“Yoga is not about being bendy … it is about breathing and moving and smiling on the inside. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the best.” – Author Unknown
We all had to start somewhere in yoga (or perhaps you have wanted to start). That day took courage and unquenchable curiosity to drive or walk to the pre-chosen studio, ask for the paperwork to sign up, and roll out a mat in a little space in a foreign studio.
Add not speaking the same language as the instructor and those in class, and that was my first yoga experience: South Korea in 2007.
I wanted to try yoga for so long, but thought I lost the opportunity when I went to South Korea for my graduate degree in 2007. I couldn’t speak the language, and I had never tried yoga – that sealed the deal to never allow myself inside a studio, right?
Well, it was for me, until my American friend told me he tried out the class and loved it. So, I sheepishly went with him to the next session, and loved it too. I attended regularly for the full two years I lived in Seoul, and it saved my sanity during my MBA program.
I followed along well for the most part by simply watching the teacher and the other students around me. My teacher spoke little English, but made us feel connected to the practice by simply stating two words in English – inhale and exhale. She whispered these words whenever she walked near us – she knew what all yogis eventually learn: breath is the most important part.
Behind of course, simply showing up to the practice.
At the end of class she always placed her hands on my shoulders and pressed them into the ground further – a gesture I found so relaxing, simple and uniquely yoga.
Assuming you’ve tried out a class – or 1000, I ask: what was your first yoga class like? Close your eyes and search back – what made you finally step out of your comfort zone and go? Even if it was ‘for another person,’ you still took that leap of faith and went. If you pulled from that space in other areas in your life regularly, you would be unstoppable. A powerhouse. The nerve, self-confidence, curiosity, and love for oneself to attend a first yoga class is so amazing.
What if you hated your first yoga class? Try again. Thanks to the early part of the 20th century and the East mixing with the West, yoga has divided into so many amazing variations of the practice, you WILL find a yoga asana perfectly suited to you. If the first class you tried was too energetic and workout related, look for a calmer, more meditative alternative. Anything with the words yin, restore, meditative, or even hatha would suit a more calm and restorative type of practice. If the opposite is true for you, and the class almost put you to sleep (and you wanted a heart-pumping workout), look for any classes with the words power, core, yang or even Vinyasa. The point is to at least try a few different classes, instructors, locations – because the benefits of a regular practice are unending. No matter how long I take a break from my mat, I feel the effects again as soon as I step back on.
After my first yoga experience in South Korea, and in my yoga teacher training, the famous saying is now ingrained in me: “Half the battle is just showing up.” It’s so true, the more you can make it to your mat and just accept what comes from your body and from your mind during that small space of carved out time, the most amazing things start to happen.
So if you’ve been feeling a bit down or repetitive in your practice lately, try this: In your next class at home or in the studio simply think back to your first time on the mat – welcome those same feelings, curiosity and non-judgment (remember that place of no expectations in class?) and see what opens up for you.
The same if you’ve never been to a class – what are you waiting for? Just try it – the positives far outweigh any worst case yoga-scenario. You might even learn a bit more along the way. Enjoy the journey of this lifelong practice.
The light in me honors and respects the light in you,