The value of showing up
The importance of showing up at your yoga class, even when you’re not feeling it on the day. By Nikita Thakrar
One of my yoga students said to me the other day: "I don’t care what kind of weekend I have had or how I feel during the day, I know that if I show up to yoga on Monday evening, the rest of my week will be good."
I was intrigued by this statement, so I asked: “How do you know that?”
She replied: “Because it's enough to just show up.”
I reflected on this for some time and I became curious, as to how other people perceive their weekly yoga class. So I decided to ask. Interestingly, none of them mentioned the physical benefits, it was almost as if that was a given. Instead some said they sleep better that night, others said all their problems seem to be less important when they are on their yoga mat. One even said it’s the only time of the week they go into their own world; no phones, no distractions, just them on their mat doing what they can.
This was a revelation to me as a yoga teacher of 13 years. I suddenly realised the value that people get in simply 'showing up'.
But for others it’s not that easy. If they have had a hectic day at work, stressful meetings and even conflicts with colleagues, it may seem more enticing to go home and put their feet up on the sofa with a glass of wine rather than come to a yoga class. I occasionally receive messages a few minutes before a class starts to say: "I just can't face anyone tonight, I need to be myself.”
I relate to this because I used to be like that. I would sign up to a course of lessons, only to end up missing a few and feeling guilty. Why did I miss them? I had scheduled the time into my diary but when it came to getting there I just couldn’t face it.
I had an underlying fear that everyone there would be smiling, talking about how great their day was and how happy their lives are. I didn’t have the courage to pretend mine was the same, or to show I am happy for them. So, instead, I didn’t go.
The reality is that there is hardly much time before a yoga class starts and most instructors encourage silence during this time anyway. This is so people can get in their own zone, and begin to block out external distractions.
Whenever I did build up the courage to go, I always came away feeling better and that is what my yoga students tell me now. Showing up produces results! Sitting on the sofa doesn’t.
During winter, the class attendees tend to slip. To make my space more inviting I put the heating on, light candles, incense sticks and make sure I receive each person with a warm smile. When someone who I know is struggling, I almost feel a sense of relief for them when they turn up. Phew, they made it! I understand how challenging it must have been, how much debating they must have had to do with themselves.
If I sense that people are feeling lethargic then I incorporate Restorative Yoga, with fewer postures, and holding each one for longer. I go around and ask permission to press their back, and use gentle touch to show them that it’s all okay.
I adapt the class to the group and to the day. I don’t follow an A4 piece of paper in front of me with a series of postures on. It has taken me more than a decade to realise that most people coming to yoga are seeking something more than just a few postures.
Sometimes, all you really have to do is simply show up.