There’s an old joke about how you can tell if someone’s vegan because, trust me, they’ll let you know. The saying probably holds up for yoga as well. I bring up yoga far too often, but I can’t help it! I love it and I want everyone else to love it, too. But I'm often surprised when people tell me the reasons they've never tried yoga. So I gathered up intel from some badass yoga instructors to try and dispel some of the rumors and reasons you might be intimidated or unimpressed by yoga.
"I’m Not Flexible Enough to Do Yoga"
Yoga classes are often imagined as a bunch of folks bent into various pretzel shapes, but that’s not (always) the case! Classes are available at a variety of levels. “I'm a firm believer that anyone can participate in any type of yoga, as long as they're in the appropriate class,” said Carley Vitek, who teaches at Sid Yoga Center in Towson, Maryland. “You won’t be asked to land a headstand in your first class. Just pay attention to the teacher, rather than the students around you.”
Shelby White, who teaches at Midtown Yoga in Memphis, Tennessee, encourages beginners to introduce themselves to the instructor. “I can guarantee that every teacher has been thoroughly trained in teaching brand-new beginners and in turn will know if their class is suited for you. It’s important to remember that everyone has been a beginner at some point.”
"I Have Chronic Pain or Physical Issues and I Think Yoga Would Make It Worse"
Pain from an auto-immune disorder or a variety of other sources can hinder your life in so many ways. It’s important to communicate with your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen, but don’t rule out yoga!
Inform your instructor if you have pain you’re concerned about. I recently attended a restorative yoga class with my mom, who'd had shoulder surgery the previous week, and the instructor was glad to provide adjustments and alternatives for any pose that might be difficult for my mom.
“I always encourage students to listen to their bodies. If something hurts, don’t do it,” said Carley. “Not the ‘Whoa, I’m gonna feel that in my abs tomorrow’ kind of hurt, but the ‘I think I’m tearing my rotator cuff’ kind.” Modifications and adjustments are always available, and good instructors are always accommodating. Yoga can be an incredible healing tool for a variety of physical ailments, especially those that are worsened by mental stress or poor posture.
"I Don’t Consider Yoga Enough of an Actual Workout"
Many studios now blend yoga with other forms of exercise, such as Pilates or barre, to create more intense workouts. People often forget, though, that yoga is about strengthening the core, which provides a solid foundation for tons of other types of workouts. If you can learn quality strength, breathing, and posture techniques from yoga, you can apply those skills to any other form of fitness, whether it be cross-fit or marathon running.
"I’ll Look Stupid Doing All Those Poses"
Fear of looking silly is a powerful one, but it’s also mostly in your head. As someone who attends a lot of yoga classes, I can assure you I have never lent a critical eye to a fellow student. The only people who would judge their classmates are jerks, and you shouldn’t care what jerks think anyway.
Cynthia Rodriguez, who teaches at Bikram Yoga in Baltimore, reminds her students that no one is judging them because yoga is a powerfully encouraging practice. “Teachers are only watching you to be sure you are trying the postures safely. Nothing is more rewarding for us than seeing a student slowly realize they can use yoga to heal their bodies and minds.”
"It’s a Little New Age-y for Me"
Again, there are SO MANY types of yoga classes. Some are a bit more "out there" than others, but it’s all about finding what’s right for you. Yoga emphasizes a healthy mind first and foremost, so it isn’t about pressure or stress like some workouts.
Prerna Bhatia, who teaches at Yoga and Pilates in Manhattan, emphasized the mental healing powers of yoga. “I always tell my students, particularly the beginners: Wherever you are is exactly where you are supposed to be. It’s about creating an awareness, stilling the mind and focusing on the breath. Simply by coming to the mat and being present, even if you skip poses that don't work for you at the moment, you are sill practicing and that is perfect.”
What more could you want?
- Are you a yoga fan?
- Is there something keeping you from trying it out?
- Any yoga instructors in the house?
Cover photo: AntonioDiaz