I went to the most lovely of yoga classes today–Yoga Basics. Before I go to a class, especially Yoga Basics or Beginner’s Yoga (yes, I take both of these on a regular basis) I like to remind myself to clear my head of any preconceived ideas or expectations that I have about the class or myself. I try to take my mindset back to that very first time I ever stepped in a yoga class–The Beginner’s Mind.
The mind of infinite possibility.
The mix of attending yoga classes geared toward people new to yoga and going into a class with an “I don’t know shit” attitude really adds to my practice. If I go in there thinking I know what will happen, thinking I know how I will feel, thinking I know anything at all, it cuts the opportunity for growing and having an awesome experience down by oh, 100% or so.
My sister Molly suggested that I write a post that’s for people who have never done yoga. I’ve been noticing recently that so many people are intensely curious about yoga and want to take a class, but feel too intimidated and scared to give it a try. So this one’s for you guys.
Honestly, yoga can be intimidating. I remember how that first class feels–you finally work up the courage to actually GO to the class, and then you see them. The Yoga Nazis. They arrive thirty minutes early, roll out their mats at the front of the classroom, start warming up by doing handstands and headstands and crazy arm balances, the instructor knows them by name, and they haven’t missed a yoga class since 1999. They are decked out in their favorite yoga clothing company.
They are also, without doubt, really really good looking.
And then there’s you, arriving just in time, mat-less, so you rent one from the studio and it smells like feet, the door squeaks really loud as you open it–Yoga Nazis stare–and you try to find a spot somewhere in the back. You have no reason in hell to own anything skin-tight or stretchy, so you’re wearing pajama pants and one of your Dad’s old t-shirts.
You feel like everything about you screams newbie–the borrowed mat, the pj’s–hell, these people are so advanced they can probably just feel how inexperienced you are. They can probably read your energy or something.
Yeah, I remember those classes.
That first class is enough to scare some people away for good. But just so that doesn’t happen to you, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: You’ve got it all wrong.
The Yoga Nazis are actually just people, like you and me, who yes, have probably been practicing for a longer period of time and can put their feet behind their heads, but know no more about living and dying than someone who has never done yoga before.
One’s mastery of certain yoga poses says very little about the kind of person they are. Maybe they are naturally flexible, naturally strong, naturally graceful and calm. They are no further ahead in this journey than you are.
These people also, from my experience, turn out to be very nice and helpful. Yoga classrooms are not elitist or hierarchical unless you go in there thinking that that’s the way it will be. In fact, Yoga Nazis don’t exist unless you go in there thinking that they do.
This applies to all things in life that you really have no fucking clue about, but go in there thinking that you do.
So go in with an open mind. Put aside all the things you think you know about yoga from movies, magazines, friends, pictures you’ve seen. Just take it all in as if you know nothing about it–after all, you don’t know anything.
Although our minds like to think we can, we cannot predict the future.
Trust that the positive things you’ve heard will accumulate from practicing yoga will come, maybe after one class, maybe after one month of class, maybe after years and years of class. But get ready, brace yourself–yoga has side effects, and they are really, really cool.
More than anything though, get ready to come to the realization that you, [insert your name here], are the owner of one (1) divinely made vessel for experiencing life, also known as a body. Don’t be surprised if this simple fact feels earth-shattering, celebration-worthy, and brings tears to your eyes. We forget it all too much.
Every time I practice, it’s a little reminder to myself: yo George, YOU HAVE A BODY. More precisely, you ARE a body. Your existence in this world is through that of a human body. Be thankful for this, praise your body, throw a party for your body! That’s what I do every day on my mat.
So, if you haven’t ever practiced yoga before, know that you have a precious gift that some of the more experienced yogis tend to lose–The Beginner’s Mind. Cherish that. Know that I and many others strive to achieve the mindset you have–that of no expectations. So be brave, and get ready. Yoga is one of the most awesome journeys you will ever go on.