“I’m too old / fat / out of shape for yoga”

This last week – for the first time in my life – my feet lifted off the floor in the very tricky arm balance bakasana (or crow pose).

I am almost half a century old and a couple weeks ago – for the first time in my life! – I conquered that fear of falling on my face, and I had patiently gained the strength and core integrity to balance on my hands.

This is more impressive than you might realize!

It is a lot harder as an adult to learn new physical skills or feats of strength – than it is to return to habits of childhood!

I didn’t grow up with any gymnastics, calisthenics, or attendant practice. When you see me doing what I can do – I had to earn that in adulthood, after decades of life, after giving birth to two children, and while living as a working class artist (meaning: life is hard!)

The hanumanasana (front splits) you see me chilling into, in class – well you are seeing me do something I’ve never done before.

I had to get there with these weathered bones and aged muscles! LOL

Another thing:

You also might have noticed I am fat. It’s true!

And –

It has to be said I don’t dress like a “yoga teacher”. I am not in fashionable leggings and a cute sports top. Half the time my hair gets in the way as we flow and I’m always trying to tie and push it back.

It’s not that I don’t take pride in how I dress, it’s that I have had to carefully allocate yoga funds to building the space. I’ve put retained yoga earnings into shelving, rent, security deposit, insurance, licensure etc etc. And that’s okay – because I made these priorities with intention.

Here’s what I mean, though:

It’s true I don’t look like a yoga teacher, or even a yoga practitioner.

But if¬†I’d waited to start yoga until I “looked the part” –

I’d never have started.

***

Why am I sharing all this? Because:

I am trying to WREST the true nature of yoga away from the American fitspo culture chokehold.

If you scroll the Instagram “yoga” tag (Instagram is currently the largest social media platform out there) – you’ll see youthful, slim, mostly white, aspirationally-dressed and very athletic practitioners hitting difficult poses – usually showcased in elegant, pristine locations.

The truth is…

Yoga isn’t like that.

I mean SOME yoga will look like that – all tidy and slim and clean and wealthy or wealth-adjacent. And that’s just fine.

But…

If you wait to have all those ducks in a row, you’ll never start.

And precisely WHO is getting cheated if you skip yoga until you “look like” a yoga practitioner?

(Spoiler: YOU are getting cheated).

Yoga is messy and goofy. Yoga we’re practicing in a thousand-year old sports bra. Yoga we spy a hairball in the corner of the room as we’re moving to chill in our ardha kapotasana. Yoga is arriving almost-late to class and feeling cranky and annoyed. Yoga is getting a bitchy attitude that someone else in class can do a pose “better” than you. Yoga is accidentally farting in pavanmuktasana (hey, there’s a reason it’s called “wind-relieving pose”)!

Yoga isn’t about perfection.

It’s about daily intention – and the action to back our intensions up.

I’ve created the Little Switch Yoga space to be clean, reliable, and electric.

No hairballs! ūüôā I’ve created a peaceful space with good props, a lot of laughs and some music and tea to share!

I’ve carved out this space, right here in Grays Harbor.

There won’t be another space like it, if it goes.

Now is the PERFECT time for you to see if yoga can serve you –

The way it has served young and old, fat and thin, disabled and temporarily able-bodied, rich and poor.

You are worth going through this trouble.

You really are!

I’d love to see you on the mat!

how to prepare for your yoga class

No yoga class is exactly like another, but I’ve been going to classes so long I often forget that a lot of people don’t know what to expect. One of the things I forget is that if you’re new to yoga, it can be hard to know what to expect.

So here’s a list! These guidelines certainly work for Little Switch classes and will do you well in most any yoga class you attend.

Arrive on time, and prepared to practice.

Please arrive with time to spare so that you can settle on your mat, silence your phone, and be ready to practice with the rest of the class.

Wear comfortable clothes – and dress in layers.

There is no yoga “uniform”. Wear what feels comfortable to you. I see a lot of leggings and tank tops on Instagram/TikTok but remember those are yoga influencers. As practitioners, we wear clean clothes that are comfortable to move in! Maybe leggings, maybe tank tops, maybe not. Wear something cozy – that’s it.

