One of the biggest challenges in maintaining any kind of physical practice is not keeping the momentum going; rather, it’s picking it back up if we’ve spent any time away. Most of us have probably encountered the following scenario: you got the flu or had a wedding to go to (or any other routine-suspending event) and skipped your yoga class for a couple of days.
A couple more days pass as you catch up to your “normal life” after taking a break to deal with your wedding or flu or whatever. The weekend comes, and you just kinda don’t feel like you have the energy for it. Something new comes up, a few more days and weeks pass, and suddenly you realize… you’re not really practicing anymore.
Sometimes it feels like all of the insecurities that we had when first approaching yoga come back with a vengeance when it’s time to return to our practice. And if we are new to yoga and coming for the first time, the psychological barriers to practicing can be more intimidating than the physical ones.
It’s nice to know what you’re going to encounter, or if you’re an old hand, to have a gentle reminder about what your time in the studio is like if you’ve been away for a while. Here are 7 Rules of Engagement to help you frame up what to expect and how to handle getting your butt on that studio floor, whether it’s your first time or just the next time.
First, the Big Three:
Rule #1: The only person who expects anything from you is you.
In any yoga inspired class, the instructor may make the poses look easy – they’ve probably been dedicated to a consistent movement practice for a while if they’ve chosen to teach. There are likely at least one or two students in the class who also seem to flow through poses as if they were destined for it from birth, gliding effortlessly from pose to pose, a full range of motion at their disposal, with nary a drop of sweat to be seen. It is incredibly easy to feel inferior and insecure as a new student when practicing with more experienced students like this.
While toxic yoga culture does exist and it is possible that one of your fellow students is judging you during class, the chances that that’s the case are so low that skipping class for fear of being judged is like not going on vacation because you’re afraid of a plane crash. Don’t deny yourself something good on the very, very unlikely chance that something bad will happen.
But, even if someone does judge you – who cares! Let them judge! Judging someone is a very distracting thing to try to do when focusing on yoga, but if someone really wants to detract from their own practice to focus on the fact that you can’t do a perfect split, hey, that’s their own self-defeating prerogative.
What is more than likely to happen, though, is that you’ll feel empowered by all of the varied bodies and skill levels around you, inspired by everyone’s hard work, and nurtured by the sense of community that you’ve experienced. Nobody expects anything from you. So take their lead and give yourself a break too – leave your expectations for yourself at home for just one hour and enjoy the freedom to be whatever you are while on the mat.
Rule #2: Come as you are, not as you think you should be.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from yoga – especially during my time at Hustle and Flow – it’s that each of us has a rich inner life that is constantly tasked with responding to stress, family dynamics, relationships, work expectations, politics, and on and on, right down to fretting about what we had for breakfast or the uncomfortable thing a cashier said to us at the store earlier.
The prevailing yoga rhetoric wants you to think that because you’re an active student, you’re somehow supposed to have risen above these stressors. That you’re immune to existential ennui or being hurt because your coworkers went to your favorite lunch spot without you this week. To think this is to deny our humanity, our sensitivities and our emotions that make us who we are as people. It minimizes not just the mundane stuff but the big hurts in life, the grief, the losses, the struggle to survive.
So if you’re considering coming to the mat today, or tomorrow, or even just considering it as a “someday,” know that if you’re not what you consider the “best version of yourself,” you are welcome, and you belong. If you are frazzled from a fight that has shaken you to your core, or if you are so lost in grief you can barely get out of bed, you are welcome, and you belong. If you are ashamed of your body or angry at yourself for something you said or did, you are welcome, and you belong. If you’re hungover or just ate too much Taco Bell, you are welcome, and you belong. Exactly as you are, right now. You always belong, you are always worthy of being on that mat.
I remember when my mom would clean the house because the cleaning service was coming. She would pre-clean so that the cleaning service could… clean. I think that a lot of us treat our minds and bodies like that when we think about approaching a new practice of any kind. “I’ll start, but I have to do XYZ first.” But know this: you don’t have to “clean” or “prepare” to come to your yoga practice. It’s there for you as you are right at this moment, a perfect human being.
Rule #3: Do things badly!
The first step to being “good” at something is to do it badly, over and over again, until one day you’re not so bad at it anymore. But yoga isn’t like playing the flute or studying chess; there are no tests, competitions or performances to prove your competency, to show that you are “good.” Your yoga practice is your yoga practice – just for you – from the moment you make the choice to start.
At Hustle and Flow, the yoga is fused with fluid movements that you can translate into whatever your body wants.
There is no good or bad, there is just what is on any given day, and often, you might be surprised at the things your body and mind do or don’t do. Fall down, laugh, stumble, struggle, sweat, feel awkward, try new things, realize you’re stronger than you thought you were. It’s all a part of your practice.
And now on to the little guys:
Rule #4: Scooch up!
We all have a tendency to put our mat down in a comfortable place near the middle of the room, and then as other students come in they fill in the space according to what’s available. During the fall and winter, Hustle and Flow gets very crowded! So scooch your mat up to make room at the back! It’s ok to be close to the instructor or the mirror, and close to your fellow students. Like we talked about above, nobody is judging you, so don’t be afraid to move forward or get close to allow more students comfortable access to classes.
Rule #5: Don’t forget to check in – or better yet, use the MindBody App to register before class!
Registering for class before you come is the best way to make sure you reserve your spot when classes fill up. MindBody also lets you bypass standing in line to pay. You can walk into the studio, sign the “Sign In” sheet and set up your mat or start to warm up. It also helps the instructor make sure that everyone is accommodated – if you’re running a couple of minutes late, many of the instructors will wait a few minutes to begin until everyone has arrived. If a class needs to be cancelled for some reason, those students signed up will receive an e-mail notification.
Download the app from your phone’s app store, or you can create a MindBody account here. It’s free and you can use it to see changes in instructors, changes to class schedules, sign up for workshops or renew your membership, and see deals in your area for things like bodywork or nutrition services.
*Signed up, but need to cancel? You can cancel up to an hour before class and you won’t be charged!
Rule #6: Wear whatever you want.
Seriously, who cares about designer yoga clothes. I’d be hard pressed to drop a couple of bills on pants I wear to work, let alone pants in which I’m going to roll around on the floor and sweat profusely. Wear whatever makes you comfortable and happy. Do you like being in soccer shorts or comfy sweats? Do it! Pop your shirt off and wear just your sports bra or layer it up in your favorite old t shirt. Heck, go all out and wear your sequined booty shorts and your matching rainbow sweat bands with a full face of makeup! Your time on your mat at Hustle and Flow is your time, and you get to be comfortable and happy in your workout gear, whatever that may be.
Rule #7: Show Yourself Empathy and Gratitude.
Trying new things or returning to them if we’ve fallen a little out of practice is scary and difficult. It’s ok to honor those feelings and be gentle with yourself if you decide not to come to yoga. The practice is always there for you when you’re ready. In the meantime, give yourself the love, compassion and care that you deserve by being kind to yourself and working at your own pace. Show your precious body and spirit gratitude just for being there for you, every day, strong and perfect. You can do it! And when you’re ready, we’ll see you on the mat.
Hustle and Flow offers an array of different yoga inspired and dance fusion classes every day. Check out the schedule here.