I am a newly minted registered yoga teacher (RYT-200), having passed my Yoga Teacher Trainer (YTT) final exam in mid-May 2022. When I tell people I’m a yoga teacher, they naturally assume that I am extremely flexible and have impeccable balance.
Yes, yes, when I’m warmed up I can touch my toes with straight legs, even put my palms flat on the floor…but in yoga practice, I prefer to keep a slight bend in the knee in forward fold. My balance is a little wonkier and I’ve been known to wobble and trip my way around a corner if I’m moving quickly.
I enjoy a deep yogi squat because I’ve been practicing that pose since childhood, but neuropathy pain in my feet prevents me from holding my back heel up high in lunges. So my abilities are spotty.
When I took level 2 yoga classes, part of the prerequisite for my YTT, I would regularly lose my balance in some of the moves that the younger class participants easily nailed. It took more brain power and concentration to keep my body steady (possibly chemo brain played a part). I’m sure other students would have been surprised that I was in yoga teacher training.
I mean, WHY would I even consider becoming a yoga teacher?
Because I want people to know that yoga is for everyone. While I’ve ranted about this before here, going through YTT classes really underscored the fact that, at least in the United States, yoga practitioners tend to be very homogeneous: young, white, female, flexible, affluent.
This is particularly disappointing because there are other populations that would benefit greatly from establishing a yoga practice and arguably might need it even more for their well-being. Slowly, yoga is being made available to “the rest of us”. But it’s going to take a while.
So I urge you, seek out yoga in parks and free classes at the Y. Explore YouTube for gentle beginner yoga videos so you can practice from home. You don’t need the burning sage, expensive yoga pants, organic cork blocks or trendiest mat. You just need to show up, follow along with the poses and breathe.
To be fair, my balance and flexibility have improved significantly with regular yoga, and that’s my point: I didn’t need to be super flexible to begin. No one does. But if the message that yoga studios and fellow yogis are sending is that you already need to be able to strike a complicated advanced pose, think of all the people who won’t even consider starting.
And I have learned to seek out modifications for those yoga poses that throw me off center. The old self-conscious me would have thought that made me a failure. But I know better now.
Because I know I can do the most important pose very well: sit quietly and breathe.