Novice Yoga Anxiety
by Janie Martin
“If you wish you were more flexible or more relaxed, give yoga a try. If you are nervous about going to a class, go with a friend. If people with serious diseases can participate and enjoy it, so can you.”
Joining a Yoga Class
One of the things on my long list of desired post-retirement activities was to join a yoga class. Several people had recommended this to me; and I heard and read good things about yoga for both building flexibility and improving balance. Those abilities deteriorate as we age, so the potential benefits were obvious. All the same it took a bit of guts to go to the first class.
Joining an activity where most people have been participating as a group for a while is a little intimidating. There is the factor of feeling out of place, fear of not being able to learn or keep up, or becoming a laughingstock.
But all it took was one class for me to feel at home and know that I was going to both benefit from and enjoy participating. The group was welcoming and warm, and the instructor immediately put me at ease. I went from hiding in the furthest corner of the room to being comfortable in the first row within two weeks.
Find A Type of Yoga You Enjoy and a Teacher Who Can Adapt for Your Needs
There are several different types of yoga, so you might need to experiment a little to find what is best for you. There are even “chair yoga” classes for those who have balance problems or difficulty with kneeling postures.
When I moved to Wisconsin I hated to leave my old class and instructor, but luckily I immediately found a class with an equally good instructor. And the diverse people in my new class have become friends like my old classmates were.
We all have two things in common; we were able to summon the courage to try class for the first time; and we all find the activity beneficial. Other than that we are all different – some in great shape, some a bit rust-bound and some who have not done any physical activity their entire lives. Some wear old sweat pants and loose t-shirts; some have slick exercise clothing. We all fit in, and we all encourage each other.
Some class members have some physical limitations, but the instructor is good at modifying the activities so they can fully participate. Some have what the instructor cheerfully calls “cranky” knees or a shoulder that doesn’t want to cooperate – but she continually urges us to stay in the zone of halfway between easy and hard effort – a perfect way to avoid injury but still benefit from movement. I always leave feeling better than when I walked in.
Classes with Camaraderie, Not Competition
Now that my husband is retired, he too goes to a class – one targeted for men with a male instructor. Using our bodies in class, the focus is on celebrating what we CAN do, not on what our bodies won’t let us do. There is no scorekeeping, no competition, and no comparisons. Chatter before class is about gardening, families, and hobbies. There is a lot of laughing, and those who miss class are warmly welcomed back after vacation or surgeries.
You Can Do It
So here are my thoughts for you if you have ever considered yoga. If you wish you were more flexible or more relaxed, give yoga a try. If you are nervous about going to a class, go with a friend. If people with serious diseases can participate and enjoy it, so can you. If a class member who told me she is seriously in a battle for her life can give it a try for the first time, so can you.
Janie Martin is retired and a student at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness. She tends her horses and cats and writes in western Marathon County.