Most beginners think that yoga is hard. Indeed, yoga as a practice asks us to move in ways we are perhaps not used to. And in turn, we are going to notice where we may lack strength and flexibility. And that is completely normal! Any given yoga class is an opportunity to explore our strengths and weaknesses and find ways to work on them. So is yoga hard?
Yoga is hard for most yoga beginners. In yoga, we move in ways our bodies may not be used to and this is what can make yoga seem hard. From the very first class, we may notice poses we find challenging due to a lack of strength or flexibility. With consistent practice, yoga can become a lot easier.
Many beginners find that yoga is hard. They may have had a different image in their head about what yoga is or perhaps for the first time they came across their limited strength and flexibility. And when we do something for the first time, especially when that thing challenges us, well then it is no wonder that many beginners find yoga difficult! Or at least more difficult than they thought it would be.
We all come to yoga with the body we were born with and part of the yoga process it to make peace with that.
And so if you are wondering what actually makes yoga hard, continue reading to find out!
Why yoga is hard physically
Yoga is hard physically for most beginners because we ask our bodies to move it ways that are new. Indeed, we ask certain muscle groups to move in ways they are not used to and we ask them to find a greater range of motion. With consistent practice, the body can find strength and flexibility.
There are certain types of yoga that are more physically demanding than others. For example, Ashtanga yoga is considered to be a hard practice. Same with Vinyasa and Power yoga. In fact, I wrote a science-based article explaining how Ashtanga yoga can help build muscle.
There are however other types of yoga that are considered to be easier, or at least not as physically demanding, such as Yin yoga.
The truth is that regardless of the type of yoga, you decide to practice, you are most likely going to find some aspects hard, and that is totally normal!
For any beginner, this means facing up to our limitations early on.
The poses are physically demanding. They just are.
If you go to any beginner’s class, the teacher will have tailored the postures and sequence of postures to be suitable for all body types. What this means is that more complex postures will be broken down and modified so that most people will be able to attempt them.
And yet, there are postures that are difficult!
One simple example is downward facing dog. This posture is actually considered a resting posture. Especially during the sun salutations in Ashtanga yoga, a little ‘break’ is when we get to stay in downward facing dog for 5 breaths.
For any beginner with tight hamstrings, calves, and shoulders, the idea of the pose being a resting pose feels like an exaggeration. And yet, give it time, give your body time to open up and understand the poses and you’ll see that what was once challenging is now just another pose.
You have strength but no flexibility
This is rather common when people have practiced a sport for a long time and then try out yoga. A classic example is runners. From years of practice, they have developed a runner’s body: tight hamstrings. Yes, they may be able to hold the warrior poses longer than others but ask them to do any forward folds that require hamstring flexibility and you’ll see the limitations.
And so if you have the strength but not the flexibility, you need to give your body the time to adjust to yoga. This means being patient with the practice that is helping you find some flexibility was up until recently there probably was none.
You have flexibility but no strength
I have had many students come to me with incredibly bendy bodies. Ask them to get into lotus and it’s like they have been practicing for years. And yet, ask them to hold plank or headstand, and suddenly it’s impossible.
One issue these types of bodies have is that they are prone to injury. And so in this case, the practice and the teacher must help the student work on finding strength rather than finding new levels of flexibility. And this requires hard work. However, in the long run, you help minimize the risk of injuries.
You don’t have strength nor flexibility
And then there are the people who seem to struggle with poses that require both strength and flexibility. In this case, we’re working with a blank canvas, working our way up.
One main tip would be to make modifications in every pose, ignore your ego. And remember to breathe, as this will help loosen muscle tension and may even allow for mobility.
Why yoga is hard mentally
Yoga is hard mentally for most beginners because we begin to realize that we are our own teacher. We tend to have inner monologues going on throughout the day, and yet these monologues may become louder during a yoga class. And so it is up to us to quieten the notice and calm the thoughts.
Let’s have a closer look at why we think yoga is hard mentally:
- Your mind constantly wanders.
- You’re not seeing results as fast as you thought you would.
- You can’t help but compare yourself to other people in the class.
All the above are completely normal. You’re only human at the end of the day!
And so this is when the true work begins. Identify the thoughts, see if they are helpful or encouraging, and if not, learn to let them drift away.
For example, if I am not very flexible and constantly compare myself to the person next to me who happened to be born with a flexible body. How is it going to do me any good to think negatively about myself, think negatively about my fellow practitioner, and just dwell in self-pity?
Instead, focus on what your body CAN do. Feel grateful that you are doing the best you can with the body you have. And with this shift in thinking, you will notice how much easier everything will become. On and off the mat.
If you would like a sweet and gentle yoga practice that is perfect for most beginners, check out my video below:
Tips For Those Who Who Think Yoga Is Hard
1. Try a beginners class
Even if you are in good shape and exercise a lot, try starting with a beginner’s class. The reason is that more instructions and modifications are generally offered in beginners’ classes and so as a beginner to yoga, you may benefit more than if you were to jump straight into a more advanced class where most things are assumed.
If you are still finding out about the different types of yoga, you may like my article: Beginner’s Guide To The Popular Types Of Yoga And Their Benefits
2. Find the perfect studio/teacher/practice for you
When I first started yoga I tried out all the yoga studios in my neighborhood. This was rather eye-opening as I got a sense of different styles and teachers early on in my yoga journey.
Finding a good teacher is also very important. They will be able to meet you where you are. This means that they will be able to tailor the practice to your needs and from there help you fall in love with the practice and then in time, bloom.
