Guest post written by Brittany A. Carter
Starting something new.
Have you wanted to start practicing yoga but you seemed to keep getting in your way?
When you have yet to experience something for yourself, it’s human to take breadcrumbs of information from others and formulate a story.
When it comes to yoga, these tend to be generalizations around who you must be before beginning. Characteristics like your age, athletic ability, size, race, interests, etc
What we’re debunking is the idea that you need to be anyone but yourself before starting or developing your yoga practice.
Based on my experience as a practitioner and a student, I see that the only requirement for practicing yoga is the willingness to show up.
Students come to their mats to increase strength and flexibility. And they often achieve these goals. But they also find benefits they didn’t know they needed. These are the intangible benefits like calming the mind, learning how to relax, and growing patience with themselves.
Let’s take a look at some commonly held reasons that could be holding you back.
1. I’m not flexible enough.
Have you ever heard or said, “I can’t touch my toes, so I can’t do yoga”? The physical practice of yoga has many benefits — one of the most prominent being flexibility.
This excuse is like saying, “I can’t take guitar lessons, because I don’t know how to play the guitar.” In this example, it seems obvious that this is exactly why you need to take lessons.
Finding flexibility is a great reason to practice yoga, and thus, not a very good excuse not to. And still, I hear this reason at least once a month.
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
2. I don’t know any of the poses
You feel lost, while everyone else seems to know what to do. This is normal for being a beginner at anything.
Be gentle with yourself, especially as you learn a brand new practice. Give yourself the grace to learn at your pace. I promise you’ll be surprised at how fast you pick things up.
Also, one of the joys of the yogic practice is that it’s a lifelong journey. You’ll always find there are new things to learn, from philosophy to nuance to more challenging postures.
Let it be fun! :)
3. Self-conscious of what others will think; Comparison
It’s the age-old assumption that people are looking at you. But, usually, each person is more concerned about themselves than others.
Most people are more concerned with how they look than how others look. Being overly self-conscious is a common trait. In this case, it helps debunk the myth that others are judging you.
Because the truth is no one is critiquing you as much as you may critique yourself. But the more you practice, especially in a studio setting, the more you understand why you’re practicing.
One reason we practice is to ease the mind and the body. The more you connect with your practice the less concerned you’ll be about what they will think.
It is part of the Yogic philosophy to turn comparison to compassion. Self-compassion. No matter where you’re at with your practice—an absolute beginner or somewhere further along—it’s personal.
Everybody is different. We all have our own experiences, traumas, injuries, and challenges. It would be illogical to assume we would all be on the same page.
4. I’m too tired/unmotivated to do yoga
If you’re constantly feeling tired, a likely cause is a lack of oxygen. A medical study by Russel T. Hepple, found that an increase in oxygen to muscles decreased fatigue. Each person takes from 17,000 to 30,000 breaths every day.
How many breaths a day are you conscious of? This disconnection from breath can mean less oxygen than necessary to feel alert.
In yoga, we connect with our breath throughout the practice. This expands the number of conscious breaths we take, and thus the quality of breath.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
5. I have a lot of wrist pain, lower back pain, etc.
As always, consult with your trusted doctor before starting a new practice or if you have a new injury.
That being said, a lot of times, soreness and tightness happen because parts of our body are being overused while others are being underused.
In Holistic wellness, we don’t just look at the symptoms to determine what is happening, we view the big picture. This requires looking at how the body naturally balances itself.
No single muscle or bone exists independent of another. They need each other. So we can’t look only at the symptom. We must view the body as a whole.
For example, sometimes wrist pain means we’re overusing our shoulders or underusing our palms and fingers.
This doesn’t mean that after one yoga class, you’ll be perfectly aligned. But with consistent practice, curiosity, and awareness, you will find more alignment.
The physical practice of yoga can help strengthen underused muscles and relieve tension from the overused, tight areas. Be gentle with yourself.
Luckily, we have a magic word to make yoga safe for everyone. Say it with me… modifications!
After confirming yoga is safe for you, take this as an opportunity to get to know your body. Be gentle with yourself. Modify as you need. If the teacher doesn’t offer a variation, ask for one.
6. I’m too busy
I hear it all of the time. “I have a yoga practice, but I’ll get back to it when I have the time.”