I like to advise wearing layers as it’s impossible to find the perfect temperature that pleases everyone! You may get warm during practice and want to remove a layer; then while we rest at the end of class, you may want to cozy up. My personal recommendation? Very warm socks, for savasana.

In general, we practice barefoot. But if you want to keep your shoes on or wear socks, just be mindful during any balance or wide-legged standing poses.

If you can, buy yourself a mat.

I have mats at the studio you are welcome to use! But I highly advise getting your own. This is for three reasons:

1. to invest in yourself and your practice – to show your commitment to quality props and materials for your own use.

2. the studio mats are great for padding – but paying for a more upscale mat provides more access to poses. I personally like Jade, and Manduka mats. They are positively no-slip! When I practice on a lower-quality mat, I always feel a bit impeded.

3. if you have a mat you bring to and from class, you may start practicing at home, too! It’s nice to get used to your mat. You come to have a fond feeling about it!

Now – mats can be expensive. It may take time to save up. But I have found the expense of a better-quality mat, is far outweighed by the health benefits that regular practice delivers!

Let the instructor know of any special needs or requests you have.

A group class cannot tailor to one individual at the expense of the group; however, your instructor is trained and qualified to help you with anything you need. Many times your requests can be accommodated – so don’t be shy!

Some examples of special needs or requests you may have:

1. Let your instructor know if you are experiencing pain or soreness. The instructor can then help you be as comfortable as possible during class, with suggestions and/or props.

2. Let your instructor know if you are new or newish to yoga! They will tailor the class with more helpful explanation than they might otherwise.

3. Let your instructor know if you are sensitive to sound or scent. Each class is listed with a full explanation of sensory and adaptive information. But your instructor will accommodate you as much as possible!

Make sure you are neither too hungry or too full.

Life is busy and sometimes we make mistakes – I once taught two classes back-to-back after consuming a huge lunch of spicy nachos! Oof!

While we can’t expect perfection here, it’s worth noting that going to class while too hungry will be distracting and even cranky-inducing; going to class while too full can foment discomfort.

Remember – it’s your practice, so listen to your body.

You don’t have to do an asana (pose) that doesn’t feel right – ever! In yoga, listen to your body. Follow the cues of your breath and body. As long as you aren’t disrupting the class or other students’ safety and participation, you really REALLY can do what you need to on the mat.

I don’t just talk the talk on this one. MANY times I’ve been in a class that was a little too intense, or fast, or whatever – and I did exactly what I needed to for myself, rejoining the class practice when I was ready. In fact to be honest, this was one of the most liberating moments in my yoga history. This helps me walk into any class with confidence – I know I’m going to take care of myself. Put that into practice for YOUR body and mind, and your yoga experience will soar!

Ask yourself *why* you practice!

This may be the scariest suggestion on this list!

Ask yourself WHY you practice. You can do this on your way to class, after class – or during an introspective moment in class.

Don’t feel like you need to come up with an answer right away. Don’t pressure yourself either! Just ask yourself. I’ll tell you, I practiced for YEARS and asked myself and many days the answer was, “I don’t know!” And that’s okay. Because over time, this regular check-in helped me really solidify the fact that I was finding practice beneficial. I’m glad I didn’t just go to class on autopilot – because I’d have quit by now!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful!

We’d love to practice with you. Click here to book a class!

“yoga is for the willing, not the flexible”

Two of the biggest misconceptions I hear about yoga asana are:

1. Yoga is light stretching; and

2. Yoga is for peaceful, serene people

I’d like to address misconception #1 today – and get around to misconception #2 soon.

Yoga is not about “stretching” –

and you don’t need to be flexible to practice.

I heard it said a while back (and I’m not sure who to credit):

“Yoga is for the willing, not the flexible.”

I love that!

***

Listen – people associate yoga so much with “stretching” that they think the whole purpose is to be nice and bendy.

In fact we yoga teachers hear it all the time:

“I’d love to take yoga but I’m not flexible!”

So listen:

You get (more) flexible (and strong) by PRACTICING YOGA.

And even bendy people are often working hard in class, too!

