Your yoga practice doesn't end on the mat
Yoga can give you the tools to face challenging moments and to live a more purposeful and meaningful life. But this insight doesn't just come with the physical practice (asana). As you progress in your asana, it's likely you'll start to become curious about the rest of the practice. In total, there are 8 limbs of the yoga path, which in addition to asana, include the Yamas (restraints), Niyamas (observances), Pranayama (breath work), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (meditation), and Samadhi (enlightenment). It is through the full practice of yoga that we can achieve ultimate bliss.
Your neighbor is not your competition
I see this all the time in class, students peeking around the room comparing their poses to everyone else's and forcing themselves into postures they're not ready for or that don't suite their body structure. I understand that for many, yoga has become yet another venue we can harp on the inadequacies of our bodies. But, it's doesn't have to be that way. If there is one thing I could say to all my students, it's that your practice doesn't have to look like someone else's. In fact, it shouldn't. You're unique. Your body is unique and therefore your practice will be unique as well. Some postures may come easily, others will take time and dedication. Some may require the use of props or modifications. Love your body and embrace it for all it CAN do. It's capable of so many amazing things. Don't view difficult postures as limitations, but rather opportunities for growth and gratitude.
Props are an asset to your practice
As a yoga teacher I've experienced all types of reactions when I cue the use of a block or strap in class. For some reason, students see props as a weakness. Truth be told, props are there to enhance your practice. And, ultimately encourage a smarter, more versatile and more creative practice that teaches you to be in tune with your body.
Props also offer alternative and accessible variations so everyone, regardless of shapes, size or age, can experience the pose that is true to their body rather than missing out or even worse, risking injury by attempting a challenging pose without support.
What you may not realize is props can also help deepen your practice and prevent you from cheating in poses. Think of bridge pose with a block between the knees. When we introduce props in this manner the posture may become more difficult but you gain knowledge of the true mechanics of the posture.
It's okay if you're not flexible
"I'm not flexible enough for yoga." I have heard this so many times. Do you lift weights because you're strong or are you strong because you lift weights? With a regular yoga practice you will gain flexibility; it's not required to begin your yoga journey. Flexibility is a product of yoga, not a prerequisite.
You already have a yoga body
If you have a body and do yoga, you have a yoga body. That's it. That's really it. Yoga doesn't require you to be skinny or lanky, toned or flexible. It just requires you to show up and put in the work.
You won't be happy after every practice
Yoga has the power to brighten your mood and help you work through difficult experiences and emotions. But that doesn't mean that every practice leaves you feeling like a puppy running through a meadow of butterflies. We store emotions in our body. Think about what happens to your shoulders when you're stressed or the tightness in your throat and chest when you're nervous. When we practice yoga we tap into deep areas of the muscles and joints and sometimes those emotions break free. I've cried in yoga more times than I can count. I've been pissed off in poses and felt defeated in others. It's all part of the process. Know that. Embrace it and practice on.
Yoga will change you
Yoga will change you. It will change your body, how you process emotions, the way you view yourself and others. It will challenge you to reexamine yourself and how you interact with the world around you. It will force you to face your difficulties and ultimately teach you how to overcome them. Yoga will change you if you let it. So let it.