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A while ago, a friend asked me some questions about getting started with a yoga practice.

I’m not sure if she expected the impassioned diatribe that her email evoked.

Her concerns were pretty universal; I was worried about all these things when I first started, too. I’ve heard them many times from all kinds of people. When I say I do yoga, they say they would like to try it, but…

So, here is what I said to my friend. Maybe this can be useful to someone else.

Dear K,

Let me address your concerns.

“I am unbendy.”

Yes – that’s because you don’t do yoga, yet. Yoga is where you go to learn to get bendy. When someone tells me they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible, that’s like saying you can’t take piano lessons because you can’t play Mozart. As you go, you get bendy. I had a really hard time touching my toes when I started. There will be people in class that are bendier than you, but that’s okay. They were unbendy when they started.

“My body hurts.”

Absolutely. But the thing with finding a great yoga class/teacher is that it is a very safe way to get yourself moving. It’s still a hell of a workout, so in the beginning you are going to be as sore as you would be in a Body Pump class. But you’ll get strong as hell, too. When I walked into a yoga studio at the age of 30, I didn’t know it would lead to being pain-free for the first time in almost 20 years. Yeah, it ached a little getting there, but it was so worth it.

“I feel ridiculous.”

I love this point because it is honest and so very important. Yoga deals with the body but it is so much more about managing the mind. It’s a moving meditation and everything that you need to deal with emotionally is going to come up. You are doing yoga so that you can let go and kill your ego. Everyone in the class, regardless of how skinny or bendy or cute they look in their short-shorts, had a first class where they felt lost and scared and incompetent. It’s just part of the deal. The yoga studio is where you learn to stop being so hard on yourself, stop judging yourself and just be in the moment and do the best you can. Ditch the desire to be the best yogi in the room. I’ve been doing this 4 years, 4 times a week and work really hard at it – I’m nowhere near the best in the room. But that is not the point in the slightest. It’s your own time, your own workout, your own mediation to deal with your own stuff.

Yogis tend to be a very non-judgmental group. They are usually just thrilled that you are interested in learning about the practice that they love. No one expects you to be good when you are a beginner. (And you are considered a beginner for like, 10 years.)

I’ve struggled through classes – right after my dog died, right after a long flight and right after I made some unfortunate food/drink choices. And sometimes my classes are really hard for no discernible reason.  But I’ve always felt like my class has embraced me and it was totally fine, because we’ve all been there. No one wondered why I wasn’t doing a better backbend or why I sat down so early. We do yoga in a group and love that communal energy but it’s a totally individual practice.

Yoga has stopped my panic attacks, fixed issues lingering from my broken back and strengthened my marriage. I will be eternally grateful to the practice.

So, take a deep breath, get out there and play around with different styles. Give it at least three classes before you decided if you like it. Give yourself permission to fall down and look silly and be new. You deserve that.

With all my love (to all you budding yogis)

~Lisa

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