Updated: Feb 6
Many people are too shy or self-conscious to try yoga. This saddens me because, in my opinion, yoga is one of the most fantastic things in the world.
It’s so simple, but it can quickly provide huge benefits physically, mentally and emotionally. I wish everyone would try it. This is why I always give people their first class for free, because once they try it, they feel the benefits for themselves and I don’t need to say anymore!
I have practiced yoga for 25 years, and have been a teacher for 5 years. In that time, I have tried many schools of yoga, and I have liked (and disliked) parts from many of them. Even choosing which yoga class to attend can be overwhelming and put people off before they start. We live in an age where choice can be negative; you feel you need to be an expert in yoga just to be able to pick a class. My belief is that the things that are meant for you will find you... Maybe that is why this article found you?
People also worry that they need a ‘yoga body’ to do yoga. But that's the same as thinking you need to be an expert before you start. It’s the same as cleaning up before your cleaner arrives, because you’re worried you’ll be judged for having a dirty home. OK, truth be told, I’ve done that…. But the point is, so many people have a preconceived idea about yoga, what it is, and who it is for, and this is a limiting belief that is stopping them from experiencing something wonderful. This belief no doubt stems from seeing too many images of super bendy yoga supermodels in the magazines and in the yoga studio adverts, and sometimes from taking a class with a teacher who treats it like a gym class, and who has therefore, in my opinion, missed the point of yoga. The fact is, the people benefiting from my yoga classes aren’t supermodels: they are tired mums with back ache from carrying toddlers round; grandmothers wanting to improve their flexibility; students who want to feel more peaceful around exam time; stressed caregivers who really need some ‘me’ time; and many others. They are beautifully regular people like you and me. And the crazy thing is that once you come to my class you will very quickly realize that beauty within you; it’s one of the many wonderful benefits of the practice.
When I started yoga I couldn’t touch my toes - I still can’t some days! I couldn’t get anywhere near touching them for many years, but I am so grateful that I persevered. I remember my first yoga class so clearly, even though it was 25 years ago. I set up at the back in my invisible cloak, did all the moves (badly) and when we lay down for the relaxation at the end (yoga classes always include a rest at the end, to allow the body to absorb the practice), I completely zoned out. I don't know what happened, or where I went, but afterwards I felt like I floated out of the class, it was like nothing I’d felt before. It was so peaceful inside my head that I remember feeling that it bordered on weird. I was concerned that I’d broken something inside my head during one of the moves! But I realized that I actually liked the feeling a lot, so I went to the class again… and again… and again... until it became a regular thing. After a few classes I realized that what I was feeling was simply… peaceful contentment. I realized that I’d just become so used to the noise and stress of a constant stream of thoughts running through my mind, that I’d forgotten what tranquility felt like.
To describe it in another way, as I once told a friend, it was not dissimilar to the feeling you get after a few sips of wine - that warm wave of relaxation that gradually floods through the body and allows you to let go of the relentless to-do list in your mind. The difference was that this feeling didn’t mess with my liver, or leave me with a sore head or repercussions to face the next day if I indulged in more of it.
Once I’d tasted that peace, I was hooked. 25 years later and I now teach it to anyone who’s ready to put on their brave pants and take a tiny step outside of their comfort zone. I encourage you to try my class just once, because I’m certain you won’t regret it, which is why I offer the first class for free.
Like most things in life, yoga is so much simpler than we’ve built it up in our heads to be. I can’t speak for all classes or teachers, but I can promise you that in mine the point is to feel comfortable and to enjoy yourself. Stress or struggle is never necessary or encouraged. Every pose can be adapted so it is comfortable for you, so that your body can reap all the benefits. Finding comfort within the pose is needed for the energy to flow through your body and to allow you to blossom. Allowing peace to flood through you will enable you to remember that stress is not your default, it’s just a bad habit you’ve learned. And like all bad habits, it can be unlearned.