Why did I decide to start practicing yoga? How did I overcome those feels and fears?
After completing a gruelling university degree I found myself with a lot more time on my hands, so, like most people I was looking for a hobby – something to fill my time, and yoga was always something I had seen from afar and wanted to try out. It started with a feeling of – how is it possible to get your body to do all of those things?! It was also a mixture of – I wonder how hard it really is? Memories of my grandmother telling me at 7 years old that I had the flexibility of a piece of wood – I wanted to prove her and everyone else wrong. There was also my incredible combination of physical attributes such as my natural sense of balance – I tripped over something on a daily basis, and my non-existent muscles and ‘soft’ physic. I had always wondered if yoga could ‘cure’ me of all these fucking amazing qualities, there was only one thing standing in my way.
My fear of actually going to a yoga class and trying it out.
With zero knowledge of yoga and what it was, I didn’t really feel capable or inspired enough to try a few moves out at home…and the thought of going to a yoga class literally terrified me. I googled and researched places to try out a class…my gym even offered yoga classes however, every time I would walk past after my spin class and see all these zen looking ethereal bodies through the class moving gracefully to the sound of soft chimes in a dimly lit room, this feeling of panic welled up inside of me. I don’t look like those people!…I don’t understand Sanskrit! BLAH!
Yet, in spite of all that mind chatter, fear, and sheer panic and nausea, there was still this desire, this pull, an overwhelming urge to give it a go. so. I found a studio that specialises in something called ‘astanga’ whatever that means…that did a 6 week beginners yoga course. YAY! Beginners yoga! Other people who are like me (surely!?) just as uncoordinated and stiff! so I signed up…it was only 1 hour a week it wouldn’t be so bad right?!
And, it really wasn’t, I mean I was terrified, but when I got to class there were about 6 of us all with the same look of “what the fuck did i get myself into” all nervously checking each other out…
Then I looked towards the front of the room where our teacher was – she was everything you would expect a yoga teacher would look like….amazing body, flexibility of a pretzel, softly spoken and very ‘zen’.
From what I remember now of my first class…all we did were a few cat/cows, maybe some downward dogs and some seated stretches – and it felt like that hardest most awkward thing in the world – but when it was over I always felt good….I felt better…
6 weeks went pleasantly by, my pretzel yoga teacher was awesome and really helped us all get more comfortable with each week – I got over my fear, we all bonded it was fantastic.
We then learned that we got a FREE 3 class pass for some of the other classes at this yoga studio. Remember how I said this was an ‘astanga’ yoga studio? Me being a total rookie had NO idea what that meant…so with my new-found confidence I chose a class that was a ‘led astanga’ class (why were some of them not?! whats that about??) I show up… remember all those fears I had about going to a class full of hard bodies, serious faces and the flexibility of a worm? It was literally manifesting into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The teacher did not smile…everyone else looked like they had been going there all their lives…and then there was me….still pretty stiff, soft body, no balance, and no clue. As we begin the class all I was thinking was….’what the fuck did I get myself into??!!!’. We started to flow (hello chaturanga!) thanks to my, at the time flimsy upper body strength, (lets face it flimsy no body strength) I started to fall behind a bit. I started to feel the teachers frustration with me…I may or may not have imagined this, I even remember him rolling his eyes at one point when I tried to join in with everyone doing a head stand. (Oh how i missed my beginners yoga crew!)
Needless to say I left that class (yes I lived to tell the tale) and thought….what the hell am I going to do now!?! I felt too embarrassed to do another beginners yoga course, but I wanted to keep going. I had just lifted the lid to something amazing but I couldn’t quite get that sucker open all the way.
I mulled over this one for a while…the crappy feeling I had after that lass class was too much, I didn’t even want to use those last 2 class passes, I left that class feeling so deflated, why would I want to go back to that humiliationfest?!
