It still surprises me to this day how many people think that they can’t do yoga. There are a few reasons I hear repeatedly — I'm too fat to practise yoga, I'm too unfit to practise yoga, I'm too inflexible enough to practise yoga, I'm too male to practise yoga, I'm too old to practise yoga. Any of these sounding familiar?
I will agree that yoga can seem intimidating to many people for many reasons. Even as a teacher, I find myself being intimidated when I walk into a class. Whatever you’re doing, there will always be someone who is more advanced, whose practise is more aesthetic, who is more aesthetic in general. But that’s really no reason not to do anything. I may not pull off my Lululemons as well as the person to my right, I may not have side crow as nailed as the person to my left, but we all have our own strengths and weaknesses and we step onto the mat to work on them.
The beauty of yoga is that it’s only about you and your practise. When I began yoga I couldn’t touch my toes — that’s part of the reason I began. The truth is, every reason we give not to do yoga is infact a reason why we should. We practise because we want to improve, not because we're already perfect.
That being said, I'm going to address every reason listed above and (hopefully) lay to rest some of your doubts about visiting your first yoga class.
Reason #1: “I'm too fat to practise yoga.”
You've probably heard it before, that your weight is no reason not to do anything. Your size does not define your right to participate in life, and yoga is no exception. One of the most beautiful things that I learnt during my teacher training is that every body has flaws and strengths, none of which should hinder you taking up a yoga practise. That being said, your weight and how you feel about it is your business and not mine. What I will say though, is that often the endomorph body type is very flexible, and so is likely to improve quickly over a short time due to natural flexibility. It also aids in building muscle, balance and helping take care of your precious joints and spine, making it perfect for gentle exercise if gyms put the fear of Shiva in you. The hormone balancing effects of yoga helps eases anxiety and gives you a safe space to explore and love your body.
Reason #2: “I'm too unfit to practise yoga.”
This one makes me want to bang my head against a wall, but I meditated this morning so we will hopefully be fine. If you're unfit then you should practise yoga. I mean this in no way commanding — if you are unfit and that was your intentional goal, then fair enough — but if your goal is getting moving and increasing your fitness, then I would say that yoga is the perfect thing to break you out of the self-perpetuating cycle. You can start with Hatha or Vinyasa and build in intensity (if you want) from there. It builds muscle and the mind body connection - a no brainer.
Reason #3: “I'm too inflexible to practise yoga.”
If you've been paying attention, you'll know that this comes with practise regardless. However, if your ability is something that you believe is stopping you from practising yoga, there are plenty of modifications that can be made to poses to make your experience as accessible and enjoyable as possible for you. Much like #2 though, if gaining flexibility is the goal, then yoga is great. Often it's men who tell me this, which leads me on to...
Reason #4: “I'm too male to practise yoga.”
Yoga can be intimidating for men, for all the reasons listed above, but with the additional fact that they're packing some extra tackle that makes you biologically dissimilar to the women in the room. But if you saw a lady in the weights area of the gym, would you mind? If the answer is ‘no’, then you have to reason that it’s okay for you to be a yogi amongst yoginis. If the answer is ‘yes’, then you should come to yoga and work through your misconceptions.
Men can struggle with flexibility, as women comparably are more open in the hips naturally. However, men are naturally stronger. So though men may be struggling to straighten their legs in Uttanasana (forward bend) they may well be able to perform arm balance with more ease.
Reason #5: “I'm too old to practise yoga.”
Of all of the reasons, this is the only one that at least has an iota of logic. The risk of injury increases as you age, especially if you've never exercised before. However, yoga, like other physical activities, acts as a preventative. It improves bone density and hormone balance, as well as wards off lower back and joint pain (which isn’t exclusive to the older generation, but doesn’t get any less likely as you go on either). As long as you are starting with a gentle practise, there is no reason to not practise yoga. Many of the yogis I did my teacher training with were above 50. Age is nothing but a number!
Trying anything new for the first time can be intimidating, not just yoga; we risk making fools of ourselves on the daily, but that’s never a reason not to do something. Once you find the right teacher and a class you love, there's no reason anyone can’t have a safe and healthy yoga practise. It may take time, you may be on and off with it, but the same applies everything, and that’s totally okay. If, at the end of the day, a flat-footed clumsy girl like me can become an actual teacher, then there is nothing stopping you from being a happy and confident yogi too!