Yogi and author of Teaching Body Positive Yoga Donna Noble says yoga is for everyone and in fact, we were all born to do it!
Yoga teacher and female wellbeing advocate, Donna Noble, also goes by the name ‘The Noble Yogi’ . In a previous feature where she shared 5 things to protect our wellbeing while working from home, she gave the sobering caution “if you don’t make time for wellness, you will have to make time for illness.” In a busy lifestyle, practicing yoga could be the change your body is craving.
“Starting is the hardest part… it is really worthwhile – we need to make selfcare a priority.”
Despite the many benefits practicing it can have, too many people are still being put off by elitist notions about it and the fear that they may not be fit enough to practice the art which is thought to be up to 10,000 years old. Noble says yoga is for everyone, and for every age group. To the plea: “I don’t have time”, Noble says: “You can make time – even if it’s only ten minutes in the morning when you wake up. Starting is the hardest part – so totally understanding. But there are so many benefits, and it is really worthwhile – we need to make selfcare a priority.”
In the following feature Donna Noble shares some of the challenges of taking up yoga and what can be done to overcome them.
Yoga needs to be more inclusive so that its many transformational benefits can be experienced by anyone who would like to practice. I believe that yoga is everyone’s birth right. Everyone is born doing it – the first thing we do when we are born is to take our first breath. Have you seen a baby with their big toe in their mouth? That’s a pose called ‘Happy Baby Pose’.
A lot of the time we don’t realise that we are doing yoga in our everyday lives – bending over to tie-up our shoelaces (“standing forward fold”) or simply lying on our back sleeping (“Savasana”). I could go on….
“Everyone is born doing yoga – the first thing we do when we are born is to take our first breath”
The fact that it has been around for thousands of years demonstrates that it works and that it will be around for many more. It has stood the test of time even though in many instances the philosophy and the core teachings have been stripped out to make it a more commercial or palatable practice for the mainstream; this is one of the reasons why it is often associated with fitness.
With the increase in the popularity of yoga in recent years you would think that it would be more inclusive but unfortunately this is not the case. In fact, from my own personal experience I have found that there was a greater diversity when I first started my journey years ago.
Read on for some of the challenges some people face in taking up yoga and my thoughts on how they can overcome them.
The idea that “yoga is not for me”
The mainstream image conveys that it is only practised by people who are tall, slim, white, flexible and female. For only those who have the ‘ideal yoga body’. This often results in the following objections to starting the practice:
“I’m not fit enough”
Although many forms of movement work from the outside where the main focus is on aesthetics, yoga connects to the body from the inside, out.
“I’m not flexible enough”
Flexibility is not a prerequisite for starting to practice. Increased flexibility is just a natural by-product. It is common for people to gain flexibility in both their mind and body.
Not feeling welcome or safe
Some people experience not feeling welcome within the spaces or being ignored. This can be caused by them encountering unconscious bias from the teachers or staff at the studios.
Not feeling like you fit in
Often yoga can be described as being cliquey – when it should be about community for everyone.
Mainstream studios are often found in affluent areas, primarily where the demographic located there are the only ones able to afford the classes. Thankfully, there are lots of good, accessible classes online nowadays.
There seems to be a trend for beginner’s classes to be scheduled at off-peak times, when the studios are least busy. Everyone needs to work. See above solution.
“some yoga is better than no yoga”
I don’t have time to practise
Another objection I’ve heard is that yoga takes time and people don’t feel they have time to practise. However, the opposite is true: yoga creates time. I always say you cannot pour from an empty glass and yoga should be considered as selfcare.
A session can last as little as 10 minutes a day. As I always say, “some yoga is better than no yoga”.
Negative religious connotations
Another common objection I hear is that yoga is religious, but it can be whatever you want it to be. The sessions I offer do not have any chanting or makes any reference to religion.
The beauty of yoga is that it’s a very individual and personal practice.
It should be caveated that there are some yoga schools that are devotional, for instance Bhakti yoga, which uses the method of attaining God through love, achieved through chanting the names of various gods. Just like religion there are different types. I can however say that there is a style for everyone.
I don’t have the right clothes
Wearing loose, comfortable clothing is sufficient.
It’s too expensive
Similar to ‘class locations’ above, sometimes the cost of classes can be prohibitive. Try searching for community or free classes in your local area. Community class are often offered at a substantially reduced price to allow the classes to be affordable.
I hope I have managed to convince you to take up yoga. Practicing the art is an investment in one’s health. It’s certainly helped me to heal mentally and physically. Making this investment in yoga has helped my health and saved money on the treatments (physiotherapy, etc.) that I no longer need.
Yoga is increasingly being recommended as a health self-management tool by some medical professionals, and a number have adopted social prescribing to prescribe yoga and other activities with health benefits.
People come to classes for different things and somethings they find things they were not even aware they were looking for.
Teaching Body Positive Yoga by Donna Noble was published on 18 August 2022.