Yoga Lessons: Look Inward, Not Out

Hi everyone!  As you’re aware if you read my 2016 goals blog post, one of my big goals is to do more cross training each week.  Lately, I’ve been doing as much yoga as I can!  It’s such an awesome workout that also doubles as a stress reliever, so it’s a great addition to my weekly workouts.  In my quest to do more yoga, I’ve been trying out new yoga classes at my gym.  Most of the classes are on the schedule as simply “Yoga” with no description of what kind of yoga it will be, so it’s always a bit of an adventure when I step into a new yoga class.  One day last week, I was up a bit earlier than usual and realized that I could make it to an 8:00 am yoga class at the gym across the street from me before work.

I got there a few minutes before 8:00 and as I rolled out my mat I began looking around the room and noticed something very interesting: I was the only person under the age of 60 years old in the class.  Normally there are people in my classes of all ages, body types, yoga experience, etc. and I love being in such diverse classes practicing with so many different yogis!  But when I’m the only one who is decades younger than anyone else, it’s a bit of a strange feeling.  I hate to admit this, but I began to feel like I was the odd one out and that I didn’t belong there.  I even wondered if somehow I’d missed the memo that this yoga class was for people of a certain age, and wondered if I should leave because I wasn’t supposed to even be there.  But instead, I closed my eyes and set an intention for my practice:  to take something new away from my experience in this class.

img_0449Am I about to step off the back of my mat and go home?  No way!

Once class started, I forgot all about my age and the difference between me and everyone else.  I was pleasantly surprised by the teacher’s plan for our practice!  It was a vinyasa flow class with lots of long, easy stretches mixed in that felt so good.  She played a slow, instrumental jazz piano CD throughout the practice and finished by playing “Imagine” by the Beatles during savasana.  It was unlike any other class I’ve ever taken at that gym, and I really liked it!  I was so glad I’d stayed for the class because it would have been a shame to miss out on such a unique experience.

It made me think about practicing yoga in a class setting.  Yoga should be an individual practice focused only on yourself and how your body feels that day.  Usually when I’m in class the only time I’m looking at other people is when I’m double checking how to do a pose if I can’t see the instructor well, and the rest of the time I’m so focused on trying to keep my breathing steady and my body upright.  But in class last week I broke the cardinal rule of yoga:  Do not focus on anyone but yourself.  And I learned a pretty good lesson from it!  If I’d left that class because of my own self-made discomfort about being the youngest person in the room, I would have missed out on a really great class.  I can imagine there are lots of people who have felt the same way I have for one reason or another – they were the least flexible (me, always me), largest, smallest, only guy, only girl, oldest, youngest, etc.  But you’re not there for anyone else but yourself, and chances are no one else is even looking at you anyways.  So next time you feel like you’re sticking out in yoga class, just turn your focus inward and rock that yoga class!

yoga self

Have you ever felt like the odd one out in yoga class?  Did you stay or go?  Be honest: how often do you find yourself looking at others in yoga class, especially when you’re new?

25 thoughts on “Yoga Lessons: Look Inward, Not Out

  1. I’ve never found myself to be the odd one out in any yoga class. Because the yoga class I attend is in a gym, there are people of all ages, experience levels, etc. Sometimes I find myself looking around at others…not to compare, but to admire! There is a girl in one of my classes that is getting certified to teach yoga, and her movement is beautiful! There is also an older woman who is in her 70s and is amazingly strong! I know that the most benefit is gleaned from keeping your practice on your own mat, but I find that sometimes looking around can be inspiring 🙂

    1. Mine is in a gym too so I feel the same way you do – which is why it was such a surprise to find myself being the odd one out! And I like your point about looking around for inspiration. I was totally inspired by all the 60 and 70 year olds in the class who were kicking my butt at some of the poses and it made me excited about what my athletic future might hold for me!

  2. Oh I love that quote from the Gita. It’s so true too! I know when I first started yoga, I always felt like I didn’t belong because I struggled so much with flexibility. I’ve been practicing for about 15 years now, so I generally don’t feel like I am being left behind or that I don’t belong there… even if the class is above my level. But that took a long time to feel that way.

    1. I’m the least flexible person on earth so I totally understand this! I hope I can practice for 15 years and see some progress! I have never been able to touch my toes so that would be a win 🙂

  3. I signed up for a yoga class at work a few years ago, and I definitely felt like the odd one out, mostly because everyone else had been doing yoga for years and I was a total newbie. Also, everyone else seemed so flexible, and I couldn’t seem to get any of the poses right. It didn’t help that the instructor always sounded annoyed when she’d come over to help me… I got the feeling that she liked having a class of experienced yogis and didn’t like having to break her own flow to come over and work with my inflexible body. I was always so self-conscious and embarrassed, and would always look around at everyone else who knew what they were doing. I felt like a loser! Needless to say I didn’t go back after my however-many sessions ran out.

    1. Oh no!!!! Not all yoga is like that, I promise! It does take some test runs but you will always be able to find the right class for you. I am the least flexible person ever so I can totally imagine how awful this would be. You should try Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube – it’s free and she’s so hilarious and chill!

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one! I’m so glad it ended up being awesome, but it might be a while before I go back to that one. Maybe I’ll bring a friend sometime?

  4. Such a great message about yoga! I keep signing up for classes and bailing on the last minute, so I need to take some time and figure out why that is, because I always feel best after a class.

    1. You should definitely try to make it to one sometime soon! Maybe have a goal of one class per week until you can get yourself there more? It’s always hard to leave my nice warm house to make the drive over to the gym, but you’re right about it being always worth it when it’s over.

  5. One of my friends recently started teaching power yoga, so I’ve been taking his classes and I love em’! I’m glad you stayed for that class! I’ve been feeling so much more at peace with the world after my classes! :]

  6. I started yoga when I was in my 30s and have been doing it ever since. There is such a mix of ages in my classes! I think that’s one of the things I like about yoga. There’s so much to love. I do believe that I wouldn’t still be running in my 50s if it weren’t for yoga!

    1. I love the mix too! I think that’s why I felt like such an odd one out because it wasn’t a mix like it usually is.

  7. I really need to do cross training. I do NONE. I like yoga but I have a hard time committing to it. I have ZERO flexibility so I think yoga is great because you can do it at your own level. I only do yoga in classes. I ignore everyone else and like that the instructor will help and offer suggestions when you just quite can’t get a pose. That being said, I only go where instructors are like that.

    1. I’m trying to step up my cross training because my physical therapist said I’m going to keep getting injured without it! Yoga has been a huge help in my running, flexibility, and stress relief!

  8. I like doing yoga at home because I can do it on my schedule and not worry about a gym schedule. It was never at a good time when I went to the gym. I can find so many routines online I don’t feel like I miss going to class.

    1. I agree with that! The only reason I don’t do it more is because we have no space for me to do it. The only space I could fit in is right in front of the TV, which my husband would hate. I can’t wait to move into a bigger place so I can have some space to do yoga (and hopefully get a treadmill!).

  9. I really enjoy practicing yoga so this was great to hear – it’s not about the people around you, it’s about connecting better with yourself. I’m glad you enjoyed your class! I probably would have felt out of place too but sometimes it’s good to get out of that comfort zone.

    1. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who would have felt weird! It’s so hard to focus on yourself in class, but once I start feeling comfortable in a class/with a teacher I’m able to really get into it!

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