what if a yoga class is too hard?

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If you are reading here you probably already know that not every yoga class is meant to be one of exertion: vigorous, sweaty, challenging, et cetera.

There are so many modalities of yoga – including Yin, Restorative, and Nidra for instance – that don’t really have what we might consider a “workout” type component.

However – many yoga classes – which are really asana classes, that is the Third Limb of Yoga, the poses – many yoga classes engage in these physical postures, whether moving slowly and holding asana or moving swiftly (sometimes called flow, vinyasa, or “power yoga” – more on why I don’t love that latter phrase, at a later date).

People who’ve gone to a yoga class or two, generally know that yoga is harder than it looks.

For example:

Last Monday’s class was a bit vigorous – to be honest, my go-to favorite style of class – and afterwards I noticed several students were sweating and saying – while SMILING, I might add – that the class was challenging. “I almost died!”  – followed by good-natured laughter.

Okay.

That’s fine. And fun!

But.

I think I want to touch on this because it’s kind of a personal thing and it’s worth saying.

***

Yoga can be hard or not-hard and YOU are the boss of that.

One of the goals with yoga, is to make yoga a regular thing that fits in with your life.

Maybe that means once a year you take a de-stressing workshop, using yoga pranayama.

Maybe that means three times a week you go to a sweaty hatha and vinyasa flow: building strength and mobility.

Or anything in between.

Remember: yoga is here for YOU. You don’t owe a dang thing to any particular teacher, studio, school, or yoga modality.

Yoga is here for YOU.

So when it comes to a class that’s “too hard” – or a class that stretches your limit –

that may, in fact, work for you.

It works for me!

Let me elaborate – again, speaking just for ME, personally:

I love classes that are a challenge, and I love watching my body become stronger, more mobile, more flexible, more open.

I love that I can lift my arms above my shoulders to reach things on high shelves.

I love how strong and open my back and neck feel, since practicing yoga.

And the truth is, I wouldn’t have these results if I wasn’t challenging myself in difficult classes.

But:

There is another – perhaps deeper – reason I love challenging classes.

When I take a difficult class, my mind is forced into the present moment.

I can’t possibly bring my mental baggage, my fears, my grievances, my upsets – 

Maybe they’re with me when I’m driving to class, or even while I roll out my mat. 

Maybe even while I’m trying to compose myself in our first restful pose.

But my mental preoccupations won’t last long in a challenging class.

In a challenging class, very soon I am focusing on my body, tuning into both my interoception and proprioception (those are real and scientific concepts), I am sweating a little or even shaking, I am feeling frustration and elation in turns, I am feeling SO amazed by my own body, I am feeling various emotions about the instructor 🙂 – 

In short, in a challenging class I am GUARANTEED to get “out of my head” and into my body, in a very big way.

The benefits I experience from this physical, mental and emotional reset cannot be overstated.

So while I do also love Yin, Restorative, Nidra – or just a good old fashioned gentle stretching class –

For me, strength-building classes, and especially those that involve creativity, mobility work and laughter – 

these are going to be CORE in my life for a long time to come.

***

But here’s the thing.

YOU are not ME.

YOU have your own needs.

Perhaps you are recovering from illness, surgery, or any kind of difficult situation – and you just aren’t ready to vigorously engage.

Maybe you’ve been traumatized by the world of fitspo, orthorexia, fatphobia and fitness worship.

Perhaps you live with chronic illness, or any kind of situation that means your resources are extra low – right now, or for a while.

And while maybe a vigorous class is JUST the right medicine for someone in those situations –

maybe it’s not right for YOU.

I encourage YOU to find a yoga class – in person, online, with a friend, from a book or a YouTube channel – 

that works for YOU and where you are today.

I encourage you – do not try to compare, or “keep up” with someone else, or any of that.

It can be scary to not only be honest about your needs – but to accept your needs, and move forward with self-compassion.

It can be scary sometimes because sometimes we don’t know what we want, or what we need.

But I’ll tell you something I know for sure:

You won’t know, until you try something new.

***

Now coming up here in November, I have a gratitude series.

If this is something you’d like to try – 

well, please sign up!

We’d love to see you.

And above all I’d like to to find whatever modality – yoga or otherwise – 

gives you that sense of play, that foundation of purpose.

I wish that for you, very much.

November 2023 gratitude series at Little Switch Yoga, yoga in Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Grays Harbor with Kelly Hogaboom