As part of my “I’m 50 Now Self Realization Tour” I expanded my existing yoga practice and made the decision to enroll in Yoga Teacher Training (YTT).
Given my introvert tendencies, some people I know were surprised that I was taking YTT — teaching a class seems to be way outside of my normal comfort zone. But as I’m going through the training, I’m finding it’s way more in my comfort zone than even I might have thought.
When I signed up, I didn’t think I’d actually teach. I thought YTT was a good way to strengthen my yoga practice and learn more about yoga principles. But as I’ve gone through the first two months of training, I’m becoming more and more committed to finding teaching opportunities after I’m certified.
It was solidified for me this weekend. We had a module on teaching “Curvy Yoga”, i.e. yoga for larger bodies. The instructor recounted a series of things that she’d experienced as a larger person taking yoga: instructors ignoring her, people offering unwanted diet advice, a dearth of understanding on how to adapt poses, implication that a pose done differently to accommodate her body wasn’t “real” yoga….she had several examples and for each one I thought in my head, “yes, that’s happened to me too.”
Even though I’ve practiced yoga for over 20 years now, about 99% of the time when I’ve gone to a new class, the teacher has started with “is this your first yoga class?” When accompanied by a thinner friend, those same teachers will say to them, “you’ve done yoga before, right?”
This changed when I found my current studio, where they live their motto of “unconditionally welcoming”. They have classes specifically for larger bodies, people of color, people with brain injuries, older adults, and more. In any class, the instructors offer a variety of options, none better than the other. There’s no “plank” versus “half plank”, it’s “plank on your toes or your knees”, it’s a subtle but important distinction that there is no hierarchy of poses.
Since I’ve been in YTT and talking about it, I can’t tell you the number of people who say things like, “I’ve always wanted to try yoga but I don’t think I could do it.” In a society where the majority of photos you see of yoga are skinny young white women doing an impossibly difficult pose, it’s easy to think yoga isn’t for you.
But it is my friend. It truly is. If you weigh 350 pounds, you can do yoga. If you’re 80 years old, you can do yoga. If you haven’t touched your toes since you were 5, you can do yoga. If you have a disability, you can do yoga. If you can’t get out of your chair, you can do yoga. If you’ve never done yoga in your life, you can do yoga. Your yoga practice might look different than mine, or the pictures in the magazines, but it’s still yoga.
A good teacher will accept you as you are, help you learn to listen to your body and work in partnership with you to reap the benefits of yoga including strength, balance, stretching, mindfulness and relaxation.
I’m grateful to have found a studio full of great teachers like this. Around the country there’s a movement, led by awesome teachers like Jessamyn Stanley (pictured at the top of this post) to make yoga accessible to everyone. And I’m joining that movement. If you haven’t tried yoga, I hope to see you on the mat soon.
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