So, you’re thinking about beginning to learn Yoga. That is fantastic. You are possibly taking a step towards greater physical health, lower stress, better sleep, great self-image and so much more. Yoga is a potentially life-changing practice. It has certainly transformed me and my life beyond recognition. I would highly recommend it, but I may be a bit biased I know!
If you have never practised Yoga before, or if you have tried it once or twice but aren’t sure it is for you, you may have doubts and questions. I’ve come across many questions and misunderstandings about Yoga, and would love to clear some of these up for you.
I’ve been living with Yoga for many years now, so can’t remember all the questions a beginner is likely to have. If you have any other questions that I haven’t covered here, please let me know in the comments and I will address them for you.
You don’t have to be flexible to begin Yoga classes
“I can’t do Yoga, I’m not flexible enough“
This is probably the most common reason people give to not start. It breaks my heart, it really does. Sadly, in the Instagram age, we see Yoga as elaborate, gymnastic postures that can only be done if you are super bendy and thin. This is to the detriment of us all. It means that people who will benefit from the practices think they are excluded from them, and that is a great loss.
Yoga will help you to get flexible. If you have stiff, tense muscles, you will get great benefit from a Yoga practice that allows you to gently stretch and release that tension. Learning good breathing will also help you to relax your muscles. Tense, stiff muscles are likely to contribute to a tense, stiff mind, and vice versa. Yoga will help you to relax both.
Yoga is not just about the body
Many people, including pre-Yoga teacher training me, think that Yoga is merely a physical exercise. Many styles of it are, with no focus on any other aspects of the practice than the postures. The postures are very good for promoting physical health and wellbeing, but there is so much more to it than that.
Yoga is not about what you can do with your body. It is about how you live your life. Yoga is a holistic practice that takes into account all aspects of the human condition. This includes physical health and care of the body of course, but it is also concerned with how we live, how we think, how we speak, how we treat others, ourselves and the world around us, and how to grow through life. You can learn more about this in this post, the start of a series about Yoga as a tool for life.
Yoga is not just for women
Again, the popular media images of Yoga seem to promote the idea that Yoga is predominately for women. While it is true that in the West, Yoga is more practised than women than men, it is invaluable for men as well. In fact, prior to the export of Yoga to the West, Yoga was almost exclusively a practice for men. Most Indian Gurus are men.
There are many reasons why men will benefit from developing a regular Yoga practice. I cover several in this blog post that I would urge you to share with your male friends and family members. It can offer an oasis of inner peace in a world that makes it very difficult for men to connect to their emotions. We are facing a male mental health crisis, and Yoga can offer a powerful solution for men to manage their feelings.
There are many different styles of Yoga
My mother once came to a Yoga class with me. She didn’t like it. She concluded from that one class that she didn’t like Yoga. Even when I trained in a very different style, and have a very different approach to how I teach, she still thinks she doesn’t like Yoga. I used the analogy of a restaurant. If you went to a restaurant and didn’t like the food, you would know not to go to that restaurant, or not to order that dish again. You wouldn’t think that you don’t like restaurants.
There are many different traditional schools and styles of Yoga. In the 21st Century, there are even more styles of Yoga, as teachers develop their own style, blending in aspects of dance, aerobics, gymnastics and more to create unique styles. Many of these are fairly removed from the traditional ideas and practices of Yoga, fitting more into the fitness world than the traditional form of Yoga. You may need to try several styles and teachers before you find one that works for you. Don’t assume because one teacher or style didn’t work for you that Yoga isn’t right for you. There are other styles that might suit you better.
Yoga is about listening to your body, not pushing it
Many forms of exercise encourage you to push your body to, and even beyond, its limits. Some styles of Yoga do this too. I would argue that this is not Yoga.
Yoga is about bringing mind and body into harmony and balance, listening and surrendering to what your body needs. Pushing your body to extremes, forcing your muscles to stretch beyond their natural ability, ignoring and pushing through pain is more likely to result in injury than harmony and balance, and is certainly not something this yoga teacher would encourage. Given time and regular practice, and deep, relaxing breaths, your body will find its way into the postures at a pace that is healthy and sustainable. I always advise my students to listen to me, but to listen to their own bodies over and above my instruction. When you listen, your body tells you exactly what it needs. Yoga helps you learn to hear and respond to what it tells you.
What can Yoga give to you?
Yoga is a wonderful practice that can bring many beautiful gifts to your life. It has given me recovery from addiction, self-respect, sleep, emotional balance, resilience and tools to manage my sometimes fragile mental health in a far healthier way than I used to. It has also given me acceptance of my life and myself, forgiveness, compassion, self-awareness and greater tolerance than I used to have. And it has given me a healthier, stronger, more flexible body that I am finally comfortable in.
If you would like to explore how Yoga can help you learn to live your best life, come along to one of my classes in Treorchy and Tonypandy, or get in touch to book a one to one in person or virtual class. You might be surprised at how much it can transform your life