You're at the coffee shop next door to the area's coolest yoga studio. All the girls in your office go there, and you're tired of not contributing to the lunch talk in the office Caf.
You practice yoga in the comfort and safety of your own home but you crave the attention of a live instructor. You know your asanas will improve vastly from minor adjustments and the guidance of an experienced practitioner. And this studio is supposed to be the best.
You're up next to place your order when you notice the yoga mat ahead of you in line. It is glorious—the latest mat from Lululemon. You look at the mat slung over your own shoulder and wonder if everyone will notice you snagged this killer deal at TJ Maxx.
In this coffee shop, everyone is thin and inked in elaborate tribal art that rivals the henna art of the Indian gods and goddesses themselves. You wonder if you are half as travelled and cultured as these people. Not to mention what your Crow Pose looks like—or, rather, what it doesn't look like.
You collect your Iced Chai and begin to have second thoughts. Maybe you shouldn't have had that donut at this morning's meeting. And maybe you can skip the studio tonight and put in your yoga DVD at home instead. You can always take class at this hip studio some other day.
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you may be experiencing yoga intimidation, or the perception and feeling of inadequacy when around other more seemingly devoted, seasoned, or advanced yogis. If left unchecked, this feeling can keep you from growing and deepening your yoga practice.
To help you stay strong and keen on your path to liberation and enlightenment, here are three suggestions for taming this destructive mindset.
1. There is no failure in yoga.
But, if you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
In yoga, you cannot fail. You are questing in your own unique, beautiful way—and so is everyone else. The first Yoga Sutra is dedicated to simply reminding you that your yogic education has officially begun: that you have planted good seeds in this life or in another, and they have led you here.
Once you intend to know yoga, you are a student of the great sage Patanjali, no more and no less than the millions of students alongside you.
2. There is no 'yoga type.'
The truth is, the history of yoga does not describe a 'yoga type.' True, your asanas will create and encourage a strong vessel, but strength comes in all shapes and sizes. Your teacher will not think less of you if you do not flip upside down in a Headstand. What matters is that you show up.
And whether you know it or not, you are getting stronger. The point is to get stronger practicing correct alignment and proper postures: something you will benefit from in a classroom where there is a supervising, attentive teacher on hand.
3. There is no shame in having a treat.
It is 100 percent human nature to face cravings and temptations. We all go through this daily. Just because you've had a donut doesn't mean you've lost, or you don't deserve to practice with a group. You can sweat a little more today and still feel your muscles aching, burning and screaming tomorrow.
Doesn't the prize seem so much sweeter when you've put in the hard work? Your body will come to love this hard work so much, you might even find yourself reaching for more water, fruits, and veggies just to nourish and reward your cells in the best way you know how.
Achieving discipline of your body and, in result, of your mind? Talk about a double win!
Your fellow classmates beside you and around the globe may express their yogic sprightliness in lots of different, eclectic ways—and so will you!
In time, you will find that your yoga class is a judgment-free zone, and that true yogis and yoginis will be genuinely enthusiastic about your attendance, improvements, and journey with them. So sip that Iced Chai and get to class. Just think of the glorious progress that awaits you.
Remember, you don't need to stress about pulling asanas with the best of them. You are the best of them.