|Photo by Robert Bejil|
I'm always amazed at the rampant misconceptions about yoga. Even now that yoga studios are as common as Starbucks, people think yoga is all about stretching and being healthy. I guess it can be that, but it can also be much more. Here are the things I wish everyone understood about yoga.
1. It doesn't matter how flexible or inflexible you are. Really. Being flexible won't make you happier. There's no prize. Stop suffering and learn to love the body you have!
2. Don't get hung up on how you look in a pose. Everyone else in class is focusing on their own pose. They don't care how you look (unless you're wearing a thong). Let this be your first lesson in ego management.
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3. It's OK if you don't know what the Sanskrit words mean. The only people in the room who do are teachers or big yoga dorks.
4. It's not religious—unless you want it to be. Your practice should be unique to you. You're allowed to make it as spiritual, religious, fitness oriented (or not) as you want. (If someone tells you otherwise, please have them call me.)
5. Yoga is an art form, a science, a lifestyle, and a philosophy. But more than anything, it's a way to get to know yourself better. And that's something that benefits us all.
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6. Everyone gets the left and right sides mixed up sometimes. Don't be embarrassed when this happens. If your teacher corrects you, just smile. There's a good chance she'll say "left" when she means "right" later in the class.
7. It's cool to fall down. The first time I fell on my face while attempting an arm balance, I was mortified. Now, when I get a big red mark on my forehead from diving head-first into my mat, I consider it a badge of honor. It's how you learn. Laugh at yourself and move on!
8. No one cares if you can do a Handstand in the middle of the room, or touch your foot to the back of your head, or some other advanced pose. Just start where you are, and your practice will build over time. You've got the rest of your life to master the poses--for now, just breathe.
9. Your teacher wants you to ask for help. No one understands the temptation to hide in the back row and pretend to be invisible more than I do. But believe me when I say yoga teachers LOVE to answer your questions. Your teacher really wants to help you with your pose, answer your question about philosophy, or explain what that Sanskrit word means. So if you don't understand what's going on, ask!
10. Keep coming back. When your new to anything there will be moments of frustration and discomfort. Despite what you might see on TV commercials, hatha yoga is usually not the same as going to a spa to get pampered. It's hard work. It can be exhausting--physically, mentally, and emotionally. At times you will want to throw up your hands and quit (or at least curse out your teacher for making you hold that pose you hate). Don't. This is where the healing happens. Breathe into it, and come back tomorrow. You'll be glad you did.
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About Spoiled Yogi