Yoga: Your first class = self conscious?

There’s no room for piousness in my class…

Our ego leads our minds and our ego loves us to feel out of balance.  In a yoga class, this will either manifest itself in confidence or a feeling of self-consciousness as we compare ourselves to our fellow class mates.  Questions such as, “Am I ever going to be able to do the splits like him?” or, “I hope my cellulite isn’t showing!” and “The worst thing that could possibly happen right now would be to pass wind,” run through our minds. That however, is exactly my point. Each and every one of us comes to a yoga class with our own worries and baggage from the world outside so please, I entreat you to attempt to leave your baggage at the door.  I myself have cellulite. Lots of it in fact despite my slim frame.  I can’t yet achieve every pose and I am still building up to the ashtanga jump backs and fly throughs – my abdominals are not yet strong enough and I still have this irrational fear of hurting myself.  I know that when I have yoga teacher’s attending my class, I worry that they may judge me.  I worry that my students may judge me. I worry that when I attend a more advanced practitioner’s class, they may judge my ability.  Then I remember that I know my stuff (enough to know that in my promotional picture my standing leg ought to have been straighter which I am now able to do! lol) and that each and every one of us is a student with their own beauty to share.  I remember that I am a facilitator here to induct my students in the yoga love. To facilitate their journey into themselves and provide a reassuring and safe environment for them to do that in. I’m here to help each and every one of us (yes, that includes me) focus on the light within and understand that doing yoga is not about how far you can bend, twist and extend, it’s about working with our source energy and experience something new about ourselves. As Leslie Kaminoff so eloquently put it, “An asana is not an exercise to strengthen a particular muscle or muscle group, it is a container for an experience.”

I remember too, how alienated I felt at the first yoga class I attended over 12 years ago.  Yoga is very much about finding comfort in discomfort.  It is a journey, the start of which feels quite frankly weird but that’s because it’s meant to give you a new perspective; make you see differently.  I know it didn’t help that I didn’t understand the subtleties of yoga when I went to my first class.  I wasn’t aware that deep breathing activated the vagus nerve and that once I’d gotten over my self-consciousness, I would find it deeply relaxing. Nor did the teacher seem to acknowledge that trying to do kapalabhati breathing might seem like the oddest thing.  I know that when I first tested out the power of bhastrika breath, the builders across the road must have thought I’d lost my marbles when I started lifting my arms over my head and banging them down against my sides a number of times whilst making grunting noises as I began the epic hill climb that I encountered at Crystal Palace every time I left my house. However, the benefits of it were so enormous (no more struggling with burning muscles before I reached the top) that I was fully prepared to look like a nob and go away laughing about it. So I want to reassure you that, the various parts that make up yoga are at first glance to all of us, really quite bizarre but that’s simply because it’s here to shake us up, wake us up from the way we’ve been going about the world and begin to have fun with techniques, postures and poses that open us up to new, better, easier ways of living.