"I can't do yoga, I wouldn't be any good at it" "Sorry, I'm not good at that pose"
"I'm rubbish at that pose, I'm really wobbly"
Are three common sentences I hear in social situations when someone finds out I'm a Yoga Educator, and also in my classes and 1:1s.
I'm gonna say it loud and clear: Good ISN'T A THING IN YOGA. Really. It isn't.
Everybody's body is totally different
We all have different length limbs (or might even be missing some) in relation to our torsos, our joint sockets can be totally different, even left side to right side. And all of that means a specific shape, like a yoga asana (pose) will look totally different for each of us, and feel totally different too. Asana you love, others won't. Asanas you can do easily, will be hard or maybe even not doable at all for others. And vice versa.
If you developed as a child dancing, doing gymnastics or another sport like football, that development carries through into adulthood - being a bit more mobile or having less mobility in your hamstrings, for example.
So to say one way of doing it is "good" and another way is totally "bad" isn't really the right thing - they're often different ways of doing the same thing that achieve the same outcome i.e. Downward dog with bent legs is just as good as a Downward dog with straight ones if it helps the practitioner create a stretch through their back down to their back of thighs and heels. One isn't better than the other. They're both totally valid.
(There is of course, being in a less than optimum position for the intended outcome of the pose, but that is another blog post altogether!)
There's more than one way to practice each shape
A yoga practice is a living thing, so there is more than one way or variation of each pose. The one that suits best on Monday, might be horrible on Tuesday and it might be something totally different each time. They're choices and options and none of them are good or bad.
Teachers will teach poses in slightly different ways too. I do it as well - depending on the theme or focus I might suggest focusing on different actions because I want to build strength in a specific part of the body or introduce a new concept to you. It doesn't mean one is better than the other or the way of doing it - again, they're choices and options.
How you feel on any day has a huge impact - if you're tired, your balance isn't going to be as on point as when you feel full of energy because it takes a lot of energy and multiple systems in your body working together to be able to balance. It's about going with choices that work for you, and taking variations that honour how you're doing in that practice.
It's not about having a good or bad practice, it's about learning to accept yourself unconditionally as you are. And that really helps boost your confidence and happiness off your mat too.
yoga is a thing we do because it feels good,
we enjoy it. it helps our mental and physical health. that is more than enough.
We're so pushed as a society that we have to excel at everything we turn our hand to; even our hobbies. Frankly, it's bloody exhausting and unrealistic placing the expectation on ourselves that we have to be A* perfect at all times, and professional level at everything we touch.
The world isn't like this, it's unrealistic and it's only going to lead to stress and upset.
There is nothing wrong with being a beginner, having activities in your life that you find challenging or you're actively working on. There's nothing wrong with doing things because they make you happy and you deeply enjoy them, or they make the day to day stuff a little bit easier to deal with.
That is so vital and is way more than enough.
My experience as a teacher
As an Educator, I often have people say "but you're so good at yoga". "I'll never be that good at it" when they see me practicing or teaching. I always find that really tough, because it sometimes feels like I'm being put on a pedestal, which really isn't the relationship dynamic I want my students to be in with me. I'm a student, exactly as you are. My role when I'm teaching is to guide, educate on what we are doing, why, techniques, evidence based analysis to help you learn about yoga; not to be in a position of absolute knowledge or a guru.
Teaching yoga is a huge part of my job. I'm on my mat somewhere around 15 hours a week. Every week. Thats a big difference in time between coming to 1 class per week. I'm in effect, spending as much time as a professional athlete would on their sport. I've been teaching for nearly 4 years now and have practiced regularly for the best part of a decade; so of course I'm practiced and some things I do will look easy on a visual leve. What you cannot see on the surface is most of the time I'm usually tired, hurting a lot and the physical toll of teaching is very large. I'm always at the physios or getting sports massages, and a lot of the sports I participate in myself aren't yoga - because too much of the same thing isn't good and I actively look for things that load my body in a different way, like climbing or surfing.
There are SHED LOADS of poses I cannot do. Here's a list of some of them: Headstand, Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana), Crow (Bakasana). Grasshopper (Parsva Bhuja Dandasana), Rabbit (Sasangasana) and I also hate Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana) with a passion. Some of that is due to how my body is put together, others are just because I really don't like how they feel, so I don't do them.
Is that a big issue? No, not at all.
Does it mean I value my practice or teaching less? No, not at all.
Does it mean I am a bad teacher? No, probably makes me a better one, if anything.
I usually find the people who say the things I mentioned at the top of this post are the ones who would really benefit from what yoga can add to their life. It can stem from not feeling confident in themselves, worrying about what others think, feeling anxious. And these are all things yoga can really help with - getting confident and comfortable in your own skin, with where you are and accepting yourself as you come.
What I'm getting at is the outcome isn't important - striving for particular poses or "being good" isn't the point. We've got to let go of all of that. It's not productive. It doesn't add any value to our lives.
The point is having a yoga practice because you enjoy it, it makes you feel great, and that yoga adds something to your life.