January 3, 2014

“I’m Not Flexible” & 4 Other Common Excuses Not to Shut Down the Monkey Mind.

Oh, the litany of excuses we all use to get out of the things we know we need to do! I will never know why it’s so hard to get motivated to do stuff that’s good for me, whereas the bad stuff calls me with it’s siren song, a stiff shot of tequila and an open tab at the bar.

You might think because I teach yoga and I’m vegan-ish, and I promote all things green and healthy and la-di-da, that doing the right thing has become effortless for me. Not so.

I am rotten to the core. I spend a lot of time wagging my finger at my naughty inner child, imploring her to rise from bed, close her eyes in meditation, put down that damn slice of pizza and call her mother already.

I know I stand in good company; it’s human nature to crave the path of least resistance. Still, sometimes we need to button our chin strap and get with the program.

Here are the top five reasons I hear constantly (in my own head and from people in general) for skipping yoga class today—and what I hope to be compelling counterpoints.

1) “I’m not flexible.”

I was recently reminded that when I was in college I was so inflexible I was unable to sit cross legged on the floor. Instead, I had to lay down and conduct my business supine.

An avowed non-athlete and ex-scoliosis brace wearer, it would be hard to imagine a body with less elasticity than mine back in those days. So it was when I began yoga. Fortunately for me, I didn’t know enough about the practice to even realize flexibility was a component. I just thought it was some kind of wacky work out that didn’t involve spastic dancing (which I found infinitely more humiliating than not being able to touch my toes).

Now, most people have a general idea of what yoga looks like, and the false expectation that everyone has to be able to wrap their ankles behind their skull has frightened away a great deal potential practitioners.

But, you don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga.

With practice, flexibility will come. Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re starting with shoulders so tight that placing your palms together in anjali mudra (prayer) gives you minor back spasms, then you’re in the right place.

2) “My mind won’t stop racing.”

I’m pretty sure the whole reason yoga came into being is because nobody’s mind will stop racing. Monkey mind is universal.

We take yoga to learn how to stop riding the wave of our thoughts; we don’t have to learn to stop first and then practice. That would be equivalent to writing a thesis before you’ve learned how to read. No one is born knowing their ABC’s, and it doesn’t make you stupid if you haven’t mastered them yet. The only stupid thing is expecting to read Wuthering Heights without first tackling Dr. Seuss.

Go to yoga with your monkey mind screeching. In time, he will settle down and sit on his branch contemplating a ripe banana. And when class is over he will start screeching again, and then you will go back to yoga to give him some more bananas. Eventually, he might get so fat and happy he just sits on his branch smiling at you all the time.

That hasn’t happened for me yet, but a girl can dream.

3) “I don’t have time.”

At this very minute, I am busy trying to convince myself I don’t have to time to go to class today. I have to take down Christmas decorations, do laundry, make soup, wash my dogs, shovel the driveway, start working on New Year’s cards (which were Christmas cards until I ran out of time), clean the kitchen, finish this article, blah blah blah.

It’s true. No one has time for anything. On the other hand, we’ve got nothing but time, it’s just a question of how we use it. So, can my dogs remain dirty, my decorations up and my New Year’s cards unwritten if that’s what it takes to shut down the monkey?

Yes. They can.

4) “It’s not a real workout.”

The great thing about yoga physically, is that is can be any old thing you want it to be.

A million years ago, when I was all about “cardio, dude” and lifting until my eyeballs popped out of my head, my personal trainer and I used to peek into the darkened yoga studio and nudge each other condescendingly. We thought yoga was about as tough as walking lanes in the pool with floaties on.

Obviously I had never taken a full series 1 Ashtanga or Bikram class. If you’re looking for a challenging physical workout, look no farther. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a deep stretch, you can find that too.

I don’t do anything except walk, bike and practice yoga these days, and I am easily in the best physical and mental shape of my life.

5) “I’m not buying all that hippy dippy baloney.”

Okay, maybe that isn’t the way everyone phrases this particular excuse, but the fact is, yoga is non-western and as such, can be unsettling to westerners such as ourselves.

Before I knew what “namaste” meant (or even how to pronounce it) I was not enamored of the moment I was expected to say it. It felt silly and inauthentic. You wouldn’t know that now, since I have to force myself not to depart from every conversation with a hearty namaste, but I totally sympathize with the quandary of not speaking the language of yoga—and by that I mean both Sanskrit and the isms every yogi seems to know; when and where to take off your shoes, what clothes to wear, what “victorious breath” is, etc etc.

Yoga can feel like an exclusive club for the uninitiated; as if you’re trying to make friends with a pack of snickering teen cheerleaders in the front row of the bleachers. But it isn’t like that at all. Most yogis are kind and warm, and want you to succeed, and the ones that aren’t, well, they’re not real yogis anyway.

We all have good reasons not to unroll our mat, but there are usually better reasons to get it done. If I hurry, I can finish up this piece and still make the 9:30 class!




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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: via Lauren Rudick


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