I’m not flexible enough, I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t want to look silly. Sound familiar? These are the sorts of things I hear all the time as a teacher and it’s what keeps people from doing something that’s good for themselves. The ego is a powerful thing and it’s hard to convince it to do something it doesn’t really want to do, or is intimidated by, even if part of you knows it would be for the best.
Last week I had a guy in one of my classes that was middle aged, average shape and physical condition, and had never done yoga before. If I have a first time student I always speak with them directly about the basics before we get started. It’s a way to connect with them and to help them jump right in. He came curious, but also a bit reluctant.
I made it a point to take things slow as once we started to move I could see the frustration building in his face and body language. During the sun salutations he would skip parts, which is normal for first timers, so I told him to do what he could and observe when he wasn’t moving. Then I noticed that as he stood there he was looking at the door. I could tell he was trying to find a way to flee but I held on to him by continuing to encourage him and give sensible tips and cues.
Again, this is a normal reaction. Your body is rejecting this new movement and your mind is rebelling even more. We live in a constant habitual state of movement and mind, and when those are confronted it’s a natural reaction to run. The goal of yoga is to instead look at this desire to flee, focus on the state of the mind and body, and just accept them both as they are. It’s the practice itself that will slowly begin to encourage both for the better, not just one lesson. A yoga practice is called a practice because it’s never over and these things take time. Think about how long you have been moving and thinking the way you do now. We cant simply change that over night. Expect a challenge but be kind to yourself.
He stayed, he struggled, he sweat tons, and was clearly frustrated the whole time but he didn’t run away. After the lesson he came to me to share his frustrations and I reassured him that this is how many people find yoga in the beginning.
Don’t let that fear control you, you control it. Get on the mat, look at your mind, your body, and yourself. Observe, and embrace it as you begin to practice. If you take control, the body and mind will follow. You just have to remind them who is in charge. Don’t give up. It’s a fight worth fighting. The worst that can happen is that you feel better in the end. See you on the mat!