Hearing the word “yoga” probably has you thinking about “twist-you-into-a-pretzel” kind of positions that you would never dream of trying to get into – much less out of! But that’s not the case! You don’t have to put your legs behind your ears, wrap them around your neck, or bend this or that way like you’re Mister Fantastic from Marvel’s Fantastic Four. You don’t even have to be able to reach your toes to start practicing yoga. And, come to think of it, many of our notions about this ancient practice tend to be myths desperately screaming for a debunking session. And today, Yin Yoga Therapy Training attempts to clear a few of them up. Here are seven myths about yoga you should stop believing right now.
#1 You have to be flexible to start
“Me, do yoga? I can’t even touch my toes!” There’s a thought that has probably crossed your mind in the past! And, given how Instagram archives are jam-packed with yogis acting like acrobats and contortionists, it’s no wonder you believe that. Nevertheless, that’s not at all what real yoga is about. Let’s look at the bigger picture. Real yoga is about mindful movement, an attitude of presence, self-regulation, self-acceptance, breathwork, and meditation. And, in no way does it require you to be flexible or have a “yoga body” to start practicing.
On the contrary: yoga helps you improve your flexibility, balance, and stamina. It’s the result of regular yoga practice, never a requirement. So, do not allow these thoughts to hold you back from taking a class. Take a leap! The development comes with practice.
#2 Yoga doesn’t count as exercise
At first glance, yoga may seem mellow compared to CrossFit and Insanity Workouts, so we get why you’re skeptical. But, make no mistake, yoga will make you sweat.
Yoga meets all the requirements for core work, strength, flexibility, and balance training. Some styles can even help you reap some aerobic benefits. So, it is an incredible way to improve your overall fitness level, help you shape up, and reduce the risk of injury. Also, it relieves muscle and back pain and improves flexibility, endurance, balance, and posture. Therefore, those watered-down stretching classes with rows of mats topped by people resting in Savasana may be a part of it, but they aren’t the be-all-end-all of the practice.
Yoga is a great way to improve your fitness level and get in shape.
There are more than 100 different styles of yoga – from Hatha, which combines a series of basic movements with breathing, and Yin, which is slower and more meditative, to Ashtanga or Bikram yoga, both of which can make you break some serious sweat. The intensity level depends on the type of yoga you choose, but generally, the flows go far beyond the Child’s pose, Dead Corpse pose, and other sleep-promoting positions. It’s just one of the many yoga myths you must stop believing.
#3 It’s nothing more than a series of stretches
If your excuses for not doing yoga are based on the belief that it was nothing but boring old stretching, boy, are you in for a nice surprise. On the surface, that’s what it might look like. And sure, there are a few overlaps. However, yoga is all but boring. And it’s not nearly as simple as doing a few simple stretches.
Yoga focuses on mind, body, and spirit balance, helping people go within to establish a connection between these three aspects of being.
We’ve already discussed the physical aspect, but just like any other form of exercise, yoga and meditation also have numerous proven mental health benefits. For starters, they can modulate brain mechanisms that impact our behavior, thus helping us keep stress and anxiety away, improving our cardiovascular fitness level, and changing our emotional response to life.
But yoga goes beyond a toned body, the ability to master a handstand, or half an hour of peace away from the office. Ask a yogi what truly makes yoga special, and their answer will be spirituality. Practicing yoga allows you to take the time to slow down and focus inward to get rid of the negative, restore your spirit, and calm your mind. It cultivates awareness of the spiritual energy, transforms your mind, and gives you calmness of mind and spirit.
#4 The more difficult the pose, the better
Yoga newbies often confuse the ability to pull off more advanced poses with spiritual superiority. But the truth is, no amount of Insta-worthy postures, deep backbends, fancy arm balance, or crazy headstands on your yoga mat can help you discover the joy and profound wellbeing that the practice offers. This is nothing more than one of the common misconceptions related to yoga practice. In fact, it is even recommended that beginners take a gentler, simpler, and softer approach.
Being able to do crazy poses does not mean you’re better at yoga.
#5 Yoga is too easy
Next on our list of myths about yoga you need to leave behind is that it is way too easy or passive. It is actually a combination of both simple and challenging asanas. The fun fact about this incredible practice? You can master some postures in a matter of days, whereas others may take months or more to fine-tune. So, don’t knock it ’till you try it! Of course, practicing it daily and challenging your physique without forgoing your focus is essential.
#6 Yoga is too hard
And then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum – those who fear it will be too difficult. Granted. Some asanas can seem quite intimidating, making you think: Naah, my body “doesn’t go that way.” But that’s the beautiful thing about yoga – it meets you where you are. The whole idea is not to force yourself into an asana. Instead, take things slowly, listen to your body’s signals, adapt the pose to your comfort level, and choose poses that feel best for you. Only after you’ve become more comfortable with yourself in the practice should you explore other more complex poses.
#7 Yoga is not for men
The chances are that you’ve heard at least one man in your life say that guys don’t do yoga. Or, maybe you are that man. After all, all that emphasis on flexibility, calmness, breathing, and spirituality, it must be a girl thing, right? How could controlled breathing possibly help me gain muscles?
One of the biggest myths about Yoga is that it’s only for women.
Nevertheless, what’s interesting about this is that it’s all contrary to the history of the practice. Did you know that yoga used to be for men – and only for men? That’s right; the asanas passed down to us were recorded by the male yogi Patanjali around 600 B.C.E. in the Yoga Sutras. The practitioners in the past were almost always men. The western world has picked up yoga thanks to men. Even the founder of the famous Bikram yoga was – yes, you guessed it – a man.
And then there’s the obvious! Yes, yoga is predominantly practiced by women. However, it is incorrect to explicitly tie yoga, or any other physical activity, to women. Yoga is for everyone; it is gender-neutral. So, ignoring such myths about yoga and stereotypes surrounding it as a tradition is essential.