4 ways to get your family into yoga

Yoga has had a such a positive impact on my health and mental well-being that I’m an enthusiastic advocate of the practice.  Give me a willing listener, and I’ll gladly share my story of how yoga has helped me.  While I’ve converted by husband into a fellow yogi, it has been difficult to convince other adult family members to give it a try.

There are many pre-conceived notions of yoga.  Ask a non-practitioner what they think of when it comes to yoga and they may describe a yogi, deep in a meditative state floating across mountain tops.  Others may instead immediately associate the practice with the bendy photos of yogis striking poses on social media.  Both images can be equally intimidating and off-putting for someone who feels their life is worlds removed from what they see as the practice of yoga.  

While some yogis can be intensely focused on mediation and spirituality or flexibility and athleticism –the practice of yoga needn’t be, and can be very accommodating to individuals of varying abilities and at different stages in life.

As I’m keen to share a part of my life that has benefited me greatly with those I care about, I’ve been eager to understand new ways of opening their minds to the practice.

4 Ways to Get Your Family into Yoga

Here’s some suggested approaches that are worth a try –

  1. Show rather than tell

Going straight into all the benefits and evangelizing about yoga will often overwhelm people. Instead, you can start slow. When my family has asked how I am, I try to drop subtle hints about why I feel like I do – whether it’s feeling refreshed, more active, or more calm, it’s been easy to link this back to yoga.

The goal here is to incite curiosity. Showing them the benefits of yoga, rather than telling them to do it.

  1. Baby steps

It can be daunting to attend a yoga class as a newbie. All the cues in a yoga class can be overwhelming when you don’t know the movements.  I’ve had friends –not used to taking direct instruction –feel pressured in class and cry.  

You can help them gain comfort and confidence by practicing some initial poses together. When my husband first started yoga we kept this really simple – working through well-known poses such as downward dog. Having this basic knowledge in a safe space made him more comfortable when joining an actual class.

  1. Breathing exercises

Classes and postures may still be a bit too much at the start. Instead, you can start with breathing exercises – who can say no to breathing? 

Helping them to gain control of their breath is already a benefit. For these, they can start with a simple easy exercise –sitting in any comfortable position, closing their eyes, and breathing to counts of 5 breaths in, 5 breaths out.

  1. Address their concerns

If subtle hints aren’t drawing curiosity and your family won’t engage, there’s often a reason for this and some probing questions might be necessary. Some common concerns are around fitness – that they’re not flexible or fit enough. This often goes back to the preconceived notions of yogis from social media.

Once you get a sense of where the hesitancy may be, try to speak to their concerns and relate yoga benefits back to their situation and how it can specifically help them –whether it be physical like fixing a stiff back or mental like destressing the mind.

Although it can be a challenge to convince your family to first try yoga, the rewards that they’ll get are well worth it!



Elevator Pitch for Yoga

In the consulting world there’s a term called the “Elevator Pitch”.
Imagine you’re standing in an elevator. When the doors open, someone walks in. You glance at his face. Suddenly, you realise this is someone really important. For the next 30 to 60 seconds, it’s just you and him in that tight space. You now have the chance of a lifetime to sell him an idea, a product or a service. How would you summarize your thoughts? What’s the most interesting pitch you can make in that short ride?
When the doors open, is he keen to find out more? Have you won him over or lost him forever?
The Elevator Pitch came to mind a couple of weeks ago when we started lesson planning for beginners.
At that time Master Satya had a suggestion: “Tell the students your name, and give a quick introduction about Yoga.”  That “quick introduction” turned out to be surprisingly challenging.
A number of us stuttered and stumbled, as we got increasingly tangled in our thoughts and words.
How do you explain to students that what they normally equate with Yoga is actually just the Asanas, and Asanas are just one of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga (some of them might even ask “what do you mean by ‘limb’)? Do you tell them about all the other limbs? Or is that too esoteric for a layman, especially if he’s just looking for some exercise? If Yoga is not a form of exercise, what is Yoga?
How do you compress the meaning of Yoga into a 60-second soundbyte that is:
–          Reasonably accurate
–          Accessible to the layman
–          And better yet, intriguing (so that students will be motivated to find out more)
I realised then how important it was to sort out my personal understanding of Yoga. Aside from students, there will surely be other instances in conversations with friends and even strangers, where I’ll find myself facing a casual question of “so, what’s this Yoga you’re doing?”. And they won’t be expecting a long answer, that’s for sure.
After some thought, here’s my attempt (tailored for a class intro):
“What you normally see in studios and exercise classes are actually known as ‘Asanas’, which means postures or poses held in a comfortable and steady manner. This is just one aspect of the practice of Yoga. But Yoga is not just about physical activity.
In Ashtanga Yoga, there are eight aspects in total. Aside from Asanas, there are breathing techniques to help regulate our prana or life energy. We call this Pranayama. There’s also mediation or Dhyana, philosophy and guidelines on ethical conduct. Practising Yoga will improve our self awareness and help us to confront our inner selves with honesty. It addresses our physical, mental and spiritual health as a whole [I won’t go into detail here, but for those interested in finding out more, we can discuss after class] Our focus today is on Asanas – the physical postures. Asanas improve our physical health and ability to concentrate.  As we go into each pose, we become more aware of our body, we recognise our individual abilities and limitations. With regular practice, we gain more strength, stamina and flexibility.  Asanas can also benefit blood circulation, internal organs, hormonal glands and the nervous system. When we have a healthy body, it forms a good foundation for mental and spiritual health.”
There’s no right or wrong answer. I’m sure every individual would have his or her own interpretation.
So what’s your Elevator Pitch for Yoga?
– Laurel