"I can't touch my toes."
"I'm not very flexible."
"I'll never get my leg behind my head."
"Handstands will never be for me."
"I've got spaghetti-strength arms."
Sound familiar? There's sometimes a stereotype surrounding yoga and yogis, the idea of natural eating, meditation and the ability to eventually bend yourself into contortionist level pretzel shapes.
If on the most simple level yoga is the union between body and mind (and link to non-selfness), then whatever state your body or your mind is in, you can practice yoga. Here are some yoga practice tips for those think or feel that they're 'not so yogic'.
1. Break it down.
If you're finding it difficult to keep up with the poses in a class or perhaps on a DVD/online feed, don't be afraid to modify. It's scary to think that everyone around you is seemingly so capable while you're struggling, but you really can take yoga anywhere.
Pick a few poses at a time to practice at home. Find comfortable modifications if you need to. Practise mindfulness as you go through the day. Go at your own pace.
2. Don't underestimate the yoga-sphere.
Even if you can make a class every day or can afford a private instructor, go outside your immediate yoga circle. Of course you need to be safe, but you know your body best.
If you take it easy and stay sensible, there's so much experience out there you can draw from. YouTube videos, blogs and courses here on DYY, newsletters, Twitter and Facebook Q&A's with instructors, etc. The yoga-sphere is out there waiting for you!
3. A little goes a long way.
If you can't afford a teacher for private lessons or you can't get to classes, remember that a little can do a lot. Even if you save odd pennies or forego the odd luxury for three months, you could store up all your questions and sticky areas then concentrate all that into an hour or two with a private yoga session. Make it a present to yourself for persevering!
And if that also doesn't work, remember that the "little goes a long way" principle also applies to your asana practice. If you don't have 30-60 minutes to spare for some mat time, even mini sessions of 5-15 minutes of yoga will help your progress.
4. Don't lose the love.
Yoga is meant to be fun. We can take our practice seriously of course, but not at the expense of enjoying it. There will be frustrating or dull moments. We might hit a plateau and wonder why we even bother when everyone else seems to be flying ahead with ease.
But keep yoga a positive practice rather than a chore. Figure out the poses that make you feel good and do them often to appreciate why you do yoga. It doesn't matter what pose it is, or how "simple" it is (come on, how awesome is Savasana after a long, stressful day?) — do the yoga you love!
5. You get out what you put in.
If you keep practicing, you will keep getting better. It might take ten minutes or it might take ten years, but if you persevere you will get there. Remember that little and often achieves a lot. Even if you spend ten minutes practicing every day, you will improve in time!
My Personal Experience with Yoga
Years ago when I felt I couldn't get to a yoga class and couldn't afford a personal trainer, I sat on my sofa as the walking cliché for a diet program: overweight, demotivated and very unhappy with myself.
I decided to buy myself a yoga DVD. Over time I learnt by myself and tried to attend any class I could get to. I fumbled through the odd class where the regular goers knew what they were doing and I often felt too humiliated to go back more than a few times.
I give up a lot of things very easily, but for some reason yoga wouldn't let me off the hook. I kept learning. I broke down each pose one by one. That was my practice for a few years.
No flow, no sun salutations, just doggedly practicing each pose with instinctive paranoia that my knee was too far over the line of my toe, or my back arm was lagging down in Warrior II.
I must have been the least experienced person in my yoga teacher training too but I kept going. And so I found myself this time last year, having a secret nervous breakdown in front of six pupils as I started to teach them yoga. People left after a while but more amazingly, other people kept coming back!
So you might have spaghetti-strength arms, zero balance, or the inability to touch your toes. The beauty of yoga is that turning up to the mat is already half the battle!
We can modify our poses and our practice and we can improve, even those of us who are 'Not So Yogic'. After all, isn't that why we go to yoga in the first place?