Everybody can practice yoga

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga_Urdhva Dhanurasana_Drop Back Preparation.jpg
 

So today I wanted to share with you all a bit around my thoughts on what it means to be a yoga student. So often I have people come to me and tell me that they are not flexible enough to practice yoga. That they are not strong enough to practice yoga. The reality is you don't need strength or flexibility to practice yoga. This comes as a result of the practice.

I totally get that feeling of being new at something. At not knowing what to expect and feeling that other people might be looking, judging, and all the other crap that goes on in our mind. But let me just get a couple of things clear here.

-       Firstly, it is very elitist of you to assume that everybody is looking at you. Whilst you are a very important person, I can assure the other person is also thinking the same thing about themselves. That everybody is looking at them. The reality is nobody is looking at anybody. We're all just focused on our own practice.

-       Secondly, I believe we need to practice the mindset of being more open, and accepting of being a newbie to things. That it's ok to be in suck mode if you will. I find it so satisfying to start new things. And I don't know if I should care more about what other people think, but the honest truth is I don't. So long as I'm enjoying myself, doing something positive for me and only me then I really couldn't care less what other people are thinking, believing, or judging about. This way of thinking has given me a lot of freedom to challenge myself in ways that I otherwise would never have done. Because when I learn to let go of the fear and worry about others opinions, and that's all they are is an opinion, then I felt free.

So whilst I appreciate it can be quite an intimidating process walking into a brand new studio, to do something that you've never done before, and not knowing whether you have the right things with you, if you can keep up, if you understand the cues, if you will be strong and flexible enough, I feel that if we can step into these experiences with a more open mind, then those fears will disappear. The anxiety is no longer there because there is absolutely no need for it to be there. There is nothing more debilitating and there is no bigger crusher of dreams then fear. And I know it is this, fear, that is a big reason why people do not begin something new, for example yoga.

So if you're reading this, and you're yet to start a Yoga practice but have been wanting to start Yoga for quite some time, let the s*** go in your head that is telling you that you are not good enough or cannot do this. It is not helping you. Trust that you are safe, learn to laugh at yourself, and just start..

Yoga is not for everyone

 
 

Yoga is not for everyone. It’s not. In a society that can leave people feeling somewhat inadequate if they don’t join the ‘yoga trend’, so to speak, I want people to know it is OK if yoga isn’t for you. It took me YEARS to feel connected with this practice, and even now I have days when I want to crawl back under the sheets and press the snooze button rather than get up for my practice. It's confronting, it's physically challenging and I feel like the only crazy person in the world up as early as I am practicing in my living room. It doesn't sound appealing at all! I know. But there is a reason why I practice as devotedly as I do now and I assure it did not come easily. For a long, long time, I felt yoga was not for me and the reality is, it may not be for you - for now anyway.

I began yoga a number of years ago in a desperate attempt to naturally manage stress and alleviate chronic lower back pain. I’d tried running, the whole gym junkie lifestyle (thank goodness that chapter of my life is over), change of diet. I even took up dancing! (…you should know I don’t have a rhythmic bone in my body. Hello murder on the dance floor!)

Then came yoga. I learned that yoga has profound benefits for the body – in every possible way. And there really is no question that yoga is one of the most holistic practices out there that can fully support a healthier, happier lifestyle (whatever that may mean for you). So in my case, knowing this I wanted to try yoga in pursuit of my healthier, happier lifestyle. So off I went, yoga mat in hand, to my first yoga class.

As desperately as I wanted to walk away from the class feeling like some enlightened being, which all the studio flyers promise, truth is – I was in pain, I felt embarrassed and my stress had somewhat increased from before I walked into the class. I felt a little betrayed by the practice as I had expected to be shown the door to a completely stress free life, one without pain. But rather I left feeling quite the opposite. How very wrong I was..

Determined to stick with it, I kept up with my classes despite the struggle and frustration with the practice, as I kept hearing of all these incredible, too good to be true, benefits associated with yoga. I trusted that in time I too may begin to experience such benefits.

