I am a resistant yoga student.
So are you.
We all are. It’s just part of the process.
I might be just a little more resistant than you though. My first hot yoga class was a nightmare. I remember hating the teacher, resisting everything she said, and being angry afterward, for years. Yoga takes us on a journey to ourselves. It was through noticing my resistance in yoga, that I realized I am this way everywhere. I want things to be the way I want them to be, and when they are not, I fight and struggle against what’s happening. I impose my will on it. I resist.
Even today, more than 10 years into my journey as a yoga teacher and 15 years as a student, I walk into class EVERY day and meet my resistance. The teacher calls a pose I don’t like or sequences in a way that challenges my skill or my ideas about sequencing, the pose is longer, or shorter, than I think it should be, s/he says something I find confusing or frustrating, and I’m instantly resistant.
It takes a concentrated effort to 1st, recognize my resistance rather than blame the teacher, the yoga, or the process, and 2nd, step onto my mat and do the poses anyway. My mantra: be a student Annie, be in your practice, stay out of the teacher’s business. My work on my mat is my business. How the class unfolds is the teacher’s business.
After many years of practice, with many great yoga teachers shining a light on it for me, I recognize the ways I resist:
Fixing my clothes/mat/blocks/stuff
Fixing other people’s poses – either in my head or for real
Doing a pose I prefer
Taking rest (when I don’t really need to rest)
Spacing out/checking out
Arriving late/leaving early/checking the time
There are more, but you get the idea. As my practice progresses my awareness grows. I invite you to bring an awareness to your next few practices. Where do you resist what the teacher offers you? Not poses or expressions you CAN’T do, but poses or expressions you don’t want to do. The yoga has powerful benefits when done correctly. These benefits go beyond the physical. Becoming less resistant in my yoga practice has led to being less resistant in other places. The possibilities that have opened up have been life changing. I wonder what you’ll discover when you meet your resistance?
Every yogi I know was new to yoga once. Some have been new to yoga more than once, I know I have. When you start and stop and start again it feels new, even though you know some of the poses. When you’ve done one style of yoga and start a new style, that’s a new beginning. We can’t be good at something without being bad at it first.
If you’ve never done yoga before, stop waiting. Stop waiting until you’re thinner. Stop waiting until you have more time. Stop waiting until your kids start school or your job eases up. Stop waiting until you’re “ready”. “Ready” is a lie. You’re ready NOW! Once you start, you’ll know where you are, and you’ll have an idea how to get where you want to be. And be patient with yourself. It takes time. I tell folks it takes about 10 classes to get a feel for the patterns and shapes, and about 100 classes to start to feel like you “know” what you’re doing, and this is good news. It means you won’t get bored, and there will always be more to learn.
Starting a new style can be hard mentally, even if your body already knows many of the poses. The teacher sounds different, the practice room looks or feels different, the students even seem foreign – from their dress to their equipment. The poses look a little different in each style depending on where in India the system came from and who translated it and how the lineage was passed down. It’s so completely human to want to KNOW how to do something, and once we’ve learned, we don’t want to feel like a beginner again. The process of coming to know and love a new yoga system can be no less challenging, and fun, than the very first time you practiced.
Every time we begin something new we come with our anxiety, and we should also bring a lot of curiosity, and a healthy dose of possibility. Once we imagine we know, possibility is lost. This is why the best way to approach a daily yoga practice is starting at zero. Every day is new, every practice is new, and we are new today too.
Shake your practice up by going to a strange studio, practicing at a different time of day or with a new teacher, trying a different yoga system, or just bring “starting from zero” to your regular class, move your mat to a new spot and do your yoga from a new perspective. Renew that feeling of anxious curious possibility and see what it wakes up in you! If you’ve never done yoga before, we’re waiting for you to come play with us! We have classes 365 days a year. Today is the day. Begin.
we put 2 blocks next to every mat at yogaRIOT because we want you to use them.
if you need them.
but how do you know if you need a block, or two?
use them to help make the pose
blocks are not cheating, blocks are tools. use them all the time. use them well.
when you use your block (or the floor) stay lifted through your core, balancing on your fingertips. keep from dumping weight into your wrist like this to keep your wrist safe.
instead place your hand like this
notice in this series as the student goes from no block to blocks how her pose opens and lifts
here weight is forward in the knee and the toes, chest is pointed down, back foot is low, neck is tweaked
here weight is all over the foot, joints are stacked, lines are straight up and down and back and front, her chest is lifted and open, her neck long
this happens because the blocks gives the standing hamstring room, allowing the top leg to lift higher and straighter, the chest and shoulder can open more, creating stability and strength.