July 20, 2015

You Can’t be Bad at Yoga. Here’s Why.


When people hear I teach yoga I often get responses such as:

“I’m so bad at yoga.”

“I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.”

“I would love to come to class, but I can’t touch my toes.”

After getting these types of responses, more than usual lately, there is something I would really like to share.

Yoga doesn’t care if you can’t touch your toes.

Yoga doesn’t care if you can balance on your head, your hands or just your pinky finger for goodness sake.

Yoga doesn’t care if you’ve been practicing for 10 days or 10 years.

All the shapes we make with our bodies are not the point. They’re simply tools for turning our attention inwards.

Of course there is an array of physical and energetic benefits each posture offers. But the postures themselves, are not the end goal. They’re more like a vehicle, bringing our sweet selves back to our core.

It’s the lessons embedded within the process of all the twists, shapes and movements that we make.

Our yoga mats work a lot like mirrors. They allow us to see the way in which we move throughout our lives.

For me yoga is a practice space for the time spent off the mat.

There is an undeniable symmetry between the progression of a yoga class and the way life unfolds beautifully.

From the postures, the transitions, the co-creation, the approach, the attitude and of course the inevitable final resting pose.

Let’s start with the asanas (yoga postures):

The postures can be practice for situations and experiences we encounter throughout our lives.

We get to practice how we approach each posture, whether it be with optimism or with dread.

There are some that come easy and some that are much more challenging.

We get to witness how we habitually react and where our mind goes. We get to experience a plethora of thoughts, feeling, sensations and emotions that may surface.

From euphoria to frustration, accomplishment to fear, bliss to extreme discomfort. Just to name a few.

We see if we’re solely focused on the way it looks or how it actually feels.

We play with finding that balance between effort and ease, of strength and surrender.

We try things we’ve never done before. Maybe things that scare us and bring us to that edge between comfort and discomfort. We get to experiment and explore what lives on the other side of fear and what transformation occurs when we mindfully move out of our comfort zone.

We practice the art of being present in each moment,  instead of ruminating on what has already happened or hypothesizing on what is yet to come.

We learn that the approach we took yesterday, may not work at all for todays situation.

We practice listening to what our body really needs. Whether it be slowing down and prat icing self love and compassion. Or perhaps it’s cultivating strength or developing a more intimate connection to our inner most selves.

We play with learning, unlearning, falling, getting back up, letting go, creating space and opening up to infinite possibility.

The transitions:

Not only do we learn so much about ourselves while we are in each posture, but we get to practice the way we move from posture to posture. We get to see the way in which we transition throughout the many layers of our lives.

Are we rushing through it, eager to arrive? Or are we moving slowly and sweetly, like moving through honey. Experiencing every single moment—with total presence and awareness.

Are we conscious of how we’re transitioning? Are we tuning into all the subtle micro adjustments and recalibration taking place as we move, shift and evolve?

During the time on the mat we are given the opportunity to refine the quality of awareness in which we walk along our path, every step of the way.

We get to experience the days we don’t want to show up to our mat and the reasons for why that is. Whether we’re in a bad mood or having an off day. Or when we’re so overwhelmed and anxious we want to jump out of our own skin.

I think I can safely say the last thing the majority of us want to do in those moments is spend an extended amount of time with ourselves, feeling those uncomfortable emotions in totality.

But what I’ve learnt is that the days I don’t want to show up are the days I desperately need to the most.

The people:

One of the amazing benefits of practicing with a group of people is the reminder that we are all here, walking our own path, yet side by side. We’re all on this journey here together.

It’s beautiful and inspiring to practice with and share breath with one another. To come together to cultivate and co-create this experience here.

Yet as incredible it is to be inspired by one other, remembering that what’s happening on someone else’s mat, what someone else can or can not do, has absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on in our own mat, in our own lives.

Savasana (corpse pose):

The final posture.

Also called Mrtasana—death.

Eventually each and every one of us will make our way into final resting pose.

Knowing that final posture is at the end of each yoga practice brings so much life to every moment of our journey along the way. The impermanence of the practice cultivates gratitude for every single experience, transition, moment, second and breath.

As we arrange ourselves in savasana. Lying on our backs, arms and legs extended, palms to the sky and heart open to above. Releasing every bit of effort, any conscious control of the breath and sweetly shifting into a state of sweet surrender.

We are given the opportunity to let something go. To allow a part of our self that no longer serves us, to sweetly perish. Whether it be an expectation, a thought pattern, a habit or the way we micro manage our lives. Anything and everything.

We can give it all up in that moment.

Following savasana as we roll over onto our side, we make our way into the fetal position. A position of rebirth. A position of new beginnings.

We can move in a new direction, in a new way, with a different quality of awareness to any and every aspect of our lives.

Of course we don’t need to come into these positions to let go and start something new.

But these postures can be nice reminders.

I believe one of the most powerful lessons the practice of yoga can demonstrate is that we never, ever get it done.

There is not one posture or some day in the future that defines our life as a success. There is no golden trophy for balancing on your hands, feet, ear or big toe. There is no one waiting for us holding a sign letting us know that we’ve made it.

Every day, every posture, every moment and every single breath—we have arrived. We are continuously in a state of arrival. This is it.

We get to choose the quality of awareness in which we want to navigate throughout our journey here.

You see—it’s impossible to be bad at yoga.

It’s just a tool, a mirror and a wise teacher.

It’s a journey of the self to the self.

May every twist, turn, shape and movement, bring us all a little bit closer home.


Relephant read:

Yoga Doesn’t Care: A Disclaimer that should be Posted in every Studio.


Author: Alexa Torontow

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

photo: courtesy of Yoga Bliss Photo

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