There are many pre-conceptions and presumptions about yoga that can often confuse people or put them off starting a practice or going to a class.
Here’s the top 5 that I hear or get asked most often.
I’m not flexible enough to do yoga - I‘ll be no good at it.
Well - where do you start with that? I touched on this in a recent reel on instagram - since when was it not ok to be a beginner, to 'suck'at something before you practice it? If you're stiff and inflexible a yoga class is exactly where you should be! The trick is finding the right one - you can’t plonk yourself into an advanced Astanga class and expect to leave feeling good about yourself - you might not leave in one piece! But you can find a beginners class where you will be guided into postures in a way that suits your body - with adaptions or supports if you need them and I guarantee you will leave that class feeling good and with a sense of achievement.
2. I don’t have a mat or any of the equipment
”The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind”. Rodney Yee
Technically speaking - you don’t even need a mat - you can down dog anywhere! But let’s be real. My advice if this is your first class - ask your teacher if they can supply a mat. Don’t go rushing off to buy one when you don’t know what you’ll like or need. Once you’re ready you can start to look into what kind of mat you actually need and where to get it.
You’re looking at thickness for the level of comfort and slippiness depending on how active you are in your practice. Again don’t be afraid to ask your yoga teacher for any recommendations - maybe they have a discount code or can help you find your perfect mat.
3. Am I too old to start?
The youngest person I’ve had on a mat was 4 weeks old, the eldest is coming 90. You are never too old. The beauty of yoga is it’s ability to be adapted to any age, mobility and circumstance. Chair yoga is the perfect way to adapt a practice for anyone who is older or less mobile. A regular chair yoga class of mine will have people in their 80s with the normal mobility issues that come with age and people in their 40s with a health condition that maybe leaves them unsteady on their feet.
Some will want to find a way to adapt the physical postures and others will want to work on breathing techniques to help them to relax, or to focus on soothing the central nervous system.
It is never too late, there is always something that can be done to help you to move, or to breathe and find a yoga practice that feels right for you.
Photo shows a private chair yoga set up.
4. The spiritual side of yoga puts me off – I’m just not into that and I don’t want to be.
First off - That’s ok – take what you want from the class and leave what you don’t. It’s the same for anything - you’ll get what you need and what you put into it.
For what it’s worth, I think that in this little corner of the world we can not separate spirituality from religion. Yoga is a spiritual practice – it addresses finding a balance in body, mind and spirit. Many of the philosophies are similar to ones found in all major religions – kindness, honesty and self reflection being just some of them. The practice began in India and because of this its philosophies can be explained with reference to Hindu Gods and Goddesses, but I could equally draw comparisons to Christianity. This is not the essence of the practice. The essence of the practice is your journey of self discovery and how you might use it to improve your health and lifestyle, your physical and mental wellbeing.
I find it more common than not that someone who comes to yoga for the physical benefits alone will find over time that they begin to look at little deeper; to ask questions of their habits or lifestyle that they might be able to improve to leave them feeling better all round.
5. What’s in it for me?
I'll ask you a question back - what are you looking for?
Physical benefits can match that of many forms of exercise – from improved strength, flexibility, balance to better posture. With the added bonus of this adaptability it's often a form of exercise that when done properly might be kinder to the body than others.
One of the near immediate benefits that many clients report back is better sleep. With many classes taking place in the evenings - yoga can be a way to exercise that doesn’t increase cortisol levels to the extent that it disturbs or prevents sleep. A recent study links high intensity exercise too close to bedtime to a reduction in both the length and quality of your sleep. Even a moderate flow class will tend to keep the heart rate and hormone levels below level that will disturb sleep and the deliberate relaxation and meditation at the end of class will prepare the body for rest.
I always say that you will get what you need from yoga – maybe this will be the ability to touch your toes that you deliberately sought or maybe it will be something you least expect.