standing forward fold. I told my 80-year old mother. I was so proud. “You mean like this”? she asked, bending over and putting her hands flat on the floor.
I never spoke to her again.
Ok, so maybe I did. But it was actually quite eye-opening, because it truly brought home the fact that everyone’s body was different. There was no reason for my mom to be that flexible, but she was, just naturally. So why would I try and compete with that?
What has all this got to do with being good at yoga?
Fast forward to my first day of teacher training. We went around the room and had to say what we believed we were good at. I said “being a parent”, because I figured my yogi-mates would never meet my kids so they could never prove me wrong. Smart, right? But this one woman bravely said,
“I’m good at yoga”.
Hmmm. What did she mean by that? As we started to practice together, I soon realized that she believed she was good at yoga because she could do advanced poses. That’s a scary thought.
To me, being good at yoga, if there even is such a thing, means practising mindfully. It means paying attention to how you feel at every moment of your practice. It doesn’t matter if your hands reach your toes or your feet reach your nose.
Did you follow the lead of your own body? Or did you try and compete with your neighbour?
Did you support your body with props to make the pose work for you? Or did you try to impress everyone by powering through it?
Did you focus on your breath? Or on what had for dinner that night?
Anyone can practice yoga
Yoga itself means “yoke”, and it’s the joining of body and mind. This could simply mean lying in a supported, restorative pose and working with your breath. Or it could be aligning your breath with your movement in a power yoga class. Or it could be sitting on a chair and twisting on your exhale. It doesn’t matter. It’s all yoga, and it will all help you get through the daily grind of life.
So how do you know you’re good at yoga?
- you use props when you need them
- you don’t take yourself too seriously
- you don’t compare yourself to the other yogis in class
- you go at your own pace, even if it means falling out of step with the teacher
- you take child’s pose if you need a break
- you pay attention to your breath at all times and use it as your guide
- you position your body mindfully and make deliberate movements
- you never judge where you’re at, and you recognize that your body today, for good or for bad, is different from your body yesterday
- you get on your mat regularly
- you value a yogic mind more than a yoga butt
So stop worrying about whether your body is built for yoga. If you follow your breath, and focus on what your body is telling you, you’ll certainly be able to say: “I’m good at yoga.”
I truly hope that if you have been reluctant to try yoga, thinking that you just can’t do it, you’ll reconsider RIGHT NOW. Get that silly thought out of your head, and sign up for a class. Or try a little home practice with Yoga for Adriene.
Your body and your mind will thank you for it.
Tell me, what do you think makes someone good at yoga? What’s holding you back?