“You don’t look like a yoga teacher,” someone (I’ll call her Ann) said to me last week.
I didn’t know how to respond so I said, “Oh. I don’t?”
Ann went on to tell me that yoga teachers usually look like very fit personal trainers and they wear expensive yoga clothes from designer shops. (None of that describes me.)
At first, I felt judged. My head immediately went to “she’s telling me I’m not a good instructor because I’m too <fill in the blank…old…fat…something…>”. But as Ann continued to talk, I realized she had paid me a compliment. She went on to tell me that she’d tried yoga classes in the past but felt intimidated because instructors had a certain look that didn’t match hers. She said she liked the fact that I look like a “regular person” (her words) because that made her want to come to my class.
I don’t look like a personal trainer. I look like a – woman who takes pretty decent care of herself but isn’t ashamed to eat a cookie. Or, sometimes two. My yoga clothes usually come from the Target sale rack and, in fact, my favorite top isn’t even sold for yoga. It’s a pajama tank top that I happen to find comfortable.
I’m glad Ann felt comfortable talking with me about this. She really got me thinking. What does a yoga teacher look like? Well, the first yoga teacher was Patanjali, the human form of a snake who Shakti sent to earth to teach yoga to the humans. We don’t look like snakes. What do we look like?
We look like all sorts of different types of people with all sorts of interesting life journeys. Some of us wear yoga fashion because we like it. Some of us wear pajama tops because we like them. There’s not a cookie cutter we have to fit into.
The same goes for yogis. Many of you reading this are new to yoga or thinking of trying it but have expressed that you, like Ann, feel intimidated to step into a class. Please, please, please know that you are welcome just as you are. The word “yoga” means “to yolk” – to tie together. It’s a practice of syncing up our breath and our movement in a way that allows us a beautiful connection within ourselves. The word does not mean “seeing who can bend the farthest or look the fanciest.” I often remind my classes to let go of competition with themselves and others. There’s no yoga trophy at the end of your practice.
Step onto your mat. Come as you are. Know that you are unique and wonderful. Know that yoga is for Every Body.