Tuesday, April 20, 2010

does yoga cause you stress?

I talk so much about how great yoga is for stress and anxiety relief, but sometimes I forget to consider how stressful it can be to actually go to a yoga class - especially for those that are super new to it.

Common things that run through the beginner's mind:
* what if I look stupid doing a pose
* what if the instructor goes to fast and I can't keep up
* what if the yoga is beyond my level
* does it matter that I can't bend into a pretzel and flip my feet behind my head
* what if people laugh at me

And that's just a glimpse! I've heard every question imaginable about yoga before someone new takes a class and I've asked myself some of these as well in the beginning.

What we're forgetting is the heart of yoga. Its about you. Its about connecting your mind and body. Its about stretching out of your comfort zone, but not out of your boundaries.

The only thing you need to make sure of is that you're in a class you'll feel comfortable in. If you want stress relief and you're a beginner, you wouldn't pick a power vinyasa class. Find beginner and gentle classes by calling your local studios and gyms and never feel intimidated to ask the instructor about the flow of the class. Then roll out your mat and trust yourself.

I saw a student the other day struggling to find comfort in a pose. I approached and asked if she was feeling alright. Turns out she had some tightness in her legs and felt better not sitting crossed legged. She asked if it was ok to stretch out straight. My answer: OF COURSE. I'm just a guide in class, your body is your teacher. That's why we practice - to enhance that level of connection and awareness. After class that same student commented on how, even though she modified poses, she didn't feel judged. That's how everyone should feel! Its YOUR yoga! If an instructor pushes you past your limits and makes you feel uncomfortable, go to a different class. Yoga class shouldn't cause you stress, it should do just the opposite.

Don't be scared to experiment with different classes and teachers to find what you most connect with. Keep an open mind, go to a class that is appropriate for your level and what you're looking for and enjoy it! Ask for modifications if you need them. You wouldn't go to a new hair stylist and just let him or her cut and dye your hair without you giving any input, right? When I teach a class, I rarely create sequences beforehand anymore because my students don't fit molds. I need to draw on their energies and their abilities to create my class. Because actually, its not MY class, its always theirs!

Have you ever been stressed out by trying a new yoga class or had any of those "what if" thoughts creep in while downward dogging on the mat? Ever have a really positive experience and connection with an instructor that changed you?

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