Are you an aspirational yogi?
Do you notice the wonderful benefits that yoga has on those around you, but you are hesitant to get started because you think that yoga is only for flexible people?
Maybe you think you’re too restless for yoga and you don’t have the patience to sit still.
According to Yoga Journal, “of current non-yogis, 34% of Americans say they are at least somewhat likely to practice yoga in the next 12 months, representing more than 80 million Americans that call themselves ‘aspirational yogis,’ people who are interested in trying yoga.”
All of these thoughts about flexibility and patience are perfectly normal for people who haven’t tried yoga or who only tried it a few times. I had them myself before I dove in. Back in 2005, I tried my first yoga class at my friend's, Yuki’s, gym. It was a Level 2 Vinyasa Flow class and it was ridiculously hard. I was sweating buckets and couldn’t catch my breath. It turned me off to the concept.
However, I was still a little interested in all the rave, so I decided to check it out again, a few years later, gradually at my own pace, using the Nintendo Wii Fit Yoga program. I would stand on the Balance Board and hold Tree Pose, Crescent Moon, and Boat Pose. This felt nice after a long walk in the neighborhood.
But it wasn’t until 2011 that my Café Chloe customer and writer for the Yoga One Blog, Laura McCorry, invited me to do yoga in Balboa Park with her. She catered this Semi-Private class to my beginner level. Laura opened my perspective to the healing aspect that yoga can bring and I began to find inner balance and peace. From here, we developed into becoming close friends. This is when I realized that yoga is not just for the flexible, but it helps us all to gradually become more flexible. Flexibility is a by-product, not a prerequisite. From that point, I started practicing 3-4 times a week at the Yoga One studio for the following years, through my Yoga Teacher Certification, and to the present.
Laura McCorry and Me, Hannah Faulkner
About a year ago, 2015, I introduced my friend, Paul, to yoga. He started coming to my free/donation classes at Yoga One San Diego. At first he admits that it was really hard. He was sore after class and really struggled through Downward Facing Dog. He would use a wrist wedge for the first month or two, but then noticed that he was getting stronger and didn’t need it any more. His spine began to lengthen as he began to notice the many benefits of yoga on his health. He noticed that yoga gives him more energy, improves his posture, reduces back pain, enhances inner calm, strengthens his immune system, and improves his outlook on life. Now, he has introduced both his mother and brother to yoga. I’m so proud of him for continuing on this path!
Paul discloses, “When I first started yoga, I hated it! It was uncomfortable, I was not flexible and worst of all, I wasn’t good at it. I’m not new to the hard work of fitness, having run competitively in the past, but yoga is something I do not have a natural aptitude for. However, I decided that that was the very reason I needed to continue. I continued classes with Hannah and am so appreciative of her creative, story-like teaching style, as well as her persistence and patience. Today, many months later, I’m engaged in a daily yoga practice while I prepare for basic military training and, I have to say, it’s hard to believe that something I once hated so much has evolved into something I look forward to everyday. My journey in yoga practice is still young, but has already led me to feel stronger, lighter and more in-control of my body. More importantly, it has challenged me to move past my pride and embrace something difficult. As I learn more and more everyday, it's been worth it.”
Tree Pose- Me (Hannah) and Paul
During my Labor Day 2016 camping trip with my siblings at Lake Alpine, California, my wonderful loving sisters, Rebekah Anderson and Naomi Vidal, enthusiastically set up a yoga station so that we could all experience the calming and health benefits of yoga. They asked me to lead them through classes throughout the 4-day weekend.
Grant Anderson, Rebekah Anderson, Richard Vidal, Naomi Vidal, me
To my surprise, I also had the opportunity to teach my brothers their first yoga class too!
Richard Vidal shared, “The yoga class was challenging for me, in a good way, of course. I think Hannah is great at being a yoga teacher! Her passion for yoga is evident. With that attitude, she puts the class at ease. I found it pretty easy to go with the flow. I didn't feel pressure to do certain movements or stretches. I'm positive that if I were to do more yoga, that in time I would gain strength and flexibility from it.”
Lawrence Faulkner added, “During the last morning of the camping trip, I decided to try yoga before heading home. I was shocked at how calm and relaxed I was on the drive. I learned that yoga does way more than just stretch your body. It puts you at ease spiritually as well."
