'But I'm not flexible. I don't have the right clothes. And I might look silly."
These are the inevitable concerns of the new yoga student, and with good reason. Just Google "yoga'' and you're likely to find some lithe young thing bending her body in ways you had no idea the human body could move. Or you'll find the shirtless Adonis with the stoic face, balancing on one arm, his legs in the air.
Yes, these things are possible with years of dedicated practice. But where does the beginner start? In an effort to demystify the contortions, misconceptions and perceptions of a yoga practice, I bring you, the new student, the following misconceptions to reconsider:
Yoga is Too Hard: It can be. It can also be easy. The beauty is, yoga is whatever you make it. Find a beginner's class and you're likely to join a group of people in the same place you are, finding their way into their bodies, hearts and souls. It's a process. Trust it.
Yoga is Too Easy: It can be. It can also be hard. The beauty is, yoga is whatever you make it. I can't say it enough. Try that beginner's class anyway. There always is more to learn, like developing a relationship with your breath, discovering the innate grace of movement and the peace of starting, doing and finishing.
I'm Not Flexible: Ah, yes, a common concern. Here's the simple answer: Yoga gets you flexible. Consider this: You don't get a driver's license and suddenly know how to drive. You get behind the wheel, you listen to direction, you stay in parking lots awhile and pretty soon you're cruising the highway. Yoga works like that. We'll give you the keys.
I Don't Have the Right Clothes: Is there a Walmart nearby? Great. Get some sweat pants, a loose T-shirt and you're good to go. Unless you've got a photo shoot scheduled for the cover of Yoga Journal, you don't need to shop at expensive retailers. Unless, of course, you want to.
I'll Look Silly: Of course you won't, but even if you think you will, no one will care. Yoga is one on one. You, and you. Give yourself time to get to know your own body and you will be rewarded with the realization that silliness is totally a state of mind.
FIND YOUR WAY
Here are some tips to make that first class the one that starts an amazing journey, and keeps you coming back.
Expectations: Don't have any. It's that simple. Expectations usually disappoint us. Go with an open mind, and soon you'll find an open heart.
Talk to your teacher: He or she gets it, or at least they should. Talk to them about your concerns, medical conditions or limitations they should know about, and any reservations you may have. Your teacher will help you modify and adapt. If they don't help or insist you try something you know isn't right for you, don't give up on yoga, but do find another teacher.
Cut Yourself Some Slack: Nothing comes to us the first time. Remember your first time behind the wheel? You might have hit a curb, bumped into a trash can or dinged the side mirror. Although we try to keep the curbs and trash cans out of your way, allow yourself to be human and trust the evolutionary process. Remind yourself that wherever you are is exactly where you're supposed to be.
Have fun, find joy: Yoga isn't about twisted postures. It's about finding joy in whatever you do. Try not to take yourself too seriously. We practice breathing through discomfort, facing our fears, overcoming obstacles, connecting to inner peace and becoming a more balanced person. Who can't use those skills off the yoga mat? It's a process, a journey, one that can be filled with utter joy and render a new outlook on life. All this from yoga, you ask? You betcha.
Diana Reed is a yoga teacher, writer and co-owner of Gaya Jyoti Yoga in Hernando County. She can be reached at (352) 610-1083 or gayajyotiyoga.com.