Trying to convince someone that they should do yoga is like trying to convince a five-year-old to eat broccoli. They either like broccoli, or they don’t, and you forcing it is only going to make them even more adamant that they hate broccoli.
The thing about yoga is that there are a lot of misconceptions and clichés about what it all means. There is a such a saturated market of yoga and yoga-like classes that it can be really overwhelming and off-putting for someone trying yoga for the first time. But you might find that the anti-yogi in your life isn’t necessarily opposed to yoga, but rather intimidated or opposed to what they think yoga means.
Find the Right Class
With so many styles of yoga out there, as well as so many places to try yoga, it’s all about finding the class that is a good fit. If you know a bit about what your friend might like, it can help you to recommend a class that will interest them.
If your friend enjoys a really sweaty cardio workout, trying bringing them along to a vinyasa flow or power yoga class. If they really don’t enjoy working out, maybe a restorative class is what they need. For the thrill-seeking friend, check out aerial or acro yoga. If your friend is really shy and nervous about being a beginner, try an online class. If your friend is really put off by om-ing and “woo-woo” things, don’t jump right in with a Kundalini class.
We have to appreciate that everyone is different, and yoga is so much about personal experience and preference. We all know the feeling of taking a class that just isn’t a good fit for us, and that’s definitely something you want to avoid when introducing someone to yoga for the first time. Even if the class you start with isn’t traditional yoga, it might be a good starting point that will help ease them into a path of exploration.
Share Your Yoga Story with Them
When I tell people that I’m a yoga teacher there are a couple of responses that I get a lot. Some people tell me that they tried yoga but it was just too boring for them. Others tell me that they’ve never tried yoga because they aren’t flexible. The worst response of all is when people tell me that they don’t have time to do yoga! This is where I jump in with the story of how yoga allowed me to go from the least flexible girl in seventh grade to the girl who can easily touch her toes.
I tell them that those “boring” classes taught me how to be totally comfortable in my own skin, sit with difficult emotions, and overcome depression and anxiety. I tell them by scheduling yoga into my busy days, I have more energy; I’m happier; I’m more inspired; and I can show up for myself, my friends and family, and my work in ways that I never could before.
I always try to be vulnerable with my experience, in hopes that this will break down the fears that people have about getting started and help them to see the life-changing possibilities.
Let Them Feel it for Themselves
From teaching teenagers, I’ve learned so much about the power that yoga has to transcend our resistance or reluctance and heal our bodies, whether we want it to or not. I’ve heard from a lot of parents, and teens themselves, that after a yoga class they just felt better. It wasn’t a conscious shift, but they left the class feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically lighter, softer, and calmer.
The same is true for adults. Even when I leave a yoga class that I really didn’t connect with spiritually, or personally with the instructor, my body reflects the shift. This is the power of yoga, it breaks through. If you can get over the hump of getting your friend to just one yoga class, let their own body convince them of the rest.
At the end of the day, we can’t force people to do things they don’t want to do. We can however share our stories, gently present them with the opportunity to try, and let them experience it at their own time and in their own way.
Image credit: Priscilla Du Preez