I have been doing yoga on and off since I was about 20. That’s 15 years and I am still not very good at it. In fact, sometimes I swear I am getting worse. I have never been able to fold forward, face snuggled between my knees, peaking at the upside down world between my legs. My arms seem incapable of wrapping, turning or stretching enough to get anywhere near accomplishing the poses that require a lot of input from the upper limbs.
I am beginning to wonder if my arms are in fact freakishly too short, and the real reason I can’t touch my toes is because my arms are just not dang long enough. As I get older my limbs’ resistance to movement seems to be getting stronger.
Take a quick swatch on any Instagram yoga hashtag and you will find snaps of very slender young women, bending backwards in endless arches of apparently effortless Bridge poses, sinking fingers into soft, white sand on sun drenched beaches. Long limbs float from bodies, toned and tanned, reaching and melting into mind bending positions like hot wax. The aim of yoga appears to be reaching slimness, beauty and flexibility.
These images can make creaky old would-be yogis like me feel as accomplished on the mat as a heavy wooden barrel.
I’m not one for public exercise classes, especially when it comes to yoga – I just want to be on my own, with myself, not thinking about anyone else around me. I don’t want to have to witness Instagram style power posturing IRL.
I have used many DVDs and apps in the past, but hearing the same script over and over again becomes jarring. You can’t really let yourself go when you are constantly anticipating the next sentence. You feel like you are waiting for a tap to drip – not the best for inner stillness.
I flirted with a number of YouTube tutorials, but none of them seemed to be what I wanted. They were cloying, a bit too sunny and sweet – here were the sun drenched beaches again, and the limbs…all those bendy limbs. The presenters seemed to be ticking off a list of positions in their head, moving from one to the other like they were, quite literally, going through the motions. I didn’t feel engaged or encouraged, I couldn’t cope with all the substance-less grinning and high fiving.
But thanks to my new internet heroine, I am getting there bit by bit, and more importantly, I am learning to redefine what “doing yoga well” actually means.
Adriene and her yoga videos are an absolute joy. She is an extremely likeable teacher – down to Earth, goofy AF and clearly impassioned by her practice. Her tutorials are crafted around the mantra of: “Find what feels good”. They aren’t seeking perfection in anyway, you can go at your pace, settling into positions as much or as little as you want to; if you try to touch your toes and can only reach the top of your thighs – no bother, she will applaud you just the same simply because you have shown up and are taking some time to be good to yourselves. This is such a refreshing and inspiring attitude to respond to.
Yoga here isn’t about perfecting that pose, or feeling a failure because you aren’t made of rubber, it is all about being kind to yourself and taking time out, away from what causes you stress and worry.
Adriene wants her viewers to feel safe and supported, she manages to create an environment of warmth and self-love, that pours from the screen and fills even the chilly hallway where I do my practice. Yeah, I’m gushing and I worry that when I talk to people about her I sound like some brainwashed cult member, but her videos are infectious and I want everyone to get on board.
Yoga with Adriene offers many free videos on YouTube (sign up and you get many more, along with access to a bustling and lovely online community), all geared towards different aims (gratitude, focus and yes, even weight loss!) or your current mood, or a certain body part you want to spend some time with (hello arms).
So, if you want to spend some mat time with someone who drops Wu-Tang references whenever she can, encourages movement within poses, has an often surreal sense of humour and a cute AF dog, Adriene is your woman! I have never felt better after my practice with her – I always feel pleased with myself, in touch with my surroundings and genuinely accomplished. I may even be able to bend a bit more, just a wee wee bit.
Images from https://www.facebook.com/yogawithadriene/