As a new teacher with a few years of guiding under my belt, I’d like to make a few observations regarding the mindset of a new yoga practitioner. When I chat with people that have an interest in starting a yoga practice, either those that I know or those I’ve just met, often times they say things like, “oh, I’m not ready to take a class yet,” or “I’m waiting till I get stronger, more flexible” etc… Maybe you’ve heard this or are one of those people?
Using my own practice as evidence, I can share with you that it’s more of a mindset thing than a physical readiness. Your physical body is always going to be in some state of ill-preparedness. An ache, a strain, a cold, a stiff something or other. If this IS your mindset, then I will disappoint you early on and say: you will never be ready! The physical practice is gracious and hospitable. It is designed in a way in that it is wide, varied and totes modifications along the way to make it accessible to all bodies. The hard part is finding a teacher that doesn’t make you feel inadequate or is comparative.
There is no real “getting ready” for it. What you are actually brushing up against here is the mind. Your mind has a thought; a doubtful one. Your thought is repeated over and over and eventually it becomes real or truth. Its repetition created a story that you tell yourself. Is this not the definition of delusion? Developing awareness of mental patterns, either harmful or helpful, is a game changer, and a doorway towards more unlearning.
We all do this on different levels and in different situations. No, I don’t think you’re crazy. The yoga world is and can be daunting. From advanced postures shown in the media to chanting Om at the beginning of class, I get it. Maybe I’m a part of it too….the photos on my website could be a turn off for some. But really, these are just some depictions of a moment in time showing possibilities of bodily control, attention to detail, and rehearsed strength and flexibility. These photos show the result of a practice developed over a period of time.
So, what is it that will mentally prepare you to jump the “I’m not ready yet” hurdle? Is it establishing a regular meditation practice to observe the content of your mind? Need a buddy to wade into the murky waters? Or maybe you need Hans and Franz to pump you up? Part of the yogic path is to come face to face with your ego which you will begin to witness and have conversations with. Here, you can choose to either succumb to its demands, or acknowledge it as passing, like a stream of water. Creating healthy movement patterns in your body, and making the space and time for stillness really do allow you to start to see the frame work of your mind, which you can then start to define. Ever….so………..slowly, mind you.
Remember, I speak to you as a normal guy who trips, falls, and forgets to slow down for speed bumps, not as some all knowing spiritual guru. For me, being a yoga teacher means sharing my experience, and my experience includes the doubt and unknowing that any newcomer or beginner might face. Be comforted in your doubts and march onward so that you can transform them into confidence and useful knowledge for your life.
If you’re interested to read about this from the yoga sutra’s perspective which is a very practical guide, then read Here and Here.