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“Leave your ego at the door” Lizzi gently reminds us as we settle onto our yoga mats. There’s no place for perfectionism here; that isn’t what yoga is about.
But for so many of us that’s exactly what has stopped us from trying in the past, isn’t it? We’re scared we won’t get it right. We’re worrying that everyone else will be brilliant and they’ll look at us and be judging us. We think “I could never do that; I’m not good/fit/flexible enough” and “What if I fall over or fart?”
I love that my yoga teacher, Lizzi recognises what holds us back and creates this light-hearted space to have a go and do what you can. It took me a lot of courage to go to my first yoga class, with all these thoughts and feelings whizzing around. I go to yoga most weeks now, and here’s what it does for me:
Permission to pause
When I have had a busy day, I am overwhelmed with work, or I am feeling miserable or stressed out, the last thing I want to do is leave the house and go to my yoga class (especially in the rain). But this is the time I most need to practise yoga. Yoga is my weekly pause. It’s my guaranteed ‘me-time’. The time spent concentrating on my breath and body soothes my mind. It gives me the space I need to reconnect with who I am and what I value.
It certainly helps that I practise yoga in the most stunning location, overlooking Perranporth beach. And as I’m standing in my grounded tree-like state, I’m watching the waves roll in and I feel a sense of peacefulness wash over me. I am always happy that I chose to go and I leave feeling more aligned, calm and connected -the place within me where confidence begins.
Appreciating my abilities are different to yours
It can be tempting to compare your yoga abilities to everyone else. We don’t want to be seen as less able than another. When my partner has joined me at yoga recently, it was interesting to notice the feelings I was having when I saw he was holding some of these poses better than me – on his first time! I had a little chuckle at myself for having that fleeting sense of “I’ve been doing this for years, and a newbie is better than me!” The truth is, neither of us are better. He found some poses easier than I did, and there were other ones that I found easier.
Yoga helps me to appreciate that we all have different strengths and we’re all at different stages in our journey. This means that comparing ourselves with others is totally useless. It’s like comparing apples with oranges. Neither are better or worse, they are just different.
Moving away from perfectionism, towards self-compassion
The wise words that Lizzi carefully weaves into our yoga practise supports changes in the way that we’re thinking. Reminding us to be compassionate to ourselves, we’re encouraged to recognise all that we can do, as well as that which is not so easy right now. We’re taught to see all of this as information; not good or bad, right or wrong. It’s just something to notice and be curious about. This might be very different to what you are used to. It has a way of taking us out of our thoughts and emotions and just allowing us to be. My inner critic starts to quieten once more and I feel more accepting of where I am in my journey. I can’t get everything right, and that’s ok. I am imperfect and I am good enough.
Feeling healthier and happier
I feel it when I miss yoga class. After a couple of weeks, my body’s telling me to go back. Physically, I ache. Mentally, my mind gets too busy without my weekly pause and feelings of anxiety can start to creep in. What’s more is that studies have shown that holding yoga poses makes significant differences in the hormones related to confidence and anxiety: testosterone (the dominance hormone) rises, while cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases. This means it can help with increasing your feelings of confidence and reducing anxiety.
Are you willing to have a go and notice how it benefits you?
I invite you to join me and Lizzi for yoga practise on Wednesday. We’re a small group of mixed abilities and you’ll feel most welcome if you choose to come and have a go. See you at yoga!