By Adrienne Boland
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anais Nin
I stand at the door, mat in hand. Why is it so threatening to attend a yoga class? I am an instructor, I shouldn’t be nervous about going to a class, meeting a new teacher or struggling in a pose. But I am. For some strange reason there are two things that I find hard to do recreationally: swimming and attending a yoga class. I have no idea why I feel that way. I have been going to gyms and not caring one damn bit about what others think of me, or if I am the strongest or prettiest lady there. But yoga gets me every time. I even struggle to do it at my own house, by myself!
After all of that traveling around I am in some serious need of some mental and physical stretching. I want to be like Gumby and I feel like the Tin Man with no oil. I cycle a lot and my hips and hamstrings are wound so tight I expect them to explode any moment. I need yoga; I need to feel the calmness and feelings that yoga gives me. But like I said before, I can’t make myself go to a class, because I get anxiety about it. I am not alone; many people, men and women, are apprehensive to set foot in a yoga class. The yoga environment is supposed to welcome everyone, why does it sometimes do the opposite? I don’t know why, but I will attempt to break it down and motivate you to curb stomp those fears and go anyway.
Let’s visualize a typical yogi or an entire class for a second. What comes to mind? A super skinny, flexible woman that looks like she came straight out of the sexy mold just to make you feel horrible about how you look in the same yoga pants? That is what I envision. But realistically when you set foot in a class you see people of all shapes, sizes, and genders and everyone is super nice and willing to help you get settled in and comfortable in your space and at the studio. This was my experience the other day. I finally made myself go try out the local studio that I had heard so much about. I arrived early to make sure I was able to sign up and meet the teacher. I was the first one there. Here we go… She was a beautiful, thin, blonde hottie, of course. BAM! Self esteem and confidence down 10 points. However after watching her struggle to ring some merchandise in, I knew I had won against her in problem solving, self esteem back up 10 points! See- we all have gifts and not everyone is perfect. Feeling more comfortable now and the excitement is building to practice. Now I am just nervous thinking if this teacher will be critical of my inflexible and imperfect body. I tell her I am an instructor as well and I asked her about the studio and if it was a fun and mellow place to work, she assured me it was… maybe I will teach here.
I roll out my mat and stretch a little to calm my mind and my breath before starting the practice. The class ends up being only 3 of us, all of us different in shape and ability. This is reassuring. We start our practice with breathing exercises, 4 second breath in, 4 second breath out. I find myself gasping on the inhales and struggling to make it to 4 seconds. I am not sure if my heart rate is still elevated from my bike ride to class or maybe I am that out of touch with my breath. I keep trying, gradually my gasping is diminished and the breath is calming and I feel relaxed. After a series of hip and heart openers I wonder why I waited so long. She is a great teacher! I am having fun, while also testing my strength and flexibility. We end in savasana and I feel amazing! Relaxed, invigorated and thankful I made it to my mat.
This is usually the case; the initial step is the hardest, no matter what we are talking about, a new job, a new health plan, or yoga. I am happy to report I am on day 4 of classes, I have been diligent and gone every day, and tried a different class every day. Try multiple classes, teachers, and studios if you have the option. Do not get discouraged by a teacher that doesn’t fit your style. Talk to the teachers, express your injuries, concerns and preferred type of yoga. They will help you get into the right class for you. I tried a Yin class last night to passively stretch my muscles from a 10K run yesterday morning, amazing! Don’t give up, try multiple avenues. And as I said before, yoga is not just attending class, it is the way you live and the people you influence. Sign up for a class, and get out there with confidence that you are there for YOU. You are your worst critic and nobody cares what you look like in down dog, they are busy trying to get through to the next chaturanga anyway. And remember all of that anxiety will be relieved after you cross the threshold and smell the Nag Champa and hardwood floors. Namaste.