I read an inspiring story by a guy who discovered Iyengar yoga in a low moment in his life and overcame the initial strangeness to find strength in his practice. It started in a very familiar way – “My first ever yoga class was disappointing”. So what made him continue and discover the full joy of yoga?
Yoga is not for me
Luckily for Daniel, he didn’t give up after the first disappointing experience: “we were invited to bend down and touch our toes. I couldn’t recall an age at which this was possible. Certainly not as a rugby-playing teenager, and far less as the couch cabbage I’d become”.
The feeling of ‘yoga is not for me’ is a common one, especially for men who are often less flexible. However much the teacher tells you that your practice is your own and it doesn’t matter how far you can bend, if you can’t get anywhere close, you tend to think that you’re not built for yoga practice.
The problem is that when it’s uncomfortable, you don’t get the benefits from yoga, which requires relaxation even during difficult positions. If you you are very far from what others are doing, you might exert yourself and force yourself into the yoga mould. This is wrong. The best thing you can do is to forget about the fact that you’re so far from the right pose and start to breathe and have some fun.
Look inside to find your own reason for being there
The people who succeed in yoga, find something, anything, that compels them to continue. Daniel says that it was his competitiveness. “In fact, if we didn’t stand up soon, I’d vomit on the mat. Yet all around me, middle-aged women flipped forward, apparently contented”. He said he felt that he wanted to prove that he could do it as well as or better than them. I think it was more about his sense of self-respect and determination to do something good for himself that made him go back for more.
Listen carefully and be a good disciple
As long as you listen to the teacher as Daniel did, then your mind will help your body to relax into the awkward and challenging shapes ““No gripping”, we were told; “let go”, and “breathe”, and the hard work of stretching felt more feasible”. Taking the guidance of your teacher to heart and embracing it fully will give you a sense of ease as you relax into it.
Yoga is such a different experience for your entire being to go through. You should not expect to understand it or even enjoy it to begin with. But if you can find a reason within youself to continue exploring it and you listen carefully and follow your teacher, your resistance will float away. That is the first sign that yoga is working for you.
Read Daniel’s inspiring story about how he found yoga and overcame his resistance.