I’m fairly unique as a yoga teacher in that I write and make yoga videos almost exclusively for people who, if I’m honest, don’t exactly love yoga. They may need yoga and stand to experience life-changing benefits from the practice but ultimately, their passions lie elsewhere—in mountain biking, surfing, BASE jumping or any other number of much more exciting activities.
If that’s you, then don't stop reading just yet.
What’s stopping you?
Here are 10 of the most common excuses I hear for resisting the urge to set up a consistent yoga practice, and my valiant attempt to call bullshit on each of them.
- I don’t have time. This is just flat-out not true. No-one has so successfully optimised their day as to have allocated every 15-minute slot to the most important thing they need to be doing. What you mean to say is that yoga is not a priority, and that is an entirely separate issue. We rarely do anything unless we’re compelled to. So ask yourself, do I really need to be doing yoga? If not, don’t do it. It’s not magic―unless you need it. And if you do, then make the time. Start with 15 minutes every day and titrate up or down from there.
- I don’t know whether or not I need to be doing yoga. Excellent counter-argument. Here are some good reasons for doing yoga: you want to get better at your sport but there is an area of tightness or inflexibility in your body that is holding you back; your lap times are getting faster and you’re looking for the next competitive advantage; your back hurts so much that sometimes you can’t put in the level of training you know you’re capable of; it feels like Father Time is knocking at the door way too prematurely; you’re struggling to stay focussed and bring your A-game when it counts. Bad reasons include, yoga is trending and, Abi said I should.
- I’m not flexible enough. This is a surprisingly common excuse considering how silly it is. You don’t go and see your local bike mechanic when your bike is in perfect working order or visit the doctor when you’re feeling fit as a fiddle. By the same token, you go to yoga precisely because your lack of flexibility is something you want to improve on. And yes, it will take time, dedication and perseverance but so does everything else that’s worth doing and worth doing well.
- Yoga is hard. This is what people say when they suck at yoga. No doubt you have mastered other skills in your life that initially you were embarrassingly bad at. And that’s the beauty of it. You try, fail, pick yourself and then just keep putting in the practice until you get better. As legendary snowboarder Shaun White put it, “You just do what's hard until it's not hard anymore.” Start on the beginner slopes and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you progress.
- Yoga is boring. Now this is the first truly legitimate excuse on the list. If you’re in a 90-minute class and you have someplace else you’d rather be, there’s nothing more boring than putting your body into a weird position and holding it there for an interminably long period of time whilst you try to focus on nothing but your breath. This is why my videos are 15 minutes long and each designed to address a very specific objective. Decide what you need to work on, give it your full attention for 15 minutes and I promise it will no longer feel like a chore.
- The spiritual stuff is weird and creepy. I realise that acknowledging this might make me a bad yogi, but the flowery yoga language doesn’t sit well with me either. I, like you, have no idea how to shine my sitting bones up to the sky or release the emotions stored in my hips and I’m pretty sure the universe couldn’t care less what my intention is for my morning stretch session. When I first started to look for yoga videos online, this was my number one frustration and is why my own style of yoga is stripped back to the bare essentials. I personally travel far and wide to take classes with genuine gurus so that I can distill and share the lessons that are relevant to you but that's because I happen to really love yoga. As Bruce Lee said, “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”
- Yoga is for girls. Although this is not actually true, I do understand that it can be a very real barrier to entry for men and non-girlie girls. Most modern studios are set up for women by women and can be intimidating for those of us who don’t feel like they fit in. However, since so many professional athletes, from tennis players to UFC fighters, now practice yoga regularly, it’s clear that moving well, breathing effectively and basic body maintenance are important to everyone hoping to excel at what they do.
- Yoga is expensive. A studio class can be super pricey (roughly $15-20 for drop-ins), primarily because the cost of running a space designed to make you feel as though you’ve temporarily stepped into heaven, is high. This can be particularly frustrating, since I've no doubt there are many other activities you’d rather spend your money on. Luckily, yoga sequences are timeless and you can get a lot of juice out of just a few routines so it doesn’t have to break the bank.
- I don’t know what to wear. This is another legitimate but far from insurmountable concern. The other day, I taught a class in a beautiful Lululemon sports bra with a very flattering, plunging neckline. I almost fell out of it every time I went upside down into Downward Facing Dog which completely interrupted my flow and had the potential to be horribly embarrassing. The idea that you need to wear specific yoga clothes is nothing but a cunning marketing ploy disseminated by the rapidly expanding yoga apparel industry. My advice is to look for something that is comfortable and well-fitting and try out different options until you find what works for you. And when you’ve zeroed in on your ideal outfit, be like Steve Jobs and buy a few identical sets so that you don't have to waste energy thinking about it anymore.
- I have no idea where to start. I designed Yoga 15 to cover 5 disciplines—Flexibility, Balance, Strength, Mobility and Relaxation—and to take you through a clear progression for each of them. The easiest series is Relaxation, so if you’re a total beginner, that's a good place to start. I’ll provide the structure, all you have to do is to get yourself to the mat. If you haven't done so yet, sign up here for your free 30-day access to the complete series.
What's your excuse? Or if we're singing from the same hymn sheet, what flimsy excuses do you hear from your partner, friends or family members? Please share this article with anyone you think could benefit from your infinite wisdom.