I led 5 classes, catering to their requests and needs. The kids were especially enthusiastic about this opportunity as Naomi Isayi exclaimed, “This is the best stretching EVER!”
Ironically, throughout this weekend, I happened to be reading a book called, Yoga for People Who Can’t be Bothered to do It. I was curious what this jokester had to say about yoga philosophy. Geoff Dyer explains the concept of “listening to his body” when he decides not to leap off of the 30-foot cliff to dive into the water hole. He used to be able to do such things, but he was feeling stiff and achy in his body now. Further, he takes a closer look at nature as he notices that green is the color of growth. At Siam Reap, it seemed that the green moss, vines, grass, rice paddies, trees, etc. were eager to grow for the sheer fun of growing. He also experienced moments of content and stillness as he opens up his "café chakras".
Although I laughed out loud many times at his commentary on travel and life, I was also saddened at his stubbornness against actually doing yoga, and ultimately, he was saddened too.
The title of the book revolves around a scene in Southeast Asia, at a Sanctuary in Ko Pha-Ngan. The author and also narrator explains that he doesn’t like to do anything that involves concentrating, particularly chess or yoga, He regretfully admits, “I wished I’d been doing yoga for years- in fact I’d been wishing I’d been doing yoga for years for years-but I was incapable of starting.”
He examined the participants at this Sanctuary, “A lot of people did yoga even when they weren’t actually doing it. They were always stretching or bending or just sitting in quite demanding positions. Everyone had perfect posture and walked as though gravity were an option rather than a law.”
Like many other aspirational yogis, Geoff notices some of the obvious external benefits of yoga practice.
If you or someone you know is hesitant about getting started with yoga, here are some tips to give you that little nudge that you need:
Top 5 Tips for Aspirational Yogis:
1) Remind Yourself that NOT Doing Yoga is Harder for Your Body
If you played a lot of sports as a child and followed that by several years of mostly sitting at a desk, you may be starting to understand that the combination of both age and inactivity make us stiff. The fibers that surround our muscles lose their elasticity, but the good news is there isn’t a better practice than yoga to counteract the effects of aging. Every yoga practice brings weight bearing to help preserve muscle mass and stretching. This will slow or reverse our increasing tightness.
2) Start with Beginner or Level 1 Classes
If you are unsure about which level or style of yoga is right for you, it’s best to go easier than you think at first. Try a Level 1, Classic, Gentle, or Restorative Class. If these Gentle classes seems too slow for you, you’ll know to try a Vinyasa Flow class next time. If the Level 1 times don’t work with your schedule, then mention to a Level 2 instructor that you are new and he/she will suggest some variations and modifications throughout difficult poses to help you reach your optimal position.
You can also hire a private instructor to guide you personally at your own pace and skill level.
3) Push Aside Pride and Fear of Being Judged
Yoga is not a competition, although it may seem like it on social media. We can often find ourselves feeling vulnerable in a yoga class, but this environment is meant to be a community of support. We all need a healthy amount of caution so that we don’t injure ourselves. We are all in class to grow and learn. Yoga is not about showing off the hardest poses, but years of effort and growth can lead to the satisfaction of reaching your goals. We have the wonderful opportunity to celebrate each individuals’ growth and send our blessings and congratulations to those who have achieved the harder versions of poses.
4) Focus on Alignment and Your Breath
Have you heard the phrase, “Listen to Your Body.” We say it a lot in a yoga class. We focus on a solid foundation and tuning in to each part of your body, being careful not to over or under-stretch. In order to get the full experience, we need to make sure each part of our body is working together. Yoga originally got its name from the Sanskrit root, “yuj,” meaning to unite or join. By turning our concentration inward, we also pay close attention to breathing deeply. This allows the healing and calming aspects of yoga to arise.
5) Try Again- Repetition Works
Do you have tight hamstrings?
A Downward-Facing-Dog Pose every day is your friend.
Choose one particular pose that you struggle with in class. Practice this pose through modifications every day and note your improvement.
If you seek a more well-rounded mini practice at home, try Sun Salutations. Make it a Mini-Habit to do one Half-Sun Salutation each day and you’ll find yourself doing several full sequences.
My Featured Yoga Leggings this week for Lakes and Camping:
I encourage you to share this post with anyone that you want to motivate to try yoga!
Half Moon Pose at Lake Alpine, California
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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Lessons from Abroad