Monday, July 11, 2011

Conversation with Author Meera Patricia Kerr, author of Big Yoga and long-time yoga teacher.

Junonia: Let’s talk about the myths that might stop people from giving yoga a try, and the realities.
Myth: I don’t have anything to wear.
Reality: Lightweight and loose is all you need. Totally comfortable is the goal, so clothes with built in stretch work well. Special yoga clothing is not required. Junonia provides a very good selection of comfortable clothing that will work for yoga.
Myth: I’m not flexible enough to do yoga. I can’t touch my toes. I have no balance.
Reality: People who are stiff (most people starting yoga) can do adaptive yoga poses. Do simple yoga flexibility on the floor, so balance isn’t a problem. Do standing poses next to the wall so you can touch the wall, building your strength and confidence. You can also use a chair or a doorway to assist.
Myth: I have to keep up with everyone else in the class and I don’t think I can.
Reality: Yoga is not a competitive practice. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable talking to the instructor, asking for adaptive poses where you need them, or simply resting during a pose you are not comfortable doing, you need to find another place where you can be more comfortable.
Myth: It’s hard to find a yoga studio or instructor.
Reality: It’s becoming easier with the growth in popularity of yoga. Call a nearby studio and ask for recommendations for private instruction. Be specific about wanting adaptive assistance to get started with a few private lessons. Then try out some classes. Most places will allow you to try out a class at no or low cost.
Don’t have money for classes? Start at the library. There are many DVD’s out there to show you basic moves, including my DVD’s called Big Yoga. But don’t feel you must do a 60 minute workout tape at the start. I’ve organized my DVD to start out with 10 minutes and to build from there.
Myth: Yoga Studios are intimidating and not friendly.
Reality: While quiet and restful, in most yoga classes, people get to know each other before and after class, and become very supportive of each other. Instructors should get to know each student. If you try a studio, and after a few sessions have not achieved a comfort level that allows you to progress, try another!
Myth: I have a bad neck (knee, elbow, ankle, etc) and I can’t do yoga.
Reality: Most people are coping with some imperfection. Start VERY slowly. Talk to the instructor before class about your concern. Stop if there is any pain. Don’t feel you must “keep up” with anyone else. Don’t ever let an instructor or fellow student force you into any pose. With careful yoga practice you many find your issue starts to improve.
Myth: I should sign up for difficult classes to burn as many calories as possible.
Reality: We never talk about calories. We talk about listening to your body. Don’t be a show off. Usually it is people who haven’t tried it before who push too hard to stay up with the class. Take the easiest class you can to start, and always do LESS than you think you can do. The maximum benefit comes when you are staying relaxed. If you don’t feel relaxed, it’s tension, not yoga. My ideal class is one hour and fifteen minutes long. That is enough time for deep relaxation at the end of class. When we give bodies a chance for that yummy release, it can relieve old trauma. Yoga can change your life.
Myth: It’s a religion and I already have one.
Reality: While many of the major world religious traditions use yoga-like concepts, yoga is not a religion. The physical aspect of yoga (the postures) allows the practitioner the physical freedom to do the other important work of yoga: meditation, self-less service, devotion (to whatever the person chooses), and self-reflection.
Myth: It’s too quiet for me – I’m a chatty person.
Reality: If you are happy being chatty during a class, yoga many not be for you. But if you have trouble with your mind running the show, yoga can help. Recently my son was in an accident and it was all I could think about. Thankfully I had my yoga practices so I could control the chatter, and be in charge of the mind. During that difficult time, I knew I could not be of service to my son if I was upset. Thankfully, things worked out for my son, but we all have challenges like that.
Myth: Everyone will be looking at me because I’m not skinny.
Reality: In yoga, the teacher usually reminds people “keep your awareness within.” It’s all about you. I do not allow observers in my classes. They are welcome to come and participate, to try out a class, resting whenever they need, but I want everyone in my class to be comfortable so they can focus on themselves and their yoga practice.
Myth: I hate going barefoot. Do I have to?
Reality: Socks are just fine, and the new non-slip yoga socks look fabulous. I suggest buying your own mat, although studios always provide antibacterial spray to ensure a clean environment.
Myth: Yoga must be done every day.
Reality: Doing more will accelerate your progress. But once a week is better than nothing. Every so often you might get an urge to step it up. But if you don’t have the money, don’t be discouraged. Some gyms offer no-cost or sliding fee drop-in classes. And you can offer your services at yoga studios. Barter, work out a trade. Often the yoga studios need someone to do a service in exchange for a class.
Myth: Do I have to stand on my head?
Reality: My yoga master taught me that “In yoga, it is much more important to stand on your own two feet!”
You can keep in touch with Meera at
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