Shyly venturing into yoga

Hood Ornament: 1948 (via Shorpy)

While recently enjoying a lovely weekend with my parents and sisters, I was struck again by my exclusion from the family way of fitness. My mom and sisters look like Athleta models. They are tall, toned, strong, and have impeccable posture. I am also tall, but I am weak and stiff. When I have joined them in yoga classes, I am the inflexible duckling, and they are perfect yoga swans. (Grace is particularly intimidating, as she is a licensed yoga instructor, and just about everyone looks like a toad next to her.) On Saturday morning, the three of them went to an intensive yoga class and cajoled me to join them, but I went with Dad and Dublin, the neighbor’s dog, to drop off stuff at the dump instead (because I will always choose dogs and dumps over fitness).

My sister the yoga instructor, practicing in Thailand. (c) Grace Farson.
My sister the yoga instructor, practicing in Thailand. (c) Grace Farson.

But I started thinking about yoga again. And feeling like I should try it, even though I am so intimidated and so weak. (I can’t even touch my toes, something I have always blamed on my extra-long legs, but which I now accept as a cop-out.) I asked my friend James, a yoga instructor in town, for advice, and he wrote such a forthright and gracious response that it nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Yoga appeals to me because it isn’t supposed to be aggressive or competitive — qualities which have always made me despise the American mentality toward exercise, weight loss, and gym culture. I am not trying to “get jacked,” lose 30 pounds, or strain my body to meet a cultural objective. Rather, I’d like to get to know my body better. To be strong. To be confident.

I have shyly started practicing yoga at home, and thanks to James’s advice, I have scouted some studios I’d like to visit for classes and instruction. I fully recognize that I’m at least 20 years late to the yoga bandwagon, but I hope it’s not too late for me on the whole, to gradually become flexible and strong.

Have you ventured into yoga? What have you found?

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6 thoughts on “Shyly venturing into yoga

  1. I feel you. I’ve never been able to touch my toes, and I’ve yet to get my heels on the floor during down dog (it might never happen, actually). I started to feel more confident when I took a class with an instructor who taught Iyengar yoga — the heavy use of props made me feel so much better because I realized I could get as much benefit out of the practice even though I wasn’t super flexible. I also learned that it’s important to push yourself to improve, but rushing into a pose you’re not comfortable with doesn’t help. I hope you find a class/instructor that you like! Good luck.

  2. I’m far from young or long limbed 😦 but I do what I can with my body and have learnt to enjoy stretching my limits 1 mm at a time! Too many yoga classes are for trendy egotists but your attitude is the right one . AGree with Ivy above – don’t be too proud to use props to start with and ENJOY yourself

  3. Find a comfy, nurturing yoga instructor and stay with that person, even if you have to follow them around to studios a bit. Some yoga traditions support working with “with the body you have” rather than “making the body you have” fit to the practice. Gary Kraftsow is a good source for the former. I started with Hatha yoga years ago and was discouraged. Later I started with a more flexible Viniyoga (pun intended) teacher who studies under Gary and have been with her for 17 years. It does make a difference. Best of luck….in good yoga there should be no comparing to others!!!!
    Your dogs will love practicing with you too…I bet. 🙂

  4. I completely agree with your thoughts on yoga. I am also tall and have never been athletic, so I tried yoga because it seemed like the most accepting way to exercise. I truly do notice my whole body feels different after a class. It’s a beautiful exercise

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