You Look Stupid and Nobody Cares: Reassurances and Tips for the New Practitioner
Here’s the thing: I actually think you look beautiful and I care deeply. I’m not a cynical curmudgeon, but in fact a warm, positive yoga instructor who happens to have a sense of humor.
I want you to stop talking about how you have begun to think about how you might ponder possibly one day engaging in the thought of probably potentially maybe considering really evaluating the idea of feasibly trying yoga. I just want you to get your tush to class!
The first time doing anything is hard, and it certainly takes some moxy to show up for yoga. People do strange, bendy stuff and sometimes chant things in a foreign language, all the while breathing like Darth Vader and wearing spandexy things.
It’s intimidating and kind of weird, right? Plus, there are all kinds of stereotypes of what kind of people do yoga.
With the right attitude and some bravery, yoga can be accessible and rewarding to all.
Yoga changed my life and I passionately believe that the more people that practice, the better this world will be. Now stop taking yourself so seriously, and read my reassurances and tips for the beginning yoga practitioner. Then drink the yoga Kool-Aid (or whatever healthy alternative they sell at Whole Foods) and get hooked!
You look stupid
In an asana (physical) practice, we put ourselves in unfamiliar positions, which make us feel stupid. Chances are that most of the poses you do are outside of your comfort zone—coming to all fours, balancing on one foot, sticking out your sitting bones (booty!)—and that’s risky. Come to terms with the fact that this isn’t the stuff you see in the office break room or at your kid’s football game. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Take a risk. Embrace how awkward you look. The quicker you can get over the newness, the quicker you can begin to reap the benefits of the practice.
Nobody cares what you are doing on your mat, so let go and do the poses to the extent that you understand and are comfortable. Yoga is non-competitive, and you won’t look the same as anyone else in class. The only person who should care what you’re doing is your teacher, because they keep a watchful eye on their students to ensure each person is practicing safely and not doing anything that could cause injury.
There are no dumb questions, only dumb teachers
Ask your teacher questions. Don’t be worried about breaking up the flow of the class, or disrupting anybody’s chi, or whatever. You are paying to learn and you have every right to ask a question. If they look at you weird or ignore you, they are a dumb teacher. I decree it.
Laugh at yourself! What good does it do you to beat up on yourself when you accidentally twist to the right, while the rest of the class is twisting to the left? Is it really the worst thing in the world to topple over a few times while trying to figure out a balancing pose? You farted? That’s healthy and hilarious. Double whammy! Finding a lightness in yoga class will benefit you tremendously. Yoga is a wonderful and life-changing practice, but just like anything, if you take it too seriously, you won’t end up enjoying it. Your instructor will likely prefer you smiling to scowling, cursing, or loudly moaning, “Why, God? WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF?!”
Pick your teacher like you’d pick your mate
You wouldn’t date just anyone, would you? Every yoga teacher is going to be different in a plethora of ways, from how many alignment cues they give to their tone of voice to their sequencing to their Sanskrit usage to their taste in clothing. Many things can make or break an experience with a teacher. It’s okay if, after a class or two, you decide that you need to find a different teacher. Not liking a teacher doesn’t equate to not liking yoga. If you had a bad date, that doesn’t mean you just give up on dating! The best part of switching yoga teachers is that you don’t even have to call them and say, “It’s not you. It’s me.” Plus, you can see multiple yoga teachers at once and it’s totally socially acceptable!
You don’t have to be flexible. Good Lord, you don’t have to be flexible.
If I hear one more person say that they can’t do yoga because “they aren’t flexible,” I’m going to go cray-cray. When people lift weights, they do it to build strength, not because they are already a total beast. Dieters don’t generally eat less because they are already as thin as they want to be. The same applies to yoga. You don’t have to look like the bendy, smiley lady on the cover of Yoga Journal. Nurture a safe and regular practice, and you will eventually become more flexible.
Come on baby, make it hurt so good
Just kidding. Don’t. If it hurts, don’t do it. You should be challenged and you will feel new physical sensations, but you should never continue to do something that hurts. Do not push your way into a pose or you will get injured. Listen to your body and move slowly into poses, especially ones that are new to you.
Your feet aren’t gross and you have a slammin’ butt
Take your socks off. Your mat is not made to grip fabric. We want to stretch and strengthen our feet, the foundation of our bodies, and increase our balance, and socks challenge that. Again, nobody cares what you look like. They shouldn’t be looking at your bad pedicure or hairy tuckles. (“Tuckles” are your toe knuckles. I just made that up.) If they are looking at you, they aren’t focusing on their own practice, or perhaps have some pada fetish. (“Pada” is Sanskrit for “foot.” I did not make that up.) Yoga is a practice that helps us to enhance our body image. It is for all shapes and sizes. You deserve to feel good, even if Lululemon doesn’t make your size.
Demystifying the yogi: Things you don’t have to be to do yoga
A model. A hippy. A woman. Indian. A teetotaler. Super peaceful. Smelly. Skinny. Californian. Rich. A vegan. Well-educated. Pretentious. Flexible. Mystical. Liberal. Tan. Strong. White. Tattooed. Damaged. Spiritual. Madonna.