Happy International Yoga Day! June 21 is the first day of the summer solstice and time to celebrate your yoga practice amid the balance of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness today.
Wait? You’re not so sure about yoga? Did you try it and feel let down or confused?
You’re not alone.
When I first stepped into a yoga class, I was expecting a high-intensity workout, not soothing music and purpose-filled stillness. I added yoga to my week to initially round out my schedule of high-intensity circuit training, a cardio sculpt class and lap swimming.
Wow, was I surprised. Then, as you know, I fell in love with everything about yoga.
So, today’s post is for the skeptics. If you’re curious about yoga, or had an unfavorable first experience, please read on in this guest post from a fellow yogi writer. I love her insight. I think she’ll change your mind and entice you to get on your mat once again.
Disclosure: The following article was written by one of my blog partners and edited by myself. This post contains affiliate links and advertisements. I earn a small commission if you shop through them, which helps fund this website so I can continue to bring you amazing content. Thank you! ~Angela
Here’s Why You Don’t Love Yoga
Over the past 20 years, yoga has morphed from a niche pursuit into a mainstream method of keeping fit. Popularized by celebrities and the subject of thousands of blogs, books, DVDs, and exercise videos on YouTube, thousands of people have found themselves caught up in the pro-yoga wave.
Perhaps you were one of them. You decided that talk of the positive benefits of yoga was enough to convince you to give it a try, so you did… and you hated it. Rather than beginning a lifelong association with a wonderful, beneficial discipline, you found that your experiment with yoga was a distressing, boring, or even painful experience— and one that you definitely don’t want to do again.
If the above scenario sounds familiar, don’t worry: you’re not alone. A huge number of people try yoga once or twice and decide it’s not for them. However, the benefits of yoga are undeniable, and most people could benefit from practicing the discipline on a regular basis. If you’ve tried yoga, hated it, but wished you’d enjoyed it, then this post is for you. Below, we’ll examine the most common reasons people dislike their first experience of yoga, as well as look into what you can do to combat these problems.
#1 – Your Expectations Were Too High
Yoga is often referred to as a “discipline”. This is because yoga takes consistent, disciplined work if you wish to improvements. It’s important to have low expectations of your ability when you first try yoga. Fuelled by unrealistic media depictions of what people who practice yoga can achieve, it’s all too easy to expect you’ll be able to contort yourself into a pretzel within six sessions.
This isn’t going to happen and, for many new practitioners, this can be a letdown. If you focus on the fact that yoga is a consistent path of development, a discipline that you will learn and strengthen over time, then you should be able to manage your expectations. Initially, yoga might feel awkward and you’ll be surprised by your lack of flexibility— and that’s completely fine. Give it time, control your expectations, and give yoga another try with a clear mindset.
#2 – You Didn’t Visit a Certified Instructor
There are hundreds of yoga videos on YouTube, and thousands of DVDs and “at home” workouts. All of these can be extremely tempting, especially if you would struggle to find room in your life to attend an actual yoga lesson.
However, these at-home options have a number of flaws, and they don’t provide a true reflection of yoga. First and foremost, trying yoga at home doesn’t necessarily create the calm environment that you need. Secondly, if you have any problems with the movements, poses, or breathing exercises in the workout you are following, there’s no one you can ask for help.
If you are new to yoga, you’re going to need guidance, support, and help from a qualified teacher. There is simply no way of replicating this support with a YouTube video; you need feedback, assistance, and someone to watch over you to ensure that you are following the poses in a healthy, safe way. If your only experience of yoga has been in your own living room, it’s worth attending an actual class— you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make.
#3 – You Were in Pain
Many people turn to yoga in the hope of finding assistance for physical pain. While yoga can be hugely beneficial for this, trying a yoga routine when you have an active injury is unlikely to produce positive results.
If you were hoping to ease an acute injury with yoga, then you may have found your experience overly painful. Before attempting yoga again, it’s best to speak to a doctor or undergo physiotherapy for any particularly acute pain problems. Yoga can help with the management of acute injuries, but only when the injury has sufficiently healed. Before this point, you will likely just make the situation feel worse.
If you are attempting yoga for chronic pain management, then you will need to approach the discipline differently. Yoga can be wonderful for chronic pain, but you have to be sure you are following a program designed for chronic pain sufferers. If you attempt a conventional yoga routine that is not designed for those with chronic pain, then you could exacerbate rather than assist the condition. It’s best to speak to a qualified yoga therapist who has experience in dealing with chronic pain management; they may be able to tailor a routine that is suitable for your needs.
#4 – You Struggled to Focus
We live in a busy, bustling world, and we have become accustomed to non-stop news coverage and social media accounts that ping with updates 20 times a day. When told to stop, sit, breathe, and just focus on the moment — as happens when attempting yoga — it’s no surprise that many people find this uncomfortable. Just sitting and focusing on breathing is so unusual compared to every other moment of our lives, and many new yoga practitioners struggle to focus as a result. Their minds wander, they can’t follow the exercises and breathe as they need to, and thus they don’t experience the benefits of a yoga session.
If you experienced this, don’t worry; losing focus during a yoga class is entirely normal. Learning to focus during yoga practice takes time and effort; if your mind wanders to begin with, that’s entirely normal. Just keep trying, keep doing the breathing exercises, and eventually you will train your mind to pay attention for the entirety of a class— and beyond.
If your first experience of yoga didn’t quite go to plan, it’s tempting to just abandon the whole practice as a bad job and seek another form of exercise. Yoga, however, genuinely is worth the hype, and seeking to overcome your poor first experience could help to genuinely enrich your life. Hopefully, the tips above will help you forge a new relationship with yoga, and allow you to incorporate this wonderful discipline into your overall health and fitness focus.
I hope you enjoyed this guest post!
Until next time,
PS: Visit me on Instagram to see what I’m up to this week!