It is no secret that yoga is wonderful for physical, mental, and emotional well-being. However, many potential yogis are hesitant to try a class or quit after a couple experiences. Paradoxically, the reasons they have for not doing yoga are the same reasons dedicated practitioners have for doing yoga. Just like those new to yoga, seasoned practitioners sometimes feel disheartened, uncomfortable, or out-of-place in yoga classes. The difference is that committed yogis investigate these experiences rather than fleeing from them. Yogis recognize that transformation and transcendence do not feel comfortable or familiar—they can feel downright scary. But, yoga practitioners have the courage to take the journey anyway. Here are some of the most common excuses people have for skipping out on yoga, and how devout yogis reframe these excuses to fuel their practice.
Excuse #1: “I’m not flexible, so I can’t do yoga.” When those with limited flexibility see Instagram photos of yogis folded like origami, they often cross yoga off their bucket list. They feel there would be no place for them in a room full of double-jointed acrobats.
Yogi’s perspective: “I’m not flexible, so I do yoga.” Many experienced yogis weren’t flexible when the started out either; through disciplined practice they became more flexible. Granted, most people will not achieve the strength and flexibility of the models that grace the pages of yoga calendars, but superficial goals like dropping into full splits or sticking a handstand are not the point of yoga. The asana practice (doing yoga poses) is simply meant to cultivate the flexibility and strength needed to sit comfortably in meditation. Seek out teachers who give modifications to support a variety of flexibility levels.
Excuse #2: “Yoga is slow-paced, and I need to keep moving.” No matter how fit they are, many new yogis cannot bear how long they have to hold yoga poses in classical hatha and restorative classes. Doing an aerobics class or going for a run feel more familiar next to the hectic pace of the rest of their lifestyles.
Yogi’s perspective: “Yoga is slow-paced, and I need that to recenter.” When we live our lives constantly rushing and multi-tasking, the stillness of a yoga class feels disorienting. This spiritual vertigo is not a reason to quit yoga. Like the clear surface of an undisturbed lake, the equanimity of the practice offers us a mirror that reflects back the frenzied nature of our daily lives. From this place of clarity we can reset and perhaps even re-calibrate toward more conscious lifestyles.
Excuse #3: “Yoga is boring, so I avoid it.” Consider how quickly someone picks up their smartphone when their dinner date steps away from the table to use the restroom. It is no secret that humans hate to be bored, and many find the peaceful, serene quality of yoga boring.
Yogi’s perspective: “Yoga is boring, so I practice it to explore that boredom.” There is more going on in each moment than any human could possibly attend to all at once. If someone is bored in yoga (or in any moment anywhere, for that matter), it is not because there is not enough stimulation, it is because they are checked out. Our lives are so full of text message alerts, widescreen TVs, and social media newsfeeds that we are addicted to constantly being fed loud, flashy entertainment. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a movie or checking Facebook, but nonstop distraction blocks conscious choices, present moment awareness, and self-discovery. The moments of calm and stillness in yoga give us opportunities to recognize how distanced we have become and to check back in.
Excuse #4: “I’m not looking for a new religion, so I’m not interested in yoga.” Yoga is a spiritual practice, which may turn off people who are committed to a religion or who are decidedly nonreligious.
Yogi’s perspective: “I’m not looking for a new religion, so I’m interested in yoga.” Many teachers coin yoga as “spiritual, not religious.” The concept of God that classical yogic texts refer to may be interpreted as the specific God or gods in a practitioner’s religion, or simply as natural order. Whatever our religious or nonreligious leanings, yoga helps us explore our places in the universe and to connect with our purposes.
Excuse #5: “I feel out-of-place at yoga studios, so I don’t do yoga.” Some yoga studios can have such a cohesive community that it intimidates newcomers. Granted the Western yoga community has become notorious for it’s lack of diversity and some studios have work to do making all yogis feel welcome.
Yogi’s perspective: “I feel out-of-place at yoga studios, so I have found my own practice.” With yoga’s growing popularity, it has become ubiquitous. It is offered at gyms, at recreation centers, on mountain tops, in art galleries, and even online. Part of the practice of self-discovery is finding the teachers and venues that resonate most with us. Keep seeking and eventually you will find your kula (community).