Books or yoga classes often give the impression that there are prerequisites for the study of yoga. We may be told that we should not smoke, or that we should be vegetarian, or that we should give away all our worldly goods. Such ways of behaving are admirable only if they originate within us – and they may as a result of yoga – but not if they are imposed from outside. We begin where we are and how we are, and whatever happens, happens. -TKV Deskachar, Heart of Yoga
The Meditation Mantra of the month is Beginner’s Mind. This is a real struggle for me. Being a real beginner that is truly open, curious, and growing is kind of opposite of how I feel when I’m a beginner at something. I assume lots of prerequisites before I start something new. Like how I actually don’t want to do something that I don’t know how to do or am not good at. This prerequisite makes it really hard to learn how to do anything….know what I mean?
I actually don’t think being a vegetarian or giving away all your stuff are the prerequisites most people think of regarding yoga. I think the prerequisites most people assume, infer, or hear directly are more complicated. Like you have to be a woman — and a lean, young, long haired, white skinned (with a subtle tan maybe?) kind of woman who drinks wheatgrass. You need to look good in yoga pants. You need to wear yoga pants. I think people assume that to start doing yoga you already need to know it (like how babies learn to roll over and crawl) and are able to easily and gracefully execute all the postures without any awkward looking around at what the heck is everyone doing?, or that sudden onset amnesia when you seriously don’t know where your right elbow is or how to place it on your thigh. And then breathe out your nose, which gives you the intense desire to breathe heavily out your mouth.
Other prerequisites (stumbling blocks) for practicing yoga that I often hear are about not being able to sit still for 5 seconds, being totally inflexible, or bad hips/knees/feet/back/shoulder/neck/wrists, etc… I sincerely do understand why these things would keep a person from going to a yoga class. And YET.
Yoga is “simply” about connecting in mind-body-spirit. You are always connected in mind-body-spirit whether you want to be or not. You KNOW plenty about Yoga, whether you have ever stepped in to a yoga class or watched a DVD (maybe Rodney Yee? me too). If you are pushing through your day after a horrible nights sleep — your body’s physical experience is most likely making it hard for your mind to focus and stay awake, and your spirit might easily slip into melancholy or depression. OR maybe you are having one of those great days where you are outside and you feel vibrant, energetic, and hopeful. I imagine you know what that feels like in your body. You know what it feels like in your mind when ideas and realizations come without struggle. You know what gratitude and hopefulness feel like.
You already know plenty about YOGA, black yoga pants or not.
What if the only and most significant prerequisite to going to a yoga class is that you Show Up. As in, you actually GO to the class. And yes, that is easier said than done. It is really hard to find just the right teacher, time, location, style, and price. I know! Maybe check out some DVD’S from the library and experiment with what feels right? Keep looking. Try out different classes. Maybe give it a few chances. The first time with a new instructor is most likely going to be awkward until you get used to how they teach. For better or worse every instructor is going to be different. Put the prerequisites on the class, not on you. Trust your gut. If something feels icky, creepy, or off-putting – believe yourself, not everyone who “totally loves ____”. Assume that you know something about Yoga too, because you have been the one and only person experiencing your life in your body.
I’m currently offering a 5 week Beginning Yoga class on Monday nights, 7-8:15p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church. It’s okay if you missed the first or the first 3 classes. Just show up. When it’s over (sometime in October) I’ll be offering a 5 week Gentler Beginning Yoga class at the same time & place. The Gentler is just that; gentler. We use the chair instead of going all the way to the floor and back up for Downward Facing Dog and Forward Folds. You start and end the class lying on the floor, like the other class, but we do different poses or adaptations of poses that are more accessible for people with arthritis, chronic pain, tough knees, or simply want a gentler style of yoga. Each class is $5 and you don’t have to pay for everything in advance. And you don’t have to go to the Beginning Yoga class to attend any other class I offer. You can just show up and start where you are and how you are. You don’t even need a mat to get started – you can borrow one from me. I’m pretty beginner friendly in general. I want you to have a good experience. I want you to come back. Honestly, I want you to have a good and nourishing practice of yoga in your life, whether that is with me or someone else. Deal?
So, that’s it. Beginner’s Mind. Here goes. I’ll try it if you will.
Peace on your hard-working head,