For me, living in a touristy area in Costa Rica, I get to meet yoga students from around the World. I have an interesting perspective on what people experience in yoga classes, and of the yoga culture in different cities and countries across the globe. Something that I have noticed, is that the belief that certain things are required to practice yoga is held almost everywhere. I feel it is part of my personal mission as a yoga teacher to dispel these myths with adults, and also teach children from the beginning, that anyone can do yoga. There are no special requirements necessary.
Here are 5 things that people generally think are necessary to practice yoga (but aren’t!):
1) Special yoga clothes. Yes, you want to be comfortable while you move your body. No, you do not have to wear any particular brand of clothing to do your downward dogs. I know that it seems like everyone in the class has the “right” gear, but I promise you, it is not helping them get any closer to enlightenment.
I believe that we can start changing the judgmental climate around yoga clothing by taking the focus off of the cute outfits the kids are wearing in class, and onto their kindnesses or other more meaningful things that they do. Less “cute outfit!” and more “well that was kind!”
2) A bendy body. When people tell me that they are too stiff to come to yoga, my response is always, “that is like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath”. I get that when you look on Instagram, you see people in impossible poses contorted into positions that do not even look possible. Well, many of them are not possible for most bodies, and that’s ok! Practicing yoga can help you find more flexibility in your body, you have to start somewhere!
3) A certain body type. This one I have heard a lot. “I am too heavy to do yoga” or “only skinny girls do Yoga”. This is just plain untrue. Yoga can benefit any person of any size. Sure, some positions may not be possible for some people, some modifications may need to be made for those in a larger body, but they can certainly still practice! It is also important to remember that much of the benefit of yoga doesn’t come from the physical practice at all. Even someone with a severe physical disability who is unable to practice asana, can benefit from breathing, meditation and yoga philosophy.
Let us remind our students that yoga is for every BODY. That yoga is more than the poses and that even when they are sick or injured they can meditate and breathe. Keeping this idea present in their mind will help them stay tuned into the idea that there is not any special body type required to practice yoga.
4) A calm, quiet mind. I have heard many people say that they are too busy for yoga, or that they have too much happening in their head to do yoga. It is a commonly held belief that yoga is for people who are “zen”, but guys! That is how you get to be more calm! Through the practice!
I think many of us are already doing this with the kids we teach. Especially if we are teaching a style like Kidding Around Yoga. We talk about how we all have a monkey in our mind, and the times we can use meditation to calm down. My hope is that as these kids grow up, the perception that only those who are already calm can do yoga disappears.
5) A specific diet. I have come across people who think that because they eat meat or they enjoy an adult beverage on the weekend, that they are not welcome to practice yoga. While many people who seriously practice yoga are vegetarian or vegan, this type of diet is not a requirement!
Any time we discuss food in a Kids Yoga Class, it is important to talk about healthy foods so that the children can learn what is good for them. We do not want to tell them that they should eat in any certain way though, no matter what you personally believe and practice. We are responsible for teaching children acceptance and tolerance, and this is the perfect time to do that!
I truly believe that yoga can benefit everyone in the world. It can bring peace and it can spread light. This can only happen though, if people practice it! Let us all work together to remove the barriers that hold people back from starting their own yoga practice. We can do this by teaching the children well right from the very beginning. Thank you for being part of the solution!
Check out this awesome post of 10 reasons to NOT practice Yoga as well!