“I’m not flexible.” “I am too old.” “I have a trick hip.” Just a few of the reasons people give for not practicing yoga. The truth is, you already possess all of the necessary equipment required to start practicing yoga – a body and the willingness to try.
The term yoga itself means union. It is all about creating a connection between the brain, the body and the breath. One of the many great things about yoga is that there is a spectrum on which you can practice. You decide. Yoga is not a just a bendy, twisty, balance-on-one-arm kind of experience. It has innumerable benefits that range from increased mobility, better sleeping to mindfulness and decreased stress. The best part about yoga is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Some use their practice strictly as a workout, while others use it as spiritual experience or a time for silent reflection.
Let me debunk some myths about yoga.
You do not have to wear yoga pants.
You do not have to be flexible.
You do not have to have any experience.
You don’t have to understand Sanskrit.
What you do need to practice yoga.
An open mind.
The commitment to listen to your body.
Ability to focus on your breathing.
I enlisted the help of ERYT (experienced registered yoga teacher) 200 yoga instructor extraordinaire Tina Poirier to help explain how impactful yoga can be (for anyone). Tina teaches yoga because she learned early on how much she wanted our world to be deeply grounded in truth and authenticity. She believes that practicing yoga helps individuals get to that place. She continues to teach and practice yoga to always go back to that space. Tina currently teaches yoga several times a week at 43 Degrees North.
In her years of experience working with a variety of skill levels and body types, she knows firsthand that yoga will meet you where you are physically at right now. There are tools and means to help those people who feel stiffer than others. When people tell her that “it is not my thing,” “it is too slow” or “not hard enough,” she challenges people that wellness and fitness is more than just their physical body. She states our mind and spirit play a huge role in our physicality. Yoga supports all three parts of us, Mind, Body and Spirit.
When asked how yoga has changed her life, Tina articulated, “Yoga has given me a continuous practice at opening my heart. Every time I step on my mat I am reminded that I am more than what happened in my day. I am reminded to anchor in what I believe in, I am asked to identify what I believe in (trust me, that takes work). When I live in the present moment with an open heart and my gratitude glasses on, my thoughts are softer, I get angry less often, I see more clearly.”
When speaking to some of Tina’s students, they credit her with “changing the way they view the world.” That in 60 minutes she can help “take the load of a heavy day and amazingly leave class feeling energized.” As a student of Tina’s myself, I can attest to her majestical ways. She masterfully strings together a series of poses to a tailored playlist that creates an experience where people are able to be themselves and let go. As a fitness junkie, I have practiced yoga with a number of teachers. Under Tina’s guidance, I have learned how to walk into class, be present and leave feeling lighter, motivated, and ready to conquer the world. We frequently jam pack our days with kids, work and life, and it can seem overwhelming at times. Yoga provides us the opportunity to dump it all out and leave it on the mat.
Tina suggests that first-time yogis attend an introductory class or course and that you can start with any physical ability. She reminds us it is important to not worry about what your body looks like in a yoga pose (asana) and let the practice unfold organically for you. She recommends to not have an agenda when beginning your practice.
When speaking about yogis who feel stagnant in their practice, Tina suggests signing up for a series of classes that focus on something new to the student. Meditation, a deeper understanding of the yoga beliefs, a body part or asana. She encourages trying yoga at a different time of day or with a new teacher. She knows there is always something to learn and always something to be taught.
No matter what your fitness goals are, practicing yoga can help enhance your health. You can customize your yoga experience to be exactly what you want. Do some research on the studio you plan to attend. Ask what kind of music they play. If they burn incense. Do you have to bring your own mat? Are the classes leveled? Once you have found the right studio for you, add it to your schedule. If you’re not ready to practice at a formal studio, there are many tutorials on the internet. Start small, practice some beginner postures or sun salutations until you feel comfortable taking the leap.
To be most successful, you need an open mind approach. Recognize that you may not be able to do every posture the first class. When I began my practice, I spent more than half the class in child’s pose trying to catch my breath. Even now there will be some days when my body is telling me it doesn’t like the way a certain posture feels. Respect your body and resist the inclination to power through. Take a break, don’t compare yourself to other people in the class, and relish in the fact that you are doing something kind for your body. Like all aspects of learning something new, remember that it is a journey.
(Crystal Reynolds is an owner at 43 Degrees North Athletic Club and her favorite yoga poses are pigeon, cat, cow and corpse.)