3. Notice what you find difficult and speak to your teacher about it
Be open and honest with your teacher. They are there to help you and guide you in this practice. By seeing your practice they will have a good idea of what you find easy and what you find challenging. And yet, speaking to them will help them teach you more effectively.
4. Make yoga a ritual
Most beginners start doing yoga twice a week. Some more and some less. And yet, regardless of how frequently you decide to do yoga, stick with it. Keep up a consistent practice and this way makes it a ritual or a part of your day.
This way you will notice that it becomes part of your day and you won’t have to find the motivation to come to class, especially for those days that everything seems like a struggle. Work through it and you’ll really impress yourself.
5. Be patient with yourself
We live in such a fast-paced world and want results, yesterday!
In yoga that is simply not possible. Yoga is about slowing things down, observing the breath, observing the body, observing our thoughts, and if done properly, it will take time to see results.
With consistent practice, you will find strength, you will fling flexibility and you most likely will learn to calm the mind. But it all takes time. So embrace the process and take your time.
6. Underatand that it’s more about the journey rather than the end goal
One of the most frustrating and yet beautiful things about yoga is that kills the ego.
Indeed, yoga postures make us face our limitations and this can be very hard for many people to accept. We learn to be patient and embrace the journey. And slowly yet surely we see glimmers of hope.
7. Don’t compare yourself to others
In yoga, we are meant to rest in each posture. Indeed, according to the yoga sutras of Patanjali:
“stiram sukam asanam“
This means that the posture should be stable and pleasant.
And yet, in class, we often forget to experience the pose and instead get lost in an endless comparison with the more flexible or stronger person next to us.
A competitive mindset defeats the purpose and does more harm than good. Instead, try to let go of any comparisons and expectations and instead try to simply be.
Simply be, breathe, be present, accept, and relax into the posture. When we are able to do this, we make the posture right for us and learn to let go of what the person next to us is doing.
8. Don’t take yourself too seriously
When we are able to accept that we are beginners we are able to accept that we won’t be perfect. This is a big lesson to learn! When trying something out for the first time, or even the first few times, we learn that we may fall over, we may lose our balance, we may have to accept that we’re just not ready yet. And that’s ok! Laugh it off!
9. Listen to your body
This one can be difficult for beginners who have come from a more athletic and goal-driven background. No pain no gain, right? Well, wrong! In yoga, we try to listen to our bodies, listen to our limitations, listen to what we can do, and work with that.
Instead, try to breathe, give your body space, and time to relax into the postures and see where it will take you. You’ll be surprised at how much you will be able to progress when you take the time to listen.
10. Listen to your breath
Breathing is a foundation of our yoga practice and so each yoga class begins with a focus on the breath.
Taking deep breaths and allowing air to go into the lower lungs is important for delivering oxygen to the blood. But also this way we turn on the parasympathetic receptors which result in our heart rate slowing down and our adrenal glands slowing the production of stress hormones.
And so when we listen to our breath in a yoga class, we create some space for us to observe how we are feeling and how to intelligently and safely flow into each pose.
Once you are able to focus on the breath, you will notice that it doesn’t matter what poses you can or can’t do.
11. Enjoy yoga
It is easy to dislike something that we find hard. Then when not think about it differently? Use your practice as a time to explore and experience and face up to what you find difficult. Learn to accept and learn to enjoy the process. And who knows? Next time you are able to get into the pose that you’ve struggled with, well that day will forever stay in your memory as your yoga highlight.
12. Nobody is looking at you and that’s a good thing
Now, this is something that many beginners struggle with. We feel that when entering the class everyone will be looking at us and secretly commenting on good or bad we were.
With time you will notice that it is only the beginners that are looking around. The more we practice, the more we get lost in our own little yoga bubble and so the less we notice the beginner who may be struggling next to us.
On the contrary, I have noticed more experienced practitioners give a little smile of encouragement to beginners because you know what? They were also a beginner at some point so they know who hard it can be.
13. Take baby steps
Accept that the journey is a long one and that practice makes perfect. The experienced practitioners that seem to be able to defy the laws of gravity were once a beginner struggling to do what now seems effortless.
So try to remember that we all have to start somewhere. Start with a beginner’s class, start with working on modifications, start with learning how to breathe calmly throughout the class, and with time, more poses will open up to you.
14. Learn your limits
It is rather common for beginners to try to push themselves to the limits and sometimes even beyond their limits. Unfortunately, more often than not that mentality results in injury.
And that is why they say that an injury can actually be our greatest teacher. The pain signal is a message to our brain that we have gone too far. And so when injured, we get to really observe the body and our limits as we are learning to navigate around the pain.
One piece of advice would be to try to adopt a more peaceful attitude towards your body and try to not force yourself. Try to develop a sense of kindness to your body, as challenging as it may now feel.
15. Never Give Up
Think of it this way. The easiest thing you can do is give up. The hard part of a yoga practice is showing up. Day in, day out. Being present, breathing, taking your body a journey of strength and flexibility, and enjoying the ride.
There will be moments of frustration, there will be life situations that keep us away from our mat, there will be injuries and illnesses.
But learn to always return to your mat.
If you feel frustration or doubt, speak to your teacher or the yoga community around you. Or even try watching an inspirational video. Something that makes you tick and something that will push you forward.
Even if you just sit on your mat and breathe. That is also yoga.
Simple be present and work with where you are in. And don’t forget to congratulate yourself for every little step forward you take. You deserve it.