Years passed and having moved from studio to studio, (as my partner and I moved houses many times), I never felt truly connected to yoga. I felt I was trying to force myself to ‘be’ or ‘look’ a certain way. And sometimes even felt the practice encouraged me to be a little too entitled at times. What the?! Now that I was a “Yogi”, I wondered if I had the magical yoga aura floating around me which meant I was more self aware than the average person? In a world where the bandwagon of yogis are considered the "trendy" people, I wondered if defining myself as a yoga practitioner would somehow make my life better and that I was one of the more aware people out there. That maybe it was in adopting this attitude that would reveal the benefits of the practice.

Oh. Dear! Let's just clarify right here, right now - this is NOT the case. The reality is – that is all bullshit.

Yoga is not an elite practice and it won’t leave us feeling as though life is perfect or without suffering. It can’t. Rather, what I’ve learned over MANY years of self development combined with my journey with this practice, is that the opposite is true. Yoga will be all revealing of some of the uglier parts of self – and to be clear, I’m not talking physical. Yoga forces us to take a BIG step back and actually re-evaluate our lives and the choices we make daily which determine the people we are and are becoming. And to be frank, this process, this confronting experience, is not for everyone. A person needs to be open to what this practice could reveal – both good and bad – and have the courage to sit with that. To accept what they uncover and then choose how they want to address what they find.

I’m a kind person, a gentle person; and it tears me apart to see suffering in this world. But I can also be a very selfish, grumpy shit at times too. My partner will attest to that. Would I have acknowledged this about myself 10 years ago? Hell no! But what I know now, is there is so much freedom in being able to see ones’ faults because the beautiful part is, I know I can change them and continually work toward being better.

For those who struggle with the practice, are frustrated with it as I was - give it time. Don't force something you're not ready for. Rather, accept where you are right now and let that be OK. Understand you don't need to look, feel or be a certain way to practice. This is your journey and it is going to look totally different compared with the person next to you. Trust the process, allow yourself to be vulnerable and see where the journey takes you. And if you feel that it's just not the right time to practice, then accept that too. Don't judge it. Don't feel guilty about it. Let it be, for it is neither good nor bad. It just is.

I would love to hear your experience with this practice. What has it uncovered for you? How do you feel this has changed your life? And what advice would you give those people who want to try yoga but are nervous about starting?

Sending big hugs to all my favourite, real yogis out there,

Jessica xx

Do I need to be flexible to do yoga?

 
 

To those people who think they’re not flexible enough for yoga. All I can say to you is… Bollocks. This is more of an excuse not to try than anything.

To be super clear - yoga is not about flexibility. Nor is it about physical strength. I began yoga because at the age of 21, I needed help from my partner to get dressed. My back was in so much pain (all the time) that I was verging on crippled. This can be in part attributed to Scoliosis and sitting at a desk for most of my life (school, uni, work, dinner…). Touching my toes would have been a miracle for me.

Whilst it’s a common misunderstanding to have (that you must be flexible and strong for yoga), I am a perfect example that this is not the case. Yes – when I began my practice many years ago, I struggled. I was exhausted with each and every asana. Never before had a practice pushed me to the limits the way yoga did. But with sheer commitment to myself and to healing my body, I too can now touch my toes and beyond. I can do strong backbends, balancing asanas and standing asanas. Of course there are MANY areas I need to work on, but this is all part of the journey. To keep exploring. To keep challenging myself. To find new areas of weakness that I can seek to understand a little more and in turn come to know myself a little better. This is the power of the practice.

Something to also remember is that commonly, the more advanced practitioners have lost their flexibility or strength to do some of the more basic (not simple) asanas. Their joints have become stiff or their muscles too tight. When I ask a person who can do strong handstands to sit straight for 2 minutes, it near kills them (figuratively speaking). Physical strength is not a sign of whole body awareness and control. So never be intimidated by those practitioners. It’s highly likely you’re much stronger and more flexible in many areas they now struggle with.

Remember – this is about your journey, not someone elses. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just accept your body as it is, embrace that you need to start somewhere and just begin. With consistent practice, from here, you’ll fly.

I would love to hear what’s stopping you from beginning your practice? And if you’ve started yoga, what made you finally take the plunge and get going?

Sending huge hugs and love to you all.

Jessica xo