Over the past few years of my yoga practice, I've experienced personal triumphs like moving into poses I never thought were possible and sticking through especially challenging classes until the end. I also still have days where I'm wobbling all over the place, constantly taking child's pose instead of downward dog, and moving much slower than everyone else.
In short, some days I'm still a hot mess — but the best part is, I don't care. I've learned how to own it, and I bet you can, too.
- Hold yourself accountable. Pay for the class in advance, make plans to go with a friend, put it on your calendar, do whatever it takes to just get your butt over there. You're more likely to show up when you have a buddy waiting on you or if you've already shelled out the cash. Embrace the FOMO (fear of missing out).
- Introduce yourself to the instructor, tell her/him your limitations, and let her/him know you'll be doing your best. If you communicate your limitations beforehand, chances are you won't feel as "judged," and a good instructor will give you some extra attention and help you adjust your poses. Many people who practice yoga have certain health and physical conditions, so rest assured, nobody will think you're making a mockery of the class when you can't keep up, and you won't wildly be looking around to see who might be laughing at you.
- Keep the focus on yourself. Remember that a wonky downward dog is just as happy as a "perfect" looking one, so don't compare yourself to anyone else — and know that they're not looking at or judging you, either. In fact, this might sound crazy, but try and get in the front row if you can. You'll have a closer look at the instructor, and you can keep your eyes locked on him/her, then yourself, instead of everyone in front of and around you.
- Practice today so you can practice tomorrow. Listen to your own body and go at your own pace...even if it looks like you're going in slow motion. Don't be afraid to take a child's pose, or seven of them, especially if things get crazy at the end and people start standing on their heads. If you can't touch your toes, bend your knees. If you can't hold your tree pose, try and try and try, even if you look like a crazy Rockette, wildly kicking your foot around and popping it back in. Don't be afraid to fail! It is a process. Just check your ego at the door and keep hopping on your mat.
Most importantly, if you find that yoga just plain isn't your jam, that's okay. As my first great yoga teacher taught me, the practice is about finding what's beneficial for you — and that might mean no practice at all. There are plenty of things people swear by that I have no interest in, like spin class, juice cleanses and no-carb diets. If it's just not working for you, don't force it.
But before you swear it off, try this: when you wake up tomorrow, interlock your hands, stretch your arms towards the sky, keep your feet grounded, and take a few deep breaths. You just got a quick hit — and chances are, you'll want more.