MYTH: I’M NOT FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO DO YOGA.
FACT: EVERYBODY STARTS SOMEWHERE.
Unless you are a gymnast or ballet dancer, it is very normal to feel tight during your first couple of yoga classes. (Even if you are a gymnast or a ballet dancer, you may find that yoga stretches and strengthens your highly-trained muscles in a new and balanced way!). Don’t worry if touching your toes seems “out of reach” at first (pun intended). The good news is that every ‘pose’ is really a vast spectrum of levels and modifications, endlessly customizable to suit your body’s needs and limits, whatever they are today. It’s also true that with regular practice, yoga is a great way to safely and effectively improve flexibility. The beauty of a group class with a qualified instructor is that you can ask questions, explain your concerns, and get the exact modifications you need to make yoga work for you.
MYTH: YOGA IS ABOUT FLEXIBILITY.
FACT: YOGA ISN’T EVEN ENTIRELY ABOUT MOVEMENT, LET ALONE FLEXIBILITY!
In the West, we often think of yoga as a room full of fit humans pretzeling themselves through an elegant series of beautifully contorted knots, but the truth is that yoga as a practice has eight major ‘limbs’, or elements, only one of which (hatha yoga) even involves poses. Hatha yoga is a great way to become more at home in your body and have better command of it, but yoga is just as effective for people who are not looking to become flexible, or who are hypermobile or too flexible, and need to stabilize their joints and improve balance in some areas. Most of us are stiff in some places and bendy in others, but may not move enough in our daily lives to know which parts of us need what. Yoga poses are designed to balance your body’s inconsistencies, not to exacerbate them– practicing them will stabilize your wobbly points, make your stiff points bendier, and allow you to become stronger and more grounded, better able to balance, and more flexible overall.
That’s pretty much it. While Instagram and Facebook will always be filled with sponsored posts of model-like young men and women in well-cut, expensive garments doing complex inversions in perfect lighting, they are just that– models. The girls and guys walking down runways at New York Fashion Week and staring grumpily out at you from the pages of Vogue as you wait to pay for milk aren’t remotely representative of the breadth and diversity of personal style, and those ‘flawless’ model yogis serve a similar purpose. It’s sad that these are the sole role models society has chosen to represent fashion, and it’s even sadder that the same standards of beauty have given yoga such an airbrushed, exclusive image. We’re working to change that, because the reality is that yoga classes are filled with people from all walks of life, whether they’re taking an hour break from the family farm or taking a yoga lunch hour away from the office. Yoga is built around tenets of nurturing diversity, self-acceptance, and acceptance of others. Please join us!
MYTH: YOGA IS FOR WOMEN.
FACT: YOGA IS FOR EVERYONE.
This one can be chalked up to an especially unfortunate and ridiculous PR problem in the Western world, but you wouldn’t know it from attending class at many American yoga studios. Yoga was invented thousands of years ago by men who realized that they needed to adopt some kind of physical conditioning if they were going to continue to ask their aging bodies to sit for long hours in meditation. Today, yoga is for all ages, genders, and fitness levels (even though the fashion industry, thinking it can more easily convince women to spend oodles of money on the next great yogic fashion trend, may try to convince you otherwise).
MYTH: YOGA IS TOO SLOW AND NOT ENOUGH OF A WORKOUT FOR MY ROUTINE.
FACT: IT DEPENDS ON THE STYLE OF YOGA CLASS!
Yoga classes can run the gamut from purely physical, strenuous, sweaty endurance missions to totally non-physical gatherings consisting of readings, chanting, breathing or service to others. Some styles and levels of yoga are slow-paced, but Flow or Vinyasa classes offer a faster, dynamic pace and some unique cardio and strength challenges which augment and complement a more traditional, gym-based training regimen. Benefits to adding yoga on top of a standard workout include healing injuries, improving chronic illness, and balancing mental stress. Yoga classes can also improve awareness of alignment and create bodies with balanced strength and flexibility, making you less injury prone during sports, cardio workouts, manual labor, and other high-impact activities. Balancing poses help with proprioception and develop the small muscles that other fitness activities often neglect, leading to better range of motion and even more resilience against injury. The breath work we do in yoga classes can help with endurance and focus during team sports, martial arts, long runs, and cycling expeditions as well! The best way to find the right yoga class for you is to ask the front desk for some options that meet your needs and to try out classes with different levels and teachers from our schedule.
MYTH: I HAVE TO BE HINDU OR SPIRITUAL IN SOME WAY TO DO YOGA. OR, I HAVE A DIFFERENT RELIGION, SO I CAN’T DO YOGA.
FACT: YOGA IS OFTEN MISIDENTIFIED AS A RELIGION. IN FACT, IT IS AN ART AND A SCIENCE; A SYSTEM OF TECHNIQUES TO REDUCE STRESS, INCREASE STRENGTH, IMPROVE POSTURE, AND INCREASE FLEXIBILITY. PEOPLE OF ANY FAITH OR NO FAITH CAN DO YOGA.
The practice of yoga will not interfere with any religion. In fact, yoga is as suitable for those of every faith as it is for those with none. It has no creed or fixed set of beliefs, nor is there a prescribed godlike figure to be worshipped in a particular manner. The common belief that Yoga derives from Hinduism is a misconception. Yoga actually predates Hinduism by many centuries.
Some yoga classes may include mantras, chants, or images of a specific deity, which can be understood spiritually or simply used as metaphors to guide your thoughts to a place of peaceful contemplation, mindful awareness, or prayer in whatever faith you ascribe to. But these practices are not required to benefit from a yoga practice, nor do they carry a religious connotation. Yoga is not about outer worship; it’s about inner exploration.
What are your thoughts on the truth of these’ yoga myths’? Can you think of any we missed? Continue the conversation in the comments!