When you think of the typical yoga girl, you probably think of someone who is lean, slender and freakishly flexible. But I’m here to tell you that is not always the case!
Whenever I go to yoga class, I see women AND men of all shapes, sizes, ages, flexibility and athletic ability. You can’t always judge how in shape someone is by how they look. I’ve seen women well over 50 years old contort themselves in various poses and headstands, with perfect alignment.
As a girl that does not fit the typical mold, here are some of my confessions:
- It doesn’t matter what you look like. If you can breathe, you can do yoga – Yoga is as strenuous or as relaxing as you want it to be. In most classes, there are periods of intense activity and holding of various poses with increments of rest. The most important part of yoga is being aware of your body and your breath. Poses will get challenging – just focus on your breath. This sometimes means that you have to stop and rest in child’s pose and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is no competition in yoga. Do what you can or risk an injury!
- Sometimes it smells – When a bunch of bodies are in one room moving around it starts to get a little stinky. Sometimes people forget to shower. Or don’t wear deodorant. No worries though, after a good ten minutes you will forget about the smell and focus on yourself.
- Curves can make yoga a bit of a challenge – Especially during twist poses (which are oh-so-relieving for the back) womanly parts can get in the way. Also, poses where you have to go upside down can be potentially life-threatening. (I’m thinking about shoulder headstands and plow). If you are curvy like me, just do what your body can and pay no mind to the person next to you.
- Try not to flash the teacher/class – Can you imagine how much of a view the yoga teacher gets when the whole class is in downward dog? Not even trying to be perverted about this, but make sure your pants are not see through (yes, I’ve seen this) and wear a tight tank under your flowy top next class, ok? I’m guilty of this and tried to tuck my shirt under my leggings and then just gave up on it. If your shirt flies over your head in upside-down or inverted poses it shouldn’t be a big deal, you have a bra on right?
- Core strength is important – In yoga, you work your abdominal muscles in every single pose. Even mountain pose, when you are standing with your palms facing forward, you are holding in your core and supporting your back to improve your posture. Vinyasa flow (my favorite type of class) requires you to do sun salutations where you are most definitely using your core. Chaturanga is not easy. Your core has to stay tight and engaged in plank as you lower to the floor. This movement requires you to do to a push up off the floor and support your body weight. Crow pose also requires a ton of core strength. This gets easier over time as your body gets stronger!
- Be prepared for hot yoga class – The first hot yoga class that I ever went to was at Yoga to the People near Bryant Park, NY. Wow was that an experience I was not prepared for! First, I wore long legging pants, a skintight racerback tank and a more flowy tank top over it and I ended up having to change to shorts and take the flowy tank off it was so hot. It didn’t help that my mat was directly below the heater. Big mistake. There was sweat dripping from every pore on my body. While this may sound like a good thing, it can get messy and slippery. Be sure to hydrate before (this will prevent passing out), bring a large bottle of water, light breathable clothing, and a towel to wipe off the excess amount of sweat dripping from your face in half moon pose.
- Yoga will teach you – Yoga dates back more than 5,000 years. Sanskirt, the language of yoga can be overwhelming at first, but it starts to make more sense over time. Not only will yoga classes teach you the history of yoga and the language, you will learn more about yourself. Specifically, you will learn more about your body and your limitations. You will discover your strengths and weaknesses. For example, I have great balance on my right foot (as pictured above), but my left foot is weaker due to an injury a few years ago. Knowing this, I practice stretches and balance poses to strengthen my muscles. Knowing your body will help you build on your weaknesses and acknowledge your strengths.
If you are a beginner, I hope I didn’t scare you away! Yoga can be fun and challenging. Or, it can be restful and peaceful. This is what I love about yoga. Do you have a daily practice? What advice or tips would you give to a new student?