Do you have a fear of being seen in yoga?
I do, but I’m working on it.
I posted a short anecdote on Instagram of my some of the struggles I faced early on in getting to a yoga class and I was really pleased with the response it got. So many people seem to relate on some level to the fear of being seen in yoga, teachers and students alike, and it’s such a shame. If you can manage the fear as I am learning to do it’s one thing, but if it stops you doing or trying something that could potentially change your life for the better that’s not OK. You have a right to be seen, just as you are – online and off. Usually one environment feels more vulnerable than the other – which is it for you?
In yoga (and beyond) we filter and crop our photos, take arty shots to hide our faces and carefully edit our captions. We say no to events when we want to say yes (and vice versa), cancel classes when we’re not feeling 100% and then wish we didn’t feel we ‘had’ to. When we do go we hide in the back corner of the studio (as students, not teachers – that would be a bit weird) having spent our hard earned cash on outfits we think might help us feel like we fit in. The list is endless, and all this before we even start the practice! On a practical level it’s really hard to confront your fear of being visible when lots of studios have mirrors, you don’t anyone (or you do know someone), or as you see it, you’re the only one freaking out inside.
But what if we could just be ourselves without self-flagellation?
How much more time and energy would you have if you removed the doubt, anxiety and questioning from your routine?
Of course it’s not easy, especially if these habits are ingrained deep down in you. The thing is though, as I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of times – nothing that’s worth it is ever easy! Ready to challenge yourself? I’ve come up with a few yoga class specific suggestions you could try, based on things that have worked for me. The first installment of this series is focused on supporting students and ideas for teachers is coming soon!
Getting in the door
- Book and pay in advance. You are less likely to bail if you’ve already committed the cash.
- Arrange to go with a friend and meet away from the studio so you can go in together.
- If you’d rather go alone, decide whether you’d rather arrive early to get settled or arrive a minute before to encounter the fewest number of people.
- If you know the teacher personally you could send them a message beforehand on social media letting them know you are looking forward to their class. This will help to create accountability.
- If you don’t know the teacher, do a bit of internet stalking so you know what they look like at least and perhaps get a feel for their style.
- Wear what you are comfortable in, it’s that simple. There’s nothing more annoying than having to readjust your top or pull up your bottoms the whole time.
Putting down a mat
- In some studios the mats are already laid out, in which case pick one as far away from the mirrors (if there are any) as possible.
- From a teacher’s perspective you are no more visible at the front than you are in the back corner, especially if the teacher wanders around as I do. Don’t worry if you end up at the front. Other students will only see the back of you anyway.
- If you are responsible for setting out your own mat perhaps pick a spot by a wall so you are less likely to have to move as people join the class. Sometimes if classes are busy there’s endless mat shuffling so be prepared for that. Arriving early or late as discussed above will determine how much control you have over this.
- Take props if they are available to borrow and put them close. This way if you decide you want to use them you don’t need to ask or (heaven forbid!) leave your mat to get them yourself. Note: there’s absolutely no shame in using props, it does not make you a worse yogi or a bad person. Fact.
During the class
- If you find yourself looking around at everyone else a lot, close your eyes.
- Take the option that works best for you, not your neighbour. As a teacher I love it when everyone is doing something slightly different.
- Some teachers provide hands on assists. They are designed to help rather than imply you are doing it wrong. If you don’t want to be touched the easiest thing to do is to let the teacher know before class, just like you might if you wanted to tell them about an injury. You can make up a reason you don’t want them touching you if it helps, they’re not going to know!
- If closing your eyes makes you nervous in savasana, keep them open. You might find they drift shut naturally as you relax anyway.
- Sometimes teachers will give adjustments during savasana to try and help you get more comfortable. If you’d rather not be touched, as above it’s completely OK to let the teacher know or just give them a clear signal as they approach.
At the end of the class
- You are not obliged to om, say namaste, or take part in anything else the teacher may do to close the class. It’s entirely your preference.
- Sometimes there’s a mat cleaning etiquette, just copy what other people do!
- Leave how you feel comfortable: avoid eye contact, look at people, smile, talk…whatever works for you.
This is by no means exhaustive. I’m coming to think I could write a book about how to prepare for a yoga class when you are anxious! The above points are suggestions not rules and everyone will find their own adaptations.
Let me know what you do to get started or keep going with your yoga practice.