What does non-intimidating mean?

I had an instructor ask me the other day if I thought she was intimidating and it struck me that people may have different ideas about what intimidation means. I thought that I would express to you what it means to me and why I strive for Tula to always be approachable, welcoming and non-intimidating.

Let's start with the Dictionary definition of intimidate - To make timid or fearful.

As a yoga student in Chicago long before I was a studio owner, I had many wonderful experiences with yoga studios and instructors. With these wonderful experiences, I also had some not so great experiences. Looking as to why these experiences were not so great, I realized that most often it had little to do with the actual yoga instruction. It had to do mostly with the energy of the environment and a lot of the peripherals outside of the yoga class itself. To me, these are the things that would make a studio either intimidating/fearful or non-intimidating/welcoming to me.

No Rules, just Yoga. While I understand the intention is good, I find a lot of rules and regulations to be somewhat stressful. I have been to classes and studios where they have so many rules about 'proper' yoga etiquette that you are so focused on conforming and trying not to break the 'rules' that you can lose sight of the full yoga experience - letting go. At Tula, you may notice a lack of many of the typical rules and regulations. No complicated forms to sign, no posted rules about turning cell phones off, taking shoes off, no talking, etc. You can share, transfer and never fear that your class packs will expire - you paid for them, you should be able to do what you want with them. And what happens when you strip away these rules? Mass chaos? No, you get people that are genuinely respectful to each other, the space and the practice.

Slowing down. The irony is not lost on me that many people around the city 'rush' to relax at their yoga classes. At Tula, you can be late to class. We won't lock the door on you. You are welcome any time.

Being welcomed. I have been to studios where even if you are a new person, no one even shows you where the bathroom is. No one asks your name. You are basically left to your own devices. We will always show you where things are and make sure you are comfortable.

English, please. This is a tough one because I appreciate the Sanskrit names of poses. There is a calming, relaxing resonance to me just hearing someone say Chanturanga Dandasana. However, when I was a beginner, I would hear these names and frantically look around the room and try to figure out what exactly to do with my body. Instructors at Tula are advised to help beginners, say the English names of poses (in addition to the Sanskrit name) and make sure that you are able to at least attempt a pose with all the information required to do so.

Advanced Yogis are welcome too. Some people may think of places as intimidating if there are many fit, flexible yogis doing handstands and complicated backbends in class. To me, this is not intimidating, this is inspiring. There is a saying in yoga that you need to be happy with where you are- today. I love the idea of mixed level classes because people can learn from each other. So, at Tula, you may find a class full of fit bendable yogis or a class full of stiff beginners - just be happy with where you are and imagine the possibilities.

Have a sense of humor. This is a big one. I love teachers that take yoga seriously, but not themselves. We should be able to laugh at ourselves. Yoga is fun and sometimes funny. At Tula, don't be surprised if there is a lot of laughing in class.

To sum it up - I wanted my yoga to come with a sense of belonging, community, so that's the studio I aimed to build. I'm sure there are many people out there that just want a workout and go about their busy lives. I want a long savasana, I want to be asked how I am feeling, I want to be introduced to my neighbor next to me on the mat. I want to be greeted at the door by a warm welcoming face. I want to know that if I don't know what I'm doing, that's okay, I'm still welcome. I want to connect and grow in my practice with others. And that's what non-intimidating means to me- what does it mean to you?