You don’t have time. You make time. You prioritize things in your life by order of importance. Usually, your job and the things that pay your bills take precedent. Rightfully so. However, taking care of yourself determines how you show up for those necessary roles.
When we make space for the things that ground us and fill our cups, we have more to give others. When we’re first starting something, it might feel hard—even impossible. But new habits are easy to form as long as we really want them.
If you’re having trouble making the space for yourself, try these four steps:
Make a promise
Create a goal
Adjust your goal often
I’ve noticed in my own life, I’ll set lofty goals. I’ll go from not going to the gym at all to promising myself that I’ll go 5 days a week. And, it usually doesn’t work out (pun intended).
Instead, start small. Be compassionate.
If you don’t practice at all right now, set a goal to practice once a week. When that becomes second nature, you can adjust and expand. You wouldn’t expect someone to learn to ride a bike AND ride in the Tour de France in the same week or even year or even ever. So try not to expect too much.
7. Too old, too overweight
“But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano / act / paint / write a decent play?"
Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don't.”
― Julia Cameron
If this is your excuse, I have two questions for you:
Do you have a body?
Can you breathe?
If your answers were yes and yes, then you can practice yoga!
There are 8 limbs of yoga, and only one is the physical practice, asana. The other limbs have to do with breath, ethics, and philosophy.
In the west, we mostly discuss the physical practice of yoga. Within this limb, there are many styles of yoga depending on what you’re looking for.
At Sacred Moon, we offer classes for relaxation like Yoga for everyBODY, Yin Yoga, and Release. There are also higher intensity styles such as Buti and Flow Fusion. And there are classes in between like Flow Fusion and Soul Salutation.
8. I’m not good at yoga
Our practice gives us the chance to meet ourselves exactly where we are. Sometimes our joints lack flexibility. Some days our balancing is wobbly. And sometimes our body is moving effortlessly. We get to love ourselves the same with whatever we find.
I don’t believe you can be good or bad at yoga. It’s not that kind of practice. Your dedication and growth can’t be measured on physical ability alone. It’s not measured by flexibility, strength, or length of handstand holds
If anything, it’s measured by your willingness to return to your breath again and again. Your dediction to self-study, swadyaha. Getting curious about how you react and how your body balances itself. Staying with unpleasant sensations. Remaining humble during pleasant sensations. Connecting with your breath instead of running away.
9. Yoga is for white, young women
Yoga is for everybody. Let me break that down—yoga is for every body. No matter the age, race, gender identity, political perspective, or sexual preference.
Yoga dates back to 2700 BC and was depicted as a practice for males. What is amazing about this misconception is that women didn’t start practicing yoga until the 1930s. And this was actually just one woman, Indra Devi.
That’s 4,630 years without women being allowed to practice!
Indra Devi was the first woman allowed in an ashram. She trained under Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India, and eventually brought yoga to the United States in the 1940s.
According to her biographer, Michelle Goldberg, Indra Devi targeted Hollywood socialites and connected healthy living with yoga. This shaped the now commonly held Western idea of Yoga.
10. I eat meat and watch Bravo. I’m not the yogi type.
In class, we’re simply breathing and stretching. No one expects you to change everything about yourself because you grow your practice. You may find that things may shift naturally over time.
But dropping the things that bring you joy is not what it’s about. Yoga is a way to connect with the truth. Often it’s more simple than we make it out to be.
Keep doing all of the things you love. Keep being yourself. Yoga will only add to who you are.
Yoga is for every BODY…
The truth is yoga is the union of the mind, body, and spirit. As long as you have those three things, yoga is for you. You are never too old, too stiff, too big, too small, too inexperienced, or too busy to practice for 5 or 10 minutes a day.
Hepple RT. The role of O2 supply in muscle fatigue. Can J Appl Physiol. 2002 Feb;27(1):56-69. doi: 10.1139/h02-004. PMID: 11880691.
About the Author
Hi 🌿 I’m Brittany! I’m a writer + editor, yoga instructor, and personal growth advocate. I write in the holistic health and wellness space. I love writing to the hearts of readers and spreading knowledge about preventive health practices.
I’m passionate about self-love, compassion, and acceptance because life is harder when we’re not loving ourselves. I collaborate with companies that share aligned values. Together we can make the world a kinder, more accepting place.
You can connect with me on Instagram @brittlebops + @kindbritt