I often hear from folks who want to try yoga but are convinced that they don't have the right gear or the right body or the right lifestyle for it. It's no wonder! When we think of yoga in the West, we often think of thin, bendy, white ladies wearing Lululemon, and practicing arm balances on $80 yoga mats in a yoga studio. It makes yoga seem very exclusive.
There are lots of guides out there for the "essential" things you need to practice yoga, which are usually laundry lists of things you can buy to accessorize your practice. But a yoga studio membership and lavender-scented mat spray, nice as they are, are not essentials. We need fewer barriers and more invitations to a practice that's available to everyone.
So here are just a few yoga NON-essentials. These are things that don't need to stand between you and your yoga practice.
1) Lots of time Taking an hour long yoga class outside of your home is great. But traveling to a longer class may not feel accessible or desirable. You know what else is great and equally yoga? Twenty minutes of yoga before bed. Practicing a pose or two at your desk. A 5-10-minute YouTube video practice.
Same goes for a couple of deep, conscious breaths or doing something compassionate and brave to support someone else (yep, that's yoga, too).
Yoga can take place in any amount time that's available and useful to you.
2) A thin, young, bendy, pain-free body So many of us worry that our bodies aren't the right bodies for yoga. We may think we're too big, too old, too injured, too disabled, too different, too weak, or too inflexible for yoga!
Yoga is for the people. All of the people! Depending on where you'd like to put your mind at ease, look for classes in your area that use terms like "body positive," "fat positive," "curvy," "accessible," "yoga basics," "yoga over 50," "therapeutic," "gentle," or "beginner-friendly." If the classes in your area don't have descriptions that appear to meet your needs directly, email some local teachers and ask for advice. Many teachers are committed to supporting lots of different of bodies in class and would love to help you feel welcome.
If private yoga is available to you, a few sessions can help you boost your confidence and learn some variations of poses that make you feel safe and empowered in your body and your practice. Some private yoga teachers offer online sessions, too (I sure do)!
If you show up to class and it doesn't feel like a supportive and welcoming place for your body, it's not because your body is wrong. It may be a good sign that the teacher either has more learning to do or simply isn't the right fit.
Yoga videos can be an awesome support. They can get super specific, too!
Know that with a little practice and self compassion you may start feeling like a yogi sooner than you might expect. If you need a little reassurance that your body, exactly as it is right now, is ready for yoga, check out the "what a yogi looks like" campaign.
3) Special clothes Pretty leggings and clothes from "yoga brands" aren't essential. This is one of the things I remind people who are worried that yoga is too expensive. I appreciate a nice pair of leggings as much as the next person, but when I'm doing my personal yoga practice, I usually wear an old pair of loose, capri-length pants. (My legs get hot when I get moving and I don't like to spend money on clothes.)
You can practice yoga in your pajamas before bed. You can also practice in your business casual clothes at the office. Some people practice in their hospital gowns.
Please give yourself permission to wear what feels good, convenient, and practical to your life.
4) A yoga mat Granted, a sticky yoga mat can be super useful for certain versions of certain poses, but it isn't always essential. You can practice plenty of yoga in bed, which is an especially good option if you're low on spoons, struggling with depression, or either waking up or gearing down for bed. Chairs, rugs, towels, carpet, and grass are other great surfaces for yoga.
If you don't have a mat and you're going to a class or private lesson, you might contact the teacher, studio manager, or gym to confirm that extra mats are available. Most of the time they are! If not, you can find a nice, durable 1/4" thick mat for $14.
5) Yoga props (that cost money) I love my yoga blocks now that I've got them, but for many years my yoga props were all free household items.
Blocks: Family size cans of vegetables or soup are a great height to place your hands for a low lunge or triangle pose or balancing half moon. A thick paperback book is a nice landing spot for your forehead in child's pose. A kleenex box between your knees in bridge or chair will do the job nicely. Taped shoe boxes and wooden fruit boxes are also great for poses where you want a little height without being tempted to put all of your work into your arms.
Blanket: Beach towels. Or a throw blanket! Done.
Bolster: Couch cushion or stacked pillows. Especially if you stuff two stacked pillows into a large sweatshirt!
Strap: A belt or scarf.
My favorite prop is the wall. Chairs and countertops are also great. Get creative!
There are so many more non-essentials out there I want to share with you so I'll continue this another time. But for now, know this: if you want to practice yoga, yoga is ready for you!
Is there another barrier standing between you and yoga? Let me know!
P.S. I'm now seeing private yoga clients at A Step to Health in Hillsborough. If you'd like support to start your yoga practice or make it more empowering, let's talk!