Yoga is Intimidating: Here’s How to Do It Anyway

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When I first moved to Austin in 2015, I had a long to-do list. I needed to figure out which taco trucks had the best vegetarian options. I needed to find the best hidden gems on the Greenbelt. And of course, I needed to do some yoga studio shopping.

Why? Because not every yoga studio puts out the same “vibes.” Not every studio fits my values as someone who practices yoga (and is now a yoga teacher). Some studios are downright intimidating. Fortunately, there are ways to find studios, spaces and opportunities to practice without insecurities.

What Does a “Yogi” Look Like to You?

Yoga is a beautiful practice. It’s an opportunity to connect within, build a more positive relationship with your body, and feel refreshed.

Those messages don’t always come across when you’re looking at yoga influencers on Instagram. Sure – maybe they’re paired with a fluffy caption about “looking within” or “choosing to breathe.” But those captions often get buried under the typical image of a skinny, white woman in expensive clothing doing a headstand.

For someone who isn’t skinny[AB1] , able to afford expensive clothing, or able to do a headstand, that image doesn’t always feel so welcoming. Especially when that image dominates what you see when you search for “yoga” on social media. When I moved to Austin, I was skinny, and I am white, but I showed up to class in an oversized t-shirt, $10 mat, and with no aspirations to even try a headstand. I still felt like I had a foot in the door, but it took me longer than expected to find a studio that allowed that door to stay open.

Your Instagram Feed in Your Local Studio

The first studio I visited was like an Instagram feed in real life (if there is an Instagram yogi that you follow, most likely, they live in Austin). Everyone wore tight, expensive clothing. Their mats were sticky and sleek. Before the class began, students were practicing handstands and arm balances. The shirtless and dolled up clientele made me think I was at a frat party, not a yoga studio.

My inner voice was not comforted by this scene. I was not going to be able to keep up. I was not going to be able to fit in. I couldn’t unlock the calm feelings that yoga usually brings me. Instead, I was bombarded with thoughts about my frizzy hair, baggy clothes and cheap gear.

I didn’t feel particularly welcome, I didn’t feel like I was welcomed back, and I didn’t feel like this was going to be my “home” studio during my time in Austin. But I didn’t give up on the practice.

Find A Space That Holds Space

The next studio was too cliquey. The studio after that was too expensive. The studio after that just…didn’t feel right.

It took a few weeks to find a studio that welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like my practice and I were enough. Truly enough. It was okay to take a Child’s Pose throughout an entire sequence, if that was what I needed in the moment. It was okay to only have $5 on hand for a donation-based class. My fellow students were friendly, the teachers made jokes, and everyone got a hug (if they wanted one) after class.

When I trained to teach yoga with that studio two years later, I learned the importance of holding space for your students. It’s something that I try to do as a teacher myself. I know the value and importance of holding space for everyone who walks in the room. It gives them the opportunity to grow, feel accepted, and become more comfortable in their practice.

I might not be a yoga teacher, or be as flexible, or be as strong today, if someone hadn’t held space for me five years ago. If you are interested in yoga, it’s time to hold space for yourself to grow.

The Good Thing About Quarantine…

…is that it’s not exactly “safe” to be practicing in a crowded studio anyway. Now is the time to hold space for yourself. Learn the postures, build up your practice, and get comfortable with yoga flows. Pause and rewind classes, take a break when you need it, and bring your pet along for the ride.

There are still plenty of ways that you can get into yoga online. No need to step into a studio!

  • Back in 2014, my therapist recommended DoYogaWithMe, and I credit it for growing my love of yoga. There is an amazing range of videos, and it’s (mostly) free to use!
  • Don’t love making choices? This 15-minute class from Jason Crandell first inspired me to teach others – but that’s a story for another time.
  • His PDF sequences are also a phenomenal way to practice a sequence without watching YouTube!

Remember, the true benefits of yoga come from the ability to breathe through discomfort, enjoy the relationship you have with your body, and quiet the inner voice that tells you that you’re “not good enough” or that you’re not the “ideal yogi.”

You are the ideal yogi.


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