I kept hearing about this thing called Bikram yoga…people at work had tried it, some said it was amazing some said it was death. all i knew was it was hot. so, one again I googled away. At the time there was literally only one place you could do this bikram yoga, so my choices were limited – which was a good thing less to choose from – no decisions to make. Their website was also super specific about what to wear where to park what to expect how much water to drink when not to eat etc etc….great, it somewhat painted a picture for me. when i showed up to my first class, i wore track pants and a t-shirt – i wasn’t familiar with moisture wicking fabric or lululemon yet. i filed in to the class and was told to go to the back row (fine by me!)
class begins and again the teacher is in phenomenal shape (of course) but this one was not softly spoken, gentle or friendly – she was more like a drill sergeant militantly ordering each posture in the sequence. which i found out later was Bikram 10.
It was intense. one of the most intense experiences ever….and soon realised my 100% cotton attire was slowly starting to weigh me down due to all the sweat that was being soaked up. Again, I survived, and leaving the class i felt this euphoric high – my first ever yoga high.
The fact that everyone was doing their own thing, the sequence was the same – every single time – and most of the time the class was so full the teacher barely had time to pick on you for being lame in the class suited me just fine. I started going every week, then every other day, then i joined the 30 day challenge and had officially turned into a Bikram devotee..6 years into this practice I switched over to Vinyasa (welcome back chaturanga!) Two years after that I completed my 200 YTT in India (it was raining chaturangas there!)
Now why am I sharing all of this with you? I’m sharing this because I wish I had read something like this when I had first started. Maybe I would have started sooner. I felt very alone, and quite fearful of starting, what became a life changing practice. Many of my students have echoed to me, some of the same fears that I once had. Some people have yet to try a class for all the same reasons I had used! I’m sharing this because I want you to know you’re not alone. Your fears don’t just belong to you they belong to everyone. I’m also here to tell you that, while there maybe that teacher that may seem judgey, the classmates that look or act a certain way that may trigger you, there are so many ways and avenues you can practice yoga, in a way that is in alignment with you, that makes you feel good!
My mission for becoming a yoga teacher in the first place came from a passion of sharing the amazing gift of practicing yoga with newbies, it had helped me get through so much of life in the time I started my practice. Yoga has been there with me and for me as I evolved, not only physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It makes me sad when I hear that fear in conversations, but it also inspires me to break down that fear and show how being ‘perfect’, and looking ‘perfect’ is not what yoga is all about, it’s not about touching your toes or looking good in spandex, following the sequence perfectly, making beautiful instagrammable shapes, or being in time with the flow of the class. It’s about your experience, your connection to your body…it’s about whatever it is it means to you on the day you practice.
So here are my 5 tips to finding the perfect beginners yoga environment:
- Do your research – google studios in your area, check out their websites, and even see if there are any reviews on yelp or something similar (use reviews with caution as I have read some reviews of places that I have practiced and have had the complete opposite experience! So take it with a grain of salt )
- Make sure you research the style of yoga that is being taught at the studio (learn from my astanga fiasco!) see which style resonates with you and the experience you hope to get out of going to class…my best advice on this however is to actually try out a few different styles to see which fits in with you the best!
- Recommendations – this is probably my favourite way of finding a new anything – ask friends colleagues family, if they can recommend somewhere that they have loved!
- Bring a friend – if you can! I didn’t have anyone willing to come with me (and i don’t think i was ready to embarrass myself in front of anyone i actually knew) but sometimes that added support can be just the push that we need!
- Try a home yoga practice, watch some videos on you tube or check out some postures online and try it out at home first. There are even teachers (myself included) that teach privately in your home (yay! so it’s all for and about you!) Most importantly get yourself comfortable being in an awkward pose, this will allow more confidence to flow in to try your first studio class!
And remember, if you do try a class and it doesn’t feel quite right, its okay, this just means that’s not the right class/environment for you, there are so many options available to us now, always follow your gut and try another class, or another teacher, it’s all about finding the right fit for you!
You’ve got this!!!