It just so happened that I was the lucky instructor who got to teach Matt Halko during his first class at BLY. My name is Sophie Williams, and I’ve been an instructor at Bottom Line Yoga since the beginning. I remember my interaction with Matt well, because, like many new-to-yoga practitioners, Matt was a little apprehensive about taking class. Matt approached me before class and mentioned that he was newer to yoga. I explained that it was perfectly normal to feel nervous.
The first couple classes, even first couple dozen classes can be particularly challenging because everything is new. The breath techniques, the pose names, the physical shapes of the poses themselves – all this new information can be overwhelming, not to mention the fact that you’re having this experience in a room full of strangers. I assured Matt that after a few classes he would be comfortable with the practice and it would require less thought to come to a comfortable place physically and mentally.
After six months of consistently coming to classes, there is obvious progression in Matt’s practice. There’s less strain during and between poses, and he has a sense of calm as well as confidence in his overall demeanor. Just imagine if he hadn’t taken that first class because he thought it was ‘girly’!
There are so many misconceptions about yoga, and as a yoga instructor, I’ve heard them all. Often times when I mention that I’m a yoga instructor, people respond with “I’m not flexible” or “I can’t calm my mind enough for yoga”. And I respond with, “Well…exactly!” That’s why people practice yoga. Just like any skill set, learning how to have a well rounded practice takes time. But, one day, however many classes down the road, you will be sitting on your mat, or settling yourself into a pose, and realize, “Whoa, I’m doing it! This feels different than it did a few weeks ago, there’s more ease getting to this place of physical and mental calm! There is noticeable progress in my practice!”
I remember being in a similar situation when I first started started going to yoga classes on my own. I had previously been to quite a few classes with family and friends, but I signed up for a semester of yoga classes at my university. I went to one class, and embarrassingly enough, didn’t go back for the rest of the semester. I felt overwhelmed and almost unworthy to be in class with what felt like all ‘advanced yogis’. I eventually found a teacher and a style of yoga that worked for me, stuck with it for long enough to see changes in my body and mind, and then I ran with it. Many years later, I’m still progressing, but I have noticed changes in so many different aspects of my life that have stemmed from my yoga practice.
What I wished I could have told my past self, and many new students, is this: yoga is a practice, a progression, one that takes patience, perseverance, self reflection, and dedication. If it happened overnight, or if it was effortless right away, nothing would be learned. The physical poses of a yoga practice are irrelevant. If your mind is calm and clear, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing handstands or sitting in an easy seat.
Can’t touch your toes in a seated forward fold? Who cares! If you can slow yourself down and be in the present moment, you are truly practicing yoga. Matt sums it up well; “Whatever your perceived notions of yoga, yoga is about you. Yoga is a personal practice…give it a try”.