“I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible!” is like saying, “I can’t drink water because I’m not hydrated!” As a yoga teacher, I’ve heard this excuse many times from people hesitant to try the practice. It’s time to shed light on three of the most common misconceptions about yoga and debunk those yoga myths.
Yoga Myth #1: I have to be an acrobat/gymnast/contortionist to do yoga.
Magazine covers and social media are rife with images of bendy yogis in fancy poses. Let me assure you that this is not what happens in a regular yoga class. You are there to move and stretch your body safely. Your instructor will help you adapt yoga poses to suit your needs and will not force you into shapes that are not suitable for your physique and level of experience. If you are a beginner, start with basic or gentle classes to learn the foundational poses.
Yoga Myth #2: Yoga is boring. You just sit around doing nothing.
Not all yoga classes have the same intensity level. Restorative and Yin yoga are more passive practices. Certain yoga styles like Ashtanga and Power Vinyasa, to name a couple, are physically challenging. In these classes, you will work up a sweat and increase your heart rate as you flow through a sequence of poses at a moderate to fast pace. I’ve had new students say after practice that the class was much harder than they thought it would be! A well-rounded yoga flow practice improves your strength, flexibility, balance and mental focus.
Yoga Myth #3: Yoga is a religion.
I’ve been asked about the spiritual component of yoga by students who are worried that the practice might be in conflict with their faith. Every yoga teacher will have a different approach when it comes to this. A few classes will delve into spirituality and yogic texts, others will emphasize the mind-body connection, and some will focus mostly on the physical aspect. Some yoga styles incorporate chanting and yoga philosophy in their teachings. The good news is you will not be forced to do anything you are not comfortable with. The yoga classes I teach are filled with students who have different beliefs, backgrounds, and religious affiliations. You are free to absorb what you like about the practice and set aside what doesn’t serve you at the moment.
The important thing is to do your research. Talk to yoga teachers about the style they teach. Ask other yoga students about their experience. Read the descriptions of yoga classes at gyms or studios. Take classes from different instructors to find a good fit. With some trial and error, plus a sense of adventure, you will eventually discover the teachers and classes that are just right for you.
*I wrote this article for the Front Door Fitness website where it was first published. FDF is a wonderful personal training company in Kansas City; and I am proud to be part of the team. Check out the FDF blog for more free articles on fitness, nutrition, and healthy living.