Wednesday, October 15, 2014

10 Yoga Myths and Misconceptions

I'm using my blog to document part of my yoga teacher training and also as a means to collect written pieces for my final graduation package. This post contains information inspired by the yoga survey I posted on my blog a couple of months ago. Thanks to all who took the time to participate in that survey!
~ photo by Carrie in Sedona last weekend ~

Myth #1 - I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.
Everyone has varying degrees of flexibility. Years of sedentary habits and lack of stretching will result in some tight muscles and you’re right, you just might not be flexible. Yet.
Now let's make one thing clear: the goal of yoga is not to be able to bend yourself into a pretzel shape. The goal of yoga is to begin to move your body in ways that are new and different – to stretch and release your muscles of