A regular visitor to Tokyo, New York City-based Yoga Instructor and Interculturalist Judit Torok shares her techniques for alleviating big city stress.
Obviously, these are bad and almost humorous excuses for not joining a beginner’s Spanish class. After all, not speaking a language is precisely the right reason to start learning a foreign language. Taking an introductory class is a safe and fun way to begin a journey toward understanding other cultures as well as learning about ourselves. A determined language learner also develops qualities such as persistence, willingness to make mistakes and overcoming self-consciousness.
The situation is not so different when it comes to yoga classes. As a teacher, I have heard a variety of excuses – or apologies – for why someone is not willing to try a yoga class. “Oh, I’m just a beginner,” I’ve heard people say. “I’m really not that good at yoga and, besides, I have very tight muscles and a bit of a backache,” others have told me. These are also bad excuses, mostly ungrounded or even silly. An introductory yoga class is specifically designed for beginners so that they can learn the foundations of a safe practice that ultimately leads to a journey of deeper self-understanding.
There are many other excuses for why people can’t seem to commit to doing something as seemingly esoteric as yoga. “I just don’t have the time. You see, my family, work, school, friends and other activities take up all my energy right now.” When taking care of our bodies and paying attention to our health are not a priority, other commitments take center stage in our lives. In those situations people go about their business without even noticing that their muscles might be too tense or breathing somewhat inefficient. A person might say, “I can’t sleep well at night because I’m too stressed at work.” But the same person would view the practice of yoga as a distant luxury. Bad excuses are hard to argue with.
Not unlike a decision to learn a new language, starting yoga for the right reasons guarantees half the success. When a man falls in love with a French girl, you bet he will make learning French his top priority. When another person considers relocating to China for a better job and good promotion, taking up Chinese lessons will suddenly become important. I will share three equally strong motivational reasons for making a yoga practice essential for our lives.
Get in Shape!
The most common reasons my students tell me of why they joined a yoga group are wanting to tone up the body, get in shape and maybe lose some weight. These are all good reasons, although, they don’t compete with the force of a French brunette or the prospect of a good promotion for our language learner. These reasons will likely get you off your couch and into a yoga class, which is a great first step. Yoga can help tone up the body and contribute to losing weight, but those results don’t happen instantaneously. Months or years of persistent practice will produce results, but no one should expect magic overnight.
Recognition that our health and well-being are the basis for all other activities counts as a more powerful reason than just trying to get in shape. With an unhealthy mind and body we have a hard time staying focused on our goals and motivated to improve ourselves. When we experience chronic headaches or backaches, when we are always low on energy, when we can’t sleep well at night, then our relationship with people and our efficiency and creativity at work naturally suffer as well. Also, people who are in constant stress are not the most fun to be around. A regular visitor to my yoga classes told me, “I love this practice because it lessens my backache.” A relaxing yoga practice aids in healing our bodies, offering both short- and long-term benefits.
The strongest reason for doing yoga is a wish to pay more genuine attention to ourselves physically and emotionally. As one of my students said, “I keep coming to yoga because it gives me an opportunity to look at my whole self and help me figure out my direction in life.” Yoga provides opportunities for self-discovery, to recognize our embodiment, our physicality and its relationship to our deeper sense of self. Yoga can free
our breath from obstructions caused by tension, fear, anger and other unwholesome emotions. Qualities of persistence and willingness to change, borrowed from a resolute language learner, also aid the yogic path of
inward reflection and self-realization. The benefits of getting in shape, losing weight, relaxing and making new friends are just a bonus. So, what are your bad excuses for not starting yoga tonight? Yogis, what motivates you to continue your journey? tj
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