I mean –

Do you really think that yoga practitioners are mostly just posing and showing off stuff that comes easily to us?

(Hint: not really!)

Yoga asana helps us GET strong, BECOME more flexible, and GAIN mobility.

To wit: I am forty-six years old and I can do things my body has never done before!

But I wouldn’t be here, if I hadn’t practiced.

Yoga GAINS you those things.

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

And I encourage you not to compare yourself to others – ever.

Because there will always be someone stronger, more flexible, wearing more stylish yoga gear, someone younger – all that stuff.

I want to know if YOU want to feel better in your body, mind and spirit?

If so –¬†

Yoga may be just for you!

Remember:

You can practice yoga anywhere, anytime. Yoga doesn’t only “count” if you have a certain ability level, or if you practice a certain way, or for a certain duration.

ALL YOGA COUNTS.

My job as an instructor is to help YOU start to have fun in your practice!

Once you start enjoying yoga asana, you’ll come back.

And you’ll be on your way to reducing stress, feeling better, strengthening your body and your mind –¬†

and just chilling out a bit more!

It takes time, and it takes patience.

But time is passing anyway.

If you’re on my page, it’s probably because you want to make the most of our precious time on this green planet!

And I for one, am ready to practice WITH you!

See you soon!

– Agni

***

* A reminder!

“Yoga” means all eight limbs of yoga – a lot more than poses or a workout.

But for this particular post, I’m talking about yoga asana – the THIRD LIMB of yoga.

what if a yoga class is too hard?

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 ūüôā –¬†

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
Read more about the article i am not a “good vibes only” yoga teacher
Agni Hogaboom of Little Switch Yoga, Grays Harbor Aberdeen, WA

i am not a “good vibes only” yoga teacher

Agni Hogaboom of Little Switch Yoga, Grays Harbor Aberdeen, WA

I’ve been wading through the Americanized versions of yoga and there’s something that bugs me.

Okay there’s more than one thing.

But here’s a start:

The “good vibes only” yoga messaging is just terrible.

And it really, really is EVERYWHERE.

First of all – the “no negative energy, please” messaging is not based on yoga’s history.

There’s nothing in the 5,000 year old practices of yoga emphasizing “good vibes only” enough to where you’d sloganize it on a t-shirt.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga start us with the Yamas and Niyamas Рthat is, spiritual practices and personal observances respectively.

These are as follows:

The Yamas
Ahimsa (non-violence)
Satya (truthfulness)
Asteya (non-stealing)
Brahmacharya (moderation of the senses/our energy), and
Aparigraha¬†(non-greed) –¬†

The yamas teach us how to behave in an ethical framing – how to conduct ourselves in the world.

The Niyamas
Saucha 
(cleanliness or purity)
Santosa
 (contentment)
Tapas
 (discipline)
Svadhyaya
 (self-study)
Ishvara Pranidhana
 (surrender to the Higher Self)

The niyamas invite us to find joy and strength in our personal practices – our inner disciplines.

So right away we have our first two limbs of yoga and TEN practices we can study –

and there’s no mention of or tone implying “good vibes only”.

If anything, the yamas and niyamas indicate disciplines and practices to employ – regardless of whether we’re feeling groovy about it or not.

So to be honest I am not sure where all the “good vibes only” came form, but I’ll tell you one thing:

Your bad vibes are welcome in your practice.

Your bad vibes are welcome in my studio space!

I don’t want you to avoid class – or practice at home – because you’re in a “bad vibes’¬†place, and can’t snap out of it.

I want you to practice regularly and learn to let your “bad vibes” show up too – maybe you can start to (gasp!) make friends with those bad vibes!

The thing is…

If we only practice yoga when we feel good, then we’re going to skip a lot of practice.

And if we only practice yoga to instantly get some kind of result – we’ll give up when we don’t get what we want.

If we only practice yoga to change how our body looks or what impressive bendy shapes we can make – we’ll give up there, too, when progress doesn’t happen the way we want to, or as fast as we want to.

If we only practice yoga to lose weight or get those toned abs –¬†

we are not only being a fair-weather friend to yoga,

we are being a fair-weather friend to ourselves.

