As a yoga teacher of 10 years and practitioner for over 20, I often find myself having this conversation: “Yoga, huh? I’ve always heard that’s good for you. I could never do it, though.” My response is, “Oh? The only thing you need to be able to do yoga is to be able to breathe. You can do that, right?”
There’s a lot of great reasons to start a yoga practice.Yoga reduces chronic inflammation, increases body awareness, can reduce chronic pain and increase mobility, along with increasing feelings of well-being and relieving anxiety and depression.
People often look at yoga as an esoteric and unattainable practice, but nothing could be further from the truth. In this day and age, you can find a yoga class anywhere for any body. Drop in at your local gym, retirement community, or at one of the many yoga studios that pepper the landscape of your community, and you’ll find people gathered together practicing any one of the many styles of yoga, from Power Yoga to Gentle Chair Yoga. Below are some of the most common misconceptions about yoga.
You Must Be Flexible to Practice
The most common thing I hear from people who haven’t practiced yoga before is that they are not flexible enough to do yoga. That’s a lot like saying you can’t eat because you don’t have enough food in your belly. Just as eating makes you full, practicing yoga makes you flexible. It’s not a pre-requisite of any yoga class to be able to touch your toes. A good yoga teacher will encourage you to bend your knees until your hamstrings loosen up enough to allow you to get there.
Using Props is Cheating
Most yoga studios and gyms will have a variety of props to help make the practice more attainable. Props can help you get deeper into a pose than you would be able to otherwise. From yoga blocks to help lift the floor to meet you in challenging lunges to yoga straps to help bridge the distance between reaching fingers and feet, yoga props are there to help your practice meet you where you are. As an experienced yogi, I love to use props to help my body open up into a pose that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to safely practice without the support of yoga props.
Yoga Shouldn’t Hurt
In the gym, it’s common to hear “No Pain, No Gain.” In Yoga, the mantra is “No Pain, No Pain” Each yoga pose should be a perfect balance between strength and ease, meaning that even as your muscles support you in finding your perfect pose, you should be able to breathe as easily as when you are standing still. If you experience the sharp, electric feeling of pain in your yoga class, that is your signal to back off and try a different variation of the posture you’re working on.
Yoga is Religious
Yoga arose out of India over a thousand years ago, and owes its roots to Hinduism. Unless you’re practicing yoga in an ashram, chances are you’re receiving the secular version. Most people find that when they are able to quiet their mind through their practice, they develop a closer relationship with the God of their understanding, no matter their religion.
Yoga is About Getting Your Feet Behind Your Head
At its roots, yoga is a practiced designed to help you find more strength and flexibility in your body so that you can find more calmness in your mind. No matter what pose you might be practicing, the ultimate goal is to help you break through the mind chatter and feel more at ease in your body. In fact, the postures of yoga are only one of eight “limbs,” or practices that fall under the name of Yoga. The other aspects of yoga include breathing practices, different styles of meditation, and yoga philosophy.
I Don’t Need a Yoga Teacher
Many people find a fulfilling practice at home, learning from You Tube or a book. Yoga was traditionally practiced with a single student and teacher.When you get your body in front of a teacher, whether in a public class or a private appointment, you’ll get alignment tips and pose suggestions specific to your body and your practice goals. You can certainly supplement this with a home practice, but nothing beats getting one on one time with a trained yoga teacher.
Yoga is just for Young People
The practice of yoga is a lifelong practice. It’s kept me busy for more than 20 years, and I anticipate practicing it for many decades to come. For some, the practice will never get beyond the one hour class at the local community center, but others will find themselves drawn in, learning how to practice shaping their bodies into a particular pose, or perhaps taking a workshop that dives into how to take their yoga practice off the mat and into the world by practicing philosophical principles. Others will find that meditation is just their jam, and begin practicing different techniques in class and at home. Wherever yoga takes you, there is enough to keep you busy for a lifetime.
Libby C. has been practicing and teaching yoga for more than 20 years. She leads classes and workshops in the US and Internationally, trains new yoga and meditation teachers, and works privately with clients in Tampa, Florida. Contact her today to schedule a risk-free introductory session. If you are looking to lose weight, build muscle, or improve your overall quality of life, a RightFit Personal Trainer will help you set and achieve your health and fitness goals.