Start where you are
Starting (or continuing) a yoga practice can be overwhelming. For all the popularity it has garnered in recent years, the practice itself can remain mysterious and elusive to the individual practitioner. You show up on the mat, and while contorting your body, breathing heavily, and sweating, you ask yourself: “Am I doing yoga yet? Is this it?”
The word itself can be daunting. It conjures images of lithe young athletes twisting themselves into knots and standing on their hands for hours on end, or cave-dwelling monks who have renounced all worldly possessions in order to pursue enlightenment. It is easy to fall into the trap of imagining that it is a practice for people who have some quality that you do not: more time, more discipline, more money, more flexibility, more strength, more patience, more freedom. But yoga is not about having more of what you think you need; it is about letting go of what you don’t. It is not a practice that requires those things; it is one that helps you find them.
The wonderful thing about a yoga practice is that it always meets you wherever we are.
Yoga is a process of patiently peeling back the heavy layers of accumulated ideas, emotions, and concepts you burden yourself with, until you are left, simply, with yourself as you are. What a truly liberating notion: the practice begins with your body, your mind, your habits and life-circumstances, as they are presently—and regardless of the circumstances of anyone else—and helps guide you towards a greater expression of yourself. There is no right or wrong, only what is, and the degree to which you are at peace with it.
Do you have to be able to touch your toes, or balance on one leg? No, though it might help you get there one day.
Do you need to have a daily meditation practice? No, but it may help you to carve out the time or develop the discipline to establish one.
Do you have to renounce all worldly possessions and move to the Himalayas, or practice every day for hours? Unless that’s what you want, then no again.
The only pre-requisite for starting your practice is an open mind, and a willingness to let go of the ideas and things in your life that are holding you back from being able to experience yourself fully in the present moment. You don’t need hours, you don’t even need minutes. All you need is one single breath, taken right now, with presence, love and acceptance in your heart.
So, are you ready to practice yoga? The answer is always yes; everyone is ready, at all times. All you need to do is look inward, and simply find your breath. Find a comfortable seat and posture, fill yourself with life through a deep inhale, and then let go of all the things that are not useful to you on an exhale. Then repeat. Of course, the mind will wander; the body will complain, but the quality of your awareness is what matters.
Where should you start your yoga practice? Wherever you are.