I invite you to be a best friend to yourself.

It’s a really smart investment, relationship-wise!

let’s get real about meditation

Mediation is beneficial; this is known and obvious through thousands of years of scientific study as well as even more compelling anecdotal and empirical evidence.

We know it’s good for us.

It’s also FREE – it costs nothing.

Then why don’t we do it?

***

The vast majority of people who find this post, will not be meditating daily, or even regularly.

I am not here to shame anyone about that.

I’m not even here to convince anyone that they *should* meditate.

That’s kind of beside the point, for me.

But I want to offer a few thoughts, and share some of my experience.

First: meditation is not (usually) an instant gratification activity.

In other words meditation rarely gives us a high. In contrast, we get an immediate boost from a cup of coffee or an impulsive shoe purchase (two delights I experienced this week) – that kind of thing.

Now – some people DO experience bliss in meditation –

However, that is rather rare.

And I’ve not met a regular practitioner who experiences bliss *EVERY time they meditate*.

(and yet they keep at it!)

So for me, this means we might decide to meditate – and commit to practice – knowing we likely won’t receive immediate benefits.

And despite the fact we engage in all kinds of “good habits” just because we know they’re good for us¬† –

(for instance very few people absolutely LOVE brushing their teeth but most of us do it regularly as the alternative is much worse) –

for some reason people don’t want to invest five minutes a day in something that could improve their BRAIN.

(I don’t know about you, but my brain needs all the help it can get!)

***

I want to point out that for many years, I was no exception. I crumpled up “meditation” on a list of things I “should” do, good habits I “should” employ – like saving 10% of my paycheck, or staying hydrated –

and I just let those “shoulds” beat me up.

Rather than doing anything about it!

So here is my second point:

Almost all forms of meditation are training the mind.

We KNOW that brains can be trained. We train our brains every day Рeither on purpose or,  for the most part, fairly unconsciously through the things we choose to put into our brains.

In fact we put in a LOT of brain-training time.

It follows that:

Any wholesome training of the mind, will result in improvements in our life.

In fact, that should be obvious.

In other words: we don’t have to know HOW our minds and our lives will improve –

we just get to TRUST that they will, and look forward to observing the change.

Actually, it’s a pretty cool process.

***

Personally, I don’t think we’re being lazy about any of this.

If you think about how hard life can be, our behavior makes sense.

For most of us our minds work well enough that we don’t give them much focused attention.

Our minds work pretty well or IF THEY DON’T, we’ve found a way to get through our day, to survive.

Well I don’t know about you, but I want more than survival.

I’ve been in survival mode and I didn’t like the kind of person I became.

I want to thrive, and I want to be able to help others to safety, to wholeness, to joy and healing.

So!

I’ve put a lot of effort into improving my health, my behavior, my life and the life of my community.

And in that effort – and in doing that research – I came to see that a committed meditation practice was missing.

So I added a meditation practice.

I am very clever so – I found two weekly groups to commit to (one in person at no cost, and one online for monthly dana), and I downloaded a free app for seven days a week solo practice.

I put meditation in my daily task list – so that I get to check it off at the end of the day.

(This feels quite satisfying!)

And this practice is starting to feel very good – and I’m experiencing benefits.

It’s starting to really take hold.

I’m glad I gave myself the chance to see it through.

***

So!

Once again: I’m not here to tell you to meditate.

But I will share that it’s made a huge difference in my life – in my relationships, in my physical health, but most importantly:

in the quality of my mind.

I hope you consider making a consistent practice of meditation – even five minutes, uninterrupted, per day.

Don’t let anyone talk you out of it!

(Even if it’s YOU trying to talk yourself out of it!)

Why not give yourself a chance?

You’ll never know how much your mind – and your life – can improve, unless you commit to the experience.

I look forward to hearing about your results!

A new series: Yoga for Absolute Beginners

I’m so pleased to offer a Yoga for Absolute Beginners series¬†in March – the 19th through the 23rd of April, from 6:45 PM to 8 PM on Sundays!

In addition to our class time, each student receives a personal one hour session!

