Today’s article has been written by Cassandra Troughton, a teacher’s assistant working in a special education classroom in Canada. We have heard from our community that they know the benefits of the yoga practice, but they have a lot of doubts about how to actually practice. Cassandra explores these assumptions and offers a new way to thinking about yoga, ultimately so that you, too, can bust through these obstacles and get the most out of this ancient wisdom.
Miss T here!
I remember my first yoga class like it was yesterday…
Picture this: A quiet and serene yoga studio, calming music playing in the background. Dim lights and candles flickering throughout the room. The fresh scent of lavender in the air… Sounds like a peaceful time, doesn’t it?
Well, don’t let that scene trick you… It was the opposite of peaceful!
Now, it definitely wasn’t the outer experiences that tainted my yoga practice that day; it was my internal experiences that dictated the outcome.
Instead of surrendering to my environment and letting myself enjoy the experience, I was too busy focusing on this constant flow of thoughts entering my mind.
“I hope I don’t I look like a newbie. Am I doing this right? I don’t think I’m doing this right. Maybe I should have grabbed a yoga block. Should I ask for help?”
If you’re anything like me, you understand how overthinking a task can make it complicated. It often blows things out of proportion and leaves you feeling stuck.
When we are busy overthinking, we are solely using the rational part of our brain—the neocortex—to ask questions or help us make a decision. While our neocortex is important and is what makes us human, yoga is not an activity that needs your rational brain on overdrive.
Instead, we need to harness the power of our “feeling brain”—our limbic system—to calm down all of those rational, unnecessary thoughts. Our feeling brain sometimes contradicts what our rational brain is telling us. When this happens, it’s a good sign that we are overthinking a little too much. We need to rein in our rational brain.
In yoga we want to “feel” the movements with our breath rather than “think” about them.
“Don’t get too deep, it leads to overthinking, and over thinking leads to
problems that don’t even exist in the first place.”
– Jayson Engay
On this particular day, I had a plethora of assumptions in my head of what a yoga class would be and feel like. I couldn’t get out of my own head. I was completely lost in my thoughts, and my first experience of an actual yoga class was what I’d consider a disaster…
Basically, I was not at all present.
I was technically a part of the yoga class, but not really part of the yoga class. It took me a while to go back and try another class, BUT with some coaxing from my boyfriend, I finally did it. This time, I learned from my previous mistakes.
And I’m sure glad I did, because I LOVED it! I felt connected to my mind and body—the studio and yoga community. I am grateful that I mustered up the courage to go back, because now, I am an avid yogi! It’s how I begin my day, EVERY day. And, in my opinion, it’s the best way for me to set my day up for success.
Plus, if I never went back to give it another go, I wouldn’t have had the confidence or willingness to practice yoga with my students. And I never would have seen them benefit from weekly yoga, like they did!
The trickle-down effect from maintaining your own yoga practice is for REAL! The people around you benefit; your kids or your students benefit. It really is amazing to witness!
Are you just getting into yoga? Maybe you’ve been thinking about it for some time, but have been a little too afraid to make the jump.
Perhaps you’re a mom or a teacher looking to bring yoga to your kiddos, but you aren’t quite sure how, or maybe you’re overthinking it.
Let me share with you some assumptions that I’ve made (and I know many others have as well), so you can learn from my mistakes and carry on with carefree yoga!
5 Common Assumptions Many Beginner Yogis Make:
1. “Am I doing this pose right? I don’t think I’m getting it right…”
Many people take up yoga for the physical fitness aspect, and while it’s true that yoga is great exercise, there is SO much more to yoga than getting the poses just right. Remember, there’s a variety of people within the same yoga class. Some have been practicing yoga for years, while others are just beginning.
We all have different bodies with our own anatomy, which means we have different strengths and capabilities. And that’s OKAY! Your goal in yoga is not to be the most flexible in the class (I mean, it’s okay if you are, and that comes with time); your goal in yoga is to find peace through reconnecting your body, mind, and breath.
If you’re thinking too much about a posture and are forcing yourself into it, you won’t be able to relax and may even hurt yourself. Don’t sabotage your practice by overthinking the physical posture. The same goes for kids. It’s important to emphasize the feeling part of yoga with kids, rather than getting all the postures just right.
This is where modifications come into play as well—showing them alternate ways to do a pose. Make sure to focus on the feeling! Getting them to ask themselves how their bodies feel when they move this way helps to promote that mind-body connection kiddos so desperately need.
2. “If I use a prop, others might think I’m weak or not flexible…”
Props like yoga blocks, bolsters, and straps are meant to enhance your practice, regardless of your yoga experience. EVERYONE uses them—from beginners to experts. Don’t assume that using a block means you’re not flexible. And don’t judge yourself for using one if you do.
Some practices require them, and some don’t. Use them as you need them. That’s what they’re there for! This is YOUR practice, so make sure you’re using them if your body is telling you to. I remember during my first yoga class, I couldn’t quite reach the ground to stabilize in Half Moon Pose. I looked around the room, and none of the advanced yogis were using a block… so I didn’t either!
I thought that if I grabbed a block, I might be singled out as “weak” or the “newbie.” Well, was I WRONG! Maybe it was just that particular class, that time of day, or perhaps, everyone else was overthinking in their heads just like me, but after switching studios, I saw that EVERYONE grabbed props at the beginning of class for “just in case.”
I realized then that props are not a weakness. In fact, I can proudly say I now own two yoga blocks and a strap of my own! I love teaching how to use props with my students. Getting them to squeeze a block between their knees during bridge pose helps bring awareness to their muscles.
They can use blocks to stabilize their wobbly bodies or bolsters for support. I find using props with kids that much more important because it helps them to find stillness—something many kids struggle with these days.
3. “I just don’t have the time…”
This is a common one, whether you don’t think you can squeeze it into your busy home life or whether you think you don’t have time to incorporate it into your class schedule. Perhaps you think you NEED to dedicate a whole hour to benefit from a yoga practice.
That is just not the case. You and the kids in your life can benefit from even two minutes! The key is finding the right time to do it that works for you. As an educator, I would ask… you have gym class scheduled in your day, don’t you?
Gym class is an EASY opportunity to practice yoga with your students, whether it’s a warm-up or the whole class period. Even two to five minutes between lessons is enough time to do a few quick yoga stretches.
We know how crucial it is for kids to take movement breaks while learning. Use yoga as a movement break. The same thing applies to your own life! Do you have a minute to get up from your desk for a quick yoga break? Or dedicate ten minutes for yourself at home to do some yoga.
Get the kids and whole family involved if you can! Keep it simple. No need to carve out a whole hour in your day. Find moments that fit into your schedule!
4. “Why doesn’t my yoga pose look like theirs…”
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to bring yoga to the kids in your life or starting on your own yoga journey—something to keep in mind is that the goal is not seriousness or perfection. The goal of yoga is to breathe and to be fully present.
If you’re busy looking around the room and comparing your practice to others (or the instructor), wondering why your posture doesn’t look like someone else’s, you’re missing the point—and you’re definitely not present!
So get out of your head and move out of your own way, by only focusing just on yourself. With kids, teach them the basics, but remind them that everyone’s practice will look a little differently.
There is no need to enforce perfection! Have fun! Ever tried laughter yoga? It is the exact OPPOSITE of serious. Enjoy the process. Remember that yoga is about the journey, and not everyone is on that exact same path.
5. “Do I ask for help…?”
There is bound to be a time when we get stuck—it’s inevitable. But being afraid or making the assumption that asking for help makes you weak is the wrong way to think. In fact, accepting help is probably the strongest thing we can do as humans!
So if you’re attending a yoga class and are confused about a posture or need a modification, just ask! Instructors LOVE to help and adjust. If you’re unsure how to practice yoga yourself at home or teach it to your kids, reach out to someone who knows.
Join a yoga community (in person or virtual), read a book, watch some yoga videos, find yourself some great and easy-to-follow resources—like the Kids Yoga Stories Beginner Yoga Cards for Kids products below.
The world is your oyster when you ask for and accept a little bit of help!
About the Author
Cassandra Troughton (a.k.a. Miss T) is an educational assistant from Canada. She has worked with Edmonton Public Schools for over seven years, primarily in the special needs adaptability program (Gr. 1-6) and as the Health and Wellness lead at her school in Edmonton, Alberta. Her passions include health, wellness, and the practice of mindfulness! She loves passing on her knowledge of mindfulness to her students and fellow educators. You can find her at https://mindfulmisst.com/.