Starting up a yoga practice can be quite an intimidating experience. What studio will be a good fit? What kind of class is best for your body? Perhaps you’ve walked into a studio where you felt like you were not “cool” enough – maybe you were not wearing the ‘right’ brands or maybe you didn’t know the lingo, the secrets behind mala beads or crystals, maybe you hadn’t heard about the latest trend in healthy eating, and could not yet easily put your leg behind your head in some crazy bend. This was a serious deterrent for me when starting up my own practice, because none of that really embodied what I thought yoga meant – a deeper connection with the self, a disengagement of my ego, and a community of people filled with love, acceptance and support.
But I gave it a shot. I thought to myself, ‘hey – I don’t know, maybe it’s not like this in the class itself… yoga is supposed to give you a sense of relaxation!’ unsuccessfully masking my already growing nervousness and insecurity. I’d go and shyly place my mat down in what seemed to be a university-sized classroom – trying to blend in as much as possible without obviously being looked at as a yogi nube. I’d even try to hide out in the very back corner, hoping not to be noticed because I was already feeling uncomfortable enough, I didn’t want to have the teacher notice that I had no idea what I was doing. I just wanted to go unnoticed so that I could observe what the heck was going on and push my already awkward self into these positions in peace – without any unwanted attention. I wanted help, but I certainly didn’t want to feel humiliation.
During my first experience I was deep in my insecurity. The teacher almost seemed like the high school teacher I had back in tenth grade English class, the one with the power to bring ALL the room’s attention on me, to point out to my fellow students (who I had previously hoped to be new friends) just how much I didn’t know about what I was doing. The worst part was when the teacher would spot me. I’d be taking my first shot at a downward dog (downward what!?) and all of a sudden I could sense it: He was on to me. Heart starts to race, and I start to sweat way more than what that little pose could provoke because suddenly my biggest fear was about to come true: I’m going to have the entire classroom’s attention directly on you. My limitations, my awkwardness and my injuries. The worst part of it all was having the teacher himself stop the entire flow of the class, and declare with a loud booming voice “You’re doing it WRONG.”
Needless to say, after those experiences I started to lose faith in yoga. But I didn’t give up hope. There HAD to be a studio somewhere where the purpose wasn’t to encourage these negative experiences, and actually HELP someone who’s new and nervous comfortably and authentically…
Then I stumbled upon Semperviva Yoga.
I had started my incognito yoga detective duties before going in, sussing out what it was all about, seeing if it was like all the rest. Something about it seemed different than all the other yoga studios… The people wearing the Semperviva shirts were smiling – GENUINE smiles. They’d make gentle eye contact with you, and hold it confidently with a sense of acceptance and friendliness. This was different. Then they’d actually speak to you – ask you how your day was, and actually LISTEN. That was definitely different. Then I started to notice the people who were actually practicing yoga there. There were many different kinds of people; people who were well into their 60’s, to people my own age and younger – and ALL of them were smiling or chit chatting with one another. Okay – this is suspiciously close to what I’ve been searching for all this time. I had to know – is it REAL?
I went in.
The girls at the front desk immediately acknowledged me with a welcoming “hello!” within 5 seconds of my entering the building – they paid attention. So far, so good. I walked up, and hesitantly began to share my story: I’m interested, I’m nervous, I’m injured, and I’m looking for something that won’t make me feel uncomfortable. Immediately the Yoga Advisor whipped out a schedule guide, broke down what the terms ‘Hatha’ and ‘Yin’ meant, recommended specific teachers to try out, gave me a complimentary day pass and then directly introduced me to the most qualified teacher for my specific needs. Even he seemed genuinely concerned for my body and easy to approach and chat with. There were no egos here. And it blew off the cap that was suppressing my yoga-loving hope that had almost been snuffed out.
I tried the first available class with this new potential friend of a yoga teacher I had just been connected with. During the calm, mellow and relaxing class the teacher never drew direct attention to me. I’d catch him shooting me discreet little “How are you doing?” glances and if I wasn’t doing a pose properly, out of nowhere all I would get was a light tap and silently guided modification without him even missing a beat with the regular class guidance – bringing me absolutely NO unwanted attention from any of the other yogis in the class. It didn’t stop there – when we were holding a challenging pose, there wasn’t any intense competitive instructions being yelled at us – if anything, it was the opposite. When we were starting to shake, or lose balance, or wobble, the teacher would let us know “Where you are right now, is exactly where you’re supposed to be. What you’re feeling right now? The shaking? The challenge? That means you’re doing it right. You can do it.” Hallelujah.
After the class, I felt confident, relaxed, stretched, accepted by both myself, and my peers. I was approached immediately by friendly warm yogis, introducing themselves and letting me know their favorite practices. This was the type of community I had been searching for – and I’m hooked. From starting my practice, to now – I have more self-acceptance, a deeper connection to myself, a supportive community of yogis, access to health and wellness information, and a yoga practice that’s consistently providing my life with positivity. Thank you, Semperviva.
Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sara McKenna is the co-founder of Social City Networking INC alongside her identical twin sister Krista McKenna. With a passion for community, connection, collaboration, travel, adventures, nature, wellness, and charity, Sara is a active member of the community, working towards promoting positive change and development within individuals’ lives.
Follow her on instagram, pinterest and twitter: @smckennaSC #SOCIALintheCITY