The popularity of yoga is spreading like wildfire. Yet, you may think it isn’t for you and may even feel out of place in class.
That’s not at all true.
You can greatly benefit from regular yoga practice even if you think you may never be able to do a headstand of if your backbend photo won’t get thousands of likes on social media.
There are many misbeliefs that may be stopping you from getting on the mat. Let’s take a look at and dispel some of the most common ones.
Myth #1 – You Must Be Fit and Flexible to Practice Yoga
Teachers often hear people saying that they can’t do yoga. Their most common reason is that they aren’t flexible of fit enough for it.
TRUTH: Yoga Is for Everyone
Yoga practice is for everyone regardless of how bendy, athletic, strong, or heavy they are. It’s about tuning in with your body and focusing on movement and breath.
If your muscles are tight and tense, yoga can help you to gain more flexibility. If you very flexible and tend to over-stretch easily, it can help you to develop strength.
In addition to that, yoga can be adapted to meet different needs. It can help athletes, pregnant women, children, seniors, trauma victims, and many others.
Myth #2 – Yoga is a Purely Physical Practice.
Yoga in the west is primarily known for its physical or asana practice. People practice it to gain more strength and flexibility.
TRUTH: Yoga Is a State of Intention and Awareness
That’s not there is to it. You can be practicing it even if you are not doing any poses. Originally, yoga wasn’t developed as a solely physical practice. Instead, it can be defined as a state of intention and awareness that we bring to our everyday life and activities.
In yoga practice, you need to be present and attentive when doing the poses. You also need to pay attention to your breath and align it with your movements. This extends beyond yoga, too. So, you can practice it even when you cook, work, clean up, walk your dog, or play with your kids. That is as long as you perform these actions with awareness and intention.
Myth #3- Improved Fitness Level Is the Main Benefit of Yoga
Many view yoga as a purely practical practice that improves one’s overall fitness level. You can gain more muscle tone, lose weight and look better.
TRUTH: Yoga Many Different Benefits for the Body and Mind
Viewing yoga as a fitness activity is relatively new concept. It’s become popular in the west during the last 100 years. There are different styles and, with the exception of a few such as power, ashtanga or vinyasa, it is actually considered a mild form of exercise.
So, you may be able to get a good workout if you go to the right type of class. But, in most cases, you aren’t likely to achieve your fitness goals from yoga alone
However, here are multiple benefits that yoga has on both the body and mind. Some of the greatest ones are pain, stress, anxiety, and depression relief, as well as better sleep.
There is no need to do a specific style to reap these benefits. As long as you practice mindfully and do poses safely and with proper alignment, you can achieve the positive effect from virtually any style.
Yoga can also be a great addition to other types of physical activity, for instance, weightlifting, running, team sports, and more. So, if you only practice yoga for its physical aspects, you may be missing out on its other benefits.
Myth #4 – You Need to Always Breathe Deeply in Yoga Practice
There is lots of attention on breath in yoga. As a result, there are many who believe a yoga myth that you should always control the length of inhales and exhales.
Long, controlled inhales and exhales definitely have their place. For instance, at the beginning of a class they can help you get focused and grounded. Though, trying to do it all the time can cause even more stress and anxiety.
There is no need to maintain that throughout your entire practice. The main goal is to make sure that your breath flows naturally and aligns with your movements. Sometimes, this can even mean skipping a few poses and resting in child’s pose to catch your breath and regain natural, spontaneous pace of breath.
This can help you develop self-awareness which, in turn, can help you manage stress and anxiety better.
Myth #5 – You Always Need to Practice Yoga on the Mat.
The longer you spend scrolling though yoga photos on Instagram, the stronger you may believe in the yoga myth that you need a fancy non-slip yoga mat, trendy brand-name yoga pants, and mala beads to practice.
Or it won’t count.
TRUTH: You Can Practice Yoga on and off the Mat (and It Doesn’t Matter What You Wear)
It counts even if your mat is from the local dollar store and you are wearing an old pair of pajama pants.
It’s all about awareness and intention. Acting mindfully and with intention instead of reacting and succumbing to impulses. By doing so, we’re helping our minds by controlling our bodies and breath.
On the mat, you can practice a pose and notice that it’s hurting your body. So, you back off and grab a strap to modify the pose. Or you try to relax and ease into it.
You can do the same off the mat. Imagine that the cashier at the grocery store is taking a long time to attend to customers. You feel that it’s starting to irritate you and you’re about to snap.
Instead, you choose to take a few deep breaths and let it go. It may be the cashier’s first day at work and you may destroy their confidence and their day if you follow your emotions.
Myth #6 – All Yoga Is the Same
You may take a class and not like it. So, you may think that yoga is not for you and never try it again. That is another common yoga myth.
TRUTH: There Are Many Styles of Yoga to Match Different Needs
What’s more likely is that the style or the instructor didn’t match you needs at this very moment. Yoga is constantly developing and new styles emerge regularly. So, there is something out there for virtually anyone.
If you have an injury or pain that you’d like to deal with, there are slow and therapeutic styles. If you’d like to relax and sleep better, you can find a class that can help you to do just that. Or, if you’d like to move your body and work up some sweat, you’ll be able to find something for that too.
It’s important to define what you want to achieve and then look for the type of practice that can help you with that.
Do try out different styles and instructors. Your experience may vary even if you try the same style with different teachers. Also, keep an open mind. It natural for your needs and thus your practice to evolve over time.
Myth #7 – You Can Only Practice Yoga at a Studio
There are tons of resources available that can help you practice at home, but that won’t be real yoga. You should really go to a studio or a gym for that.
TRUTH: Choose The Type of Practice that Works Best for You.
Having an experienced instructor can be extremely beneficial. They can guide you through a well-structured practice and offer any modifications that you may need.
However, it is equally as important to discover what works for you and your body. So, if you feel like practicing, there is no need to wait for your next class at the studio. Try out different resources online or just do what feels good. You don’t even need a mat for that.
It may be safer and less stressful to follow online classes at first. But, you can develop the ease and confidence to eventually practice all by yourself.
Myth #8 – Progress in Yoga is Being Able to Do Advanced Poses
And post them on Instagram. You will get extra points if you snap them against a stunning backdrop.
TRUTH: Progress in Yoga is How You Feel Inside and Out
There is nothing wrong with practicing advanced postures and progressing physically but it’s a yoga myth that you need to be an acrobat.
That’s also not the only way of measuring your progress. It is also improving your awareness and feeling better.
Are you feeling more aware and in control of your body? Do you have an easier time controlling your thoughts? Have you been able to reduce pain, stress, or anxiety?
You should aim to measure your progress based on how it has changed the quality of your life. It’s absolutely normal if it varies from person to person as well throughout different stages of life.
Joanne Lipston is a certified Yin Yoga teacher in United States, passionate about the transformative power of this practice. With a dedication to promoting strength, flexibility, and mindfulness, Joanne creates an energetic and supportive environment in her classes.