Despite all the studies pointing to yoga’s immense benefits for body and mind, some of us need to bust through these 5 common yoga myths before we will give it a try. Let’s set the record straight.
Yoga Myth #1: I Have to be Flexible
This is definitely the one I hear the most often. This is the equivalent of saying, “I can’t reach up because I’m not tall.” You grab a stepping stool and go for it if you can’t reach the top shelf.
It’s the same in yoga. There are props available to help you. If you need assistance reaching your feet in a seated forward fold, try yoga straps or towels to wrap under the soles of your feet. If you need a few extra inches to reach the floor in triangle, there are yoga blocks to place under your hand. As you continue your practice, your flexibility will increase.
Yoga Myth #2: It’s a Religion
While it is true that the word ‘yoga’ was first mentioned in one of the most ancient sacred Hindu texts known as the Rig Veda, this is merely the origin of yoga. Some studios will have paintings of deities or symbols on the walls as an homage to these origins. But knowledge of Sanskrit terms or Hindu deities is certainly not required to take a yoga class. And modern Western yoga is not a Hindu practice.
The primary goal of yoga is to learn to connect to the present through the breath, and breathe through the poses with steadiness and peace in order to maintain that steadiness, peace and presence through challenges in all areas of life. There are many classes and teachers to choose from, some incorporate more spirituality than others. If you don’t care for one teacher’s style, keep looking until you find a teacher that clicks with you.
Yoga Myth #3: It’s for Women
I’ll admit that when I look around in yoga class, the majority of the students are female, but I see plenty of men in class and my mentor is an immensely popular male teacher. Yoga is affordable, as most studios offer the first class free and have class packages to fit every budget.
Although yoga magazines primarily showcase thin, young women in impressive poses, the reality is that people of all shapes and sizes participate in yoga and benefit from it. One of the regulars in my evening practice is in a wheelchair. He has a degenerative muscular disease. His caregiver rolls out the mat for him and places him on the floor, and this lovely gentleman participates in class and is part of the community without the use of his legs. Yoga is for everybody.
Yoga Myth #4: I Need to Master All Poses
A few souls out there will excel at every pose, but that is not the norm. We all have different anatomies and different strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve been practicing for more than 10 years, and I still have difficulty with arm balances and I am just scratching the surface of inversions. I see people next to me popping right up into crow pose and handstand. And while I struggle with those poses, I can sink deeply into frog pose or wide-legged seated forward fold like a boss.
There are poses I will probably never be able to do, like peacock pose. This pose involves flipping the hands backwards at the front of the waist and balancing on the palms with the elbows hugging in at the lower ribs and the body hovering in a plank. I just don’t possess the wrist flexibility and upper body strength to master this pose, and that’s okay.
To paraphrase Yoda, there is no good or bad in yoga, you must only try.
Yoga Myth #5: It’s Not a Serious Workout
The type of class you sign up for is key here. If you go to a restorative or yin class, then this will typically involve dim lights, soft or no music, and all poses are performed while lying on the floor, usually with lots of props. This type of class is great for stress and anxiety reduction.
If you’re looking for something more vigorous, try vinyasa flow or power flow yoga. These classes involve a faster pace and more upbeat music (incidentally, another myth – that yoga only uses new-age music.
I’ve practiced to everything from Deva Premal to Biggie Smalls) and you will definitely work up a good sweat. These classes are generally heated to 85-95 degrees.
If you don’t want hot yoga and still desire a dynamic practice, look for an Astanga class. This type of class consists of a set series of poses – primary series, secondary series, and so forth – that are taught and practiced every time.
These are just a few of the many styles to choose from, and with a little exploration, you can find a yoga class for just about any fitness level.
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