Yoga with Training Wheels

© elizabeth patch, all rights reservedIn my yoga class,
there are elderly people,
young people,
fat people and thin people
of various levels of flexibility,
stamina and athletic strength.
The teacher adapts the postures
so that all can practice
within the limits
of our particular bodies.

Nobody is scolded or shamed

for not being able
to twist or stretch
into the “ideal” posture.
Each person is encouraged
to either move into
a more challenging advanced pose
or stay in an adapted pose,
depending on what the body
is able to do in that moment.

Not one person changes

to look thinner or younger
by the end of the class.
Instead we each walk away
feeling better in our own bodies,
whatever body we may have.

Many of us have experienced
exercise related trauma

that either made us quit altogether
or avoid using our bodies
to our own personal potentials.
We’ve endured the screaming, yelling, name-calling style of motivation that often passes for athletic encouragement.

Miss a shot and the team boos,
swallow water in the pool
and develop a fear of swimming,
come last in running and be given a nasty nickname.
The stars get all the praise,
and the not-so-athletic are at best ignored, at worst mocked.
Experience enough discouragement and we learn:
If you can’t do it perfectly, then why bother at all?

And yet everyone admires those wheelchair athletes
who have learned to adapt a sport to their abilities.
Everyone thinks kids are just adorable as they “swim”
happily wearing a ducky-shaped float ring.
So why can’t we also learn to admire our own adorable selves
when we try to do the best we can with the body we’ve got?

If we were lucky children we also had encouraging parents
who applauded us as we sped along on a tricycle,
helped us wobble down the sidewalk on training wheels,
and gave us a gentle push as we attempted those first daring solo rides on a real bicycle.
It is that kind of step-by-step, non-judgmental encouragement
that you really need to hear in order to stay motivated.

Walk around the block instead of running around a track?
Good for you!
Ski the beginner’s trail and never get to the bottom without falling?
Hooray for trying!
Hold onto the wall for balance in a one-legged yoga pose?
Great start!
No matter how long you keep those “training wheels”,
hear the voice of praise, even if it is just your own!

a related post you might enjoy: Practice Makes Imperfect

FYI: the pose illustrated above is called Vriksasana

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5 comments to Yoga with Training Wheels

  • I never understood why some people believe that being fit means having to perform extreme movements under extreme conditions. Yoga is for everyone it is better, safer and more spiritual than other forms of physical exercise.

  • thank you all!
    It is my pleasure to create this work and my honor to share with you.
    I avoided doing yoga for so long because I thought I was too out-of-shape to practice.
    And then I learned that you just begin where you are…
    what a revelation!

  • Hooray for a Yoga post!! Thank you so much for this lovely illustration and blog. I love how powerfully positive each new one you share with us is!


  • Patti Guarino

    Fabulous! You’re absolutely right Elizabeth – the beauty of yoga is that anyone can do it, and to NOT be ashamed if they can’t do the “advanced” poses. It’s all about the journey, not the destination!! Love your illustrations, as usual!!

  • Love this post. Yoga is so good for everyone, regardless of shape and ability to resemble a pretzel.