I’ll share a bit about what to expect from this series, then answer a few questions I’ve been asked.

What to expect:

Introduction to the history of yoga
Yoga is over 5,000 years old. I can’t possibly cover the history in six sessions even if I was a big expert (and I’m not)! But what I can do is give you the foundational information I wish I’d had, when I first started practicing twenty years ago!

Yoga language, yoga concepts, and Sanskrit
I’d like you to feel comfortable in a class – to know what to expect, whatever class you may end up in. Even though there are many, many types of yoga classes there are a few things I feel I can safely – and smartly – teach you, to prepare you for any setting you walk into.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga
What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga and why do they matter? Our physical health may be important to us, and that’s a good thing. But there is more to yoga than just corporeal exercise. We are more than just the strength and flexibility of our bodies.

While most the time you meet with me at Little Switch – in a group class, or private practice – we will be employing the physical arm of yoga – asana (or poses) – I want to touch on all eight arms of yoga for context. I promise: you’ll be glad I did.

Physical alignment
When it comes to asana, alignment and form are more important than trying to “look” like the instructor, or form an impressive-looking shape or feat of strength. In our six weeks I will get you grounded in alignment so you can enjoy practice, so you can stay safer in practice, and so you can benefit from practice.

Families of poses
I will lead us through varying degrees of depth of all basic families of yoga postures: standing poses, twists, hip openers, inversions, forward bends, backbends, arm balances, yin, and restorative yoga.

Yoga in Western culture
“Yoga” means an awful lot of different things. I want you equipped to find the classes – and instructors – that work best for you. My goal is for these six weeks to empower your own path. You deserve to enjoy every minute of your practice – it shouldn’t be a chore, or a competition.

Connection with the community
Six weeks together – we’ll get to know one another a little bit! I promise, you’ll feel a special fondness for the students you share this time with. Over time, I think you’ll find that’s the highest value experience of the series.

A personal hour with yours truly!
That’s right! Each one of you who enrolls receives a one-on-one hour with me to talk about your practice, about any modifications or variations that may suit you, about any injury history, and your intentions and goals for your practice.

A one-on-one session currently carries $75 fee but, if you enroll in the six week course, you receive this time complimentary. Upon enrollment you’ll receive a link and packet explaining how to claim this hour.

Again – my every intention is to bring you a safe, powerful, joyful experience that can boost you in your continued practice.

And finally…

Yes, you will get a workout!
While we won’t be huffin’ and puffin’ through a vigorous flow during the entirety of our six sessions together – make no mistake we will be moving, challenging, and strengthening our bodies!

My goal is not just to teach you more about yoga – but to help you fall in love with yoga, so you’ll be motivated and enthusiastic after we part ways!

And remember –

You can join a regular group class – anytime!

FAQ:

Am I too “out of shape” for this class?
No. However, you will be signing the same waiver every student does, affirming that you’ve discussed a yoga practice with your qualified, trusted practitioner.

If you can breathe, you can take this series.

Am I too “advanced” for this class?
Possibly! However, I am a fairly advanced practitioner and I’m designing a class I would want to take – if that makes sense! If you are fairly practiced I believe you will enjoy getting to work on the finer details of alignment – as well as connect with a grounded community.¬†

I don’t want anyone in the series who doesn’t want to be there, and who doesn’t benefit from the experience. If after reading this post you’re still unsure – feel free to email me, or meet with me after a group class.

Will you be teaching modifications in each asana (pose)?
Absolutely – although I call them variations. But: yes!

How many people will be in the series?
In order to provide a quality experience for all, I will accept between five to eight students. Any fewer, and I feel that puts too much pressure on each student. Any more, and I wouldn’t be able to provide quality attention to each student.

What happens if the series doesn’t get five signups?
You will be refunded in full, with my gratitude. But – tell your friends, so we can fill this roster and you can take the series with a buddy!

What happens if the class fills up?
Stay on my waitlist! If these series are popular, I will be sure to run them again.

***

Any other questions I haven’t responded to? Please feel free to email me directly.

I’d love to see you March 19th!

You can sign up here.

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