I used to be intimidated to go to a yoga class, much less a yoga festival with all of those people I imagined to be super-bendy with amazing bodies that belonged on the covers of yoga magazines. I don’t bend like that and my body doesn’t look like that.
After going through a divorce, I somehow mustered enough self-esteem to set an intention for my ideal new partner, complete with many special details—I am a Virgo after all! One of these details was that she would be a yoga teacher, which may or may not have something to do with the bendy and beautiful bodies referenced previously.
As the law of attraction would have it, I met and fell in love with a woman who was into yoga. Though not a yoga teacher at that time, when Julia moved to Dubuque, we both began going to yoga regularly and took advantage of a local yoga teacher training program. Leaning on Julia’s familiarity and devotion to yoga, I got over feeling intimidated in yoga classes. Even though lots of people are more bendy than me, I learned that yoga is not a competitive sport and that you don’t get prizes for being able to do advanced poses—what a relief! I also learned that people of all sizes, shapes, ages and levels of fitness and experience come to yoga and are most welcome. This is how it should be, right?
That’s why we’ve been very focused on making the Dubuque Yoga Festival as inclusive as possible—so that everybody and every BODY feels comfortable and knows that they are suitable and most welcome to attend—even beginners. We’ve hired nationally renowned and local yoga teachers who are aligned with our value for inclusivity. We’re offering a 50% discount for students and veterans and a 10% discount for seniors. We’ve extended complimentary and discounted attendance to more than a hundred local social change agents in hopes that they might experience inspiration that will catalyze them to create similarly inclusive, community experiences.
We also came up with the following list of common myths about attending yoga festivals that need to be dispelled and shared them on our website and elsewhere.
- You must be flexible: Although some yoga postures might require an agile body, the first rule of yoga is to only do that which feels good for your body-mind-spirit and not to push beyond your edge. The expert instructors at the festival understand that there may be great variability in the flexibility of participants and many will offer modifications for poses. Remember that instructions from yoga teachers are just “suggestions” so do what you like and be compassionate with yourself. If a suggested pose feels good to you, just do it to the best of your ability and don’t worry whether or not you look like others in class.
- You must be skinny: If you’ve seen models in yoga magazines you might believe that to be so but the truth is that any “body” can do yoga. All shapes and sizes can reap the fantastic benefits of yoga. If you find certain poses challenging, simply move in the direction of the pose without forcing or pushing. For example, some poses involve bending, so just bend to the degree you can comfortably do so and focus on your breath. Yoga is more about a mental practice than a physical practice. If negative thoughts or comparisons creep into your mind, practice breathing them away and returning your mind to the posture and to enjoying the moment.
- You must have a lot of yoga experience: Although it is helpful to have some yoga experience, complete beginners are most welcome to attend this yoga festival. Again, feel completely free to make adjustments so that your yoga experience feels good.
- You must be young: Yoga is wonderfully beneficial for anyone of any age. You are absolutely never too old for yoga! As before, just work within your abilities so that the practice feels good for you. If you’re working with any injuries or other limitations, just let the instructor know before the session begins.
- You must be really fit: Although it’s always recommended to have a physician’s clearance before starting any new exercise program, yoga does not require a particular level of fitness. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. That being said, your enjoyment of the festival might be optimized by selecting sessions that are complementary to your level of fitness. If unsure about which sessions might best fit you, just email email@example.com for some suggestions. There are numerous class options that are less vigorous, and remember that yoga’s first rule is to work to your own edge of exertion and never beyond. It’s pretty common for participants at yoga conferences to experience some soreness from doing more yoga than they are used to or because they use their muscles in a different way at a yoga conference. The soreness will subside quickly but remember to always honor your body and not to try to do too much. If you’re not doing yoga regularly, you might want to explore increasing your practice frequency prior to the festival to help prepare your body.
- Yoga is only for women: In some parts of the world, the majority of yoga students are women, and some men may have gotten the idea that yoga is not for them. The fact is that all people are searching for inner peace and all people wish to live a healthy life and feel vital in their mind-body-spirit. Nationally and locally, more and more men are availing themselves of the incredible benefits of yoga, helping them to be more fully themselves. Come and give it a try, guys!
- You have to have special yoga clothes: Yoga isn’t a fashion show. Just wear comfortable, breathable clothes. You can wear a shirt that is loose or some prefer one that is a little more form-fitting since in many yoga poses your head comes below your hips and your shirt can slide down. Any exercise pants or shorts will do. Yoga is typically done barefoot so you don’t need any special shoes.
- You have to be spiritual or possess certain spiritual beliefs to do yoga: While yoga philosophy is based on the understanding and practice of moral precepts and living a life in harmony with self and society, anyone from any religious background or spirituality can enjoy the mental and physical benefits of yoga. Physical benefits include improved flexibility, strength, breathing, balance and posture. Mental benefits include stress reduction, greater mental calm and clarity, and enhanced body awareness. Many find that yoga enhances their connection to their higher power and chosen religious practice.
- You have to do everything the instructor tells you to do and practice the same postures as everyone else: As mentioned previously, instructions given in yoga are simply suggestions. The needs of individuals vary according to their physical structures and level of yoga fitness. If you have any injuries or physical limitations, we ask that you let each of your instructors know prior to the beginning of your class. Depending on the size of the class, the instructor may be able to suggest postures that are best suited to your particular needs. In the end, it is always your responsibility to work within your own limits. Yoga is supposed to help you feel good, not frustrated and overly-fatigued or sore.
- Yoga is a competitive sport: One of the important components of yoga is the practice of physical postures. Due to this physical aspect of yoga, some people think of yoga as a sport just like tennis or basketball. The fact is that yoga is the art and science of physical, mental and spiritual development. Being able to do more advanced poses doesn’t make you better than someone else. Although yoga postures may look like stretching exercises found in some sports, yoga is not a sport, nor is it a “stretching class.” The postures in yoga are just one part of an all-around program of mind-body-spirit development.
Visit the festival website for complete details: www.dubuqueyogafestival.com