It’s no secret that I enjoy yoga and have incorporated it as part of my healthy coastal lifestyle for many reasons – relief from anxiety, flexibility, strength, and balance. As everyone who’s ever practiced yoga knows, other things come out of a yoga practice.
Our adorable little town offers free exercise classes – cardio and yoga practices – and this time of year, especially, people want to explore these classes. While cardio is pretty new user-friendly, yoga is a lot more intimidating. There’s the image of lithe, flexible, young bodies contorting and moving in smooth, fluid ways while incense burns and New Agey music plays in the background. So often, people are scared to try yoga, because they think they’ll be the klutzy elephant in the room full of swans. I was like that one time, too.
One May, I was working an event and happened to be almost right across from the local yoga and wellness booth. During a lag, I scooted across and chatted with the ladies working the booth, and they told me that the classes are friendly for all levels and there are modifications available. Their words gave me the assurance I needed to dare to try the class, and it’s been a good choice ever since.
There was still the fear that I’d make a total fool out of myself. Early on, I toppled over. Another time in my first year of practice, I was coming out of a deep yoga squat and went head-first to the hardwood floor surrounding my mat. People look at you when you fall, but mostly it’s out of concern. I’ve seen far more experienced yogis than I topple over. Once you accept the fact that it’ll happen – that you’ll lose balance and topple over – you’re free to focus only on your flow.
Another thing that makes people give up on yoga is not having consistently perfect practices. It is very common for someone to be able to balance better on one side than the other within the same practice. It is also common for a yogi to balance great on one side but not have that same balance during their next practice. And sometimes, there’s just no balance at all on either side during a practice when you were nailing it perfectly in your previous practice. Being aware that this is normal keeps newbies to yoga from dropping out, thinking they’re failing at yoga. It is called yoga “practice” for a reason.
The other thing that drives new yogis away from practice in fear and embarrassment is the inevitable gas passage. This exchange from Bridget Jones’s Baby sums it up perfectly:
I think of that last line every single time I’m in yoga practice and getting that feeling. The fact of the matter is, sometimes, in certain poses, it’s just impossible to clench your sphincter while holding the pose. Perhaps, though, yoga allows for the body to do what comes naturally to it. With standing twists, sitting twists, and lying twists, the intestines get massaged and the stuff in them moves as it should. One evening, I was just finishing up the final stretching segment of a cardio/pilates workout. We’d been flat on our backs as it ended, and as I rocked up to a seated position… Yep. And it was loud. Thankfully, the workout flush hid my blush, and I apologized. The teacher quipped, “Better out than in.” It’s true, though. While we think of passing gas as uncouth and most definitely not lady-like, our bodies aren’t supposed to hold gas. This is why we come equipped with mechanisms for burping and pooting.
As you ponder your fitness goals for 2020, they may include yoga. In fact, I hope they do. It will improve your physical and psychological health and is a key component of the healthy coastal lifestyle. Remember some key ideas, though. (1) Everyone’s a beginner at some point. (2) Everyone at every level of experience topples over and falls or, at least, loses their balance. (3) Some practices go better than others. (4) Everyone poots during practice. Remember these and give yourself some grace, and you’ll be able to relax completely in the no-judgement-zone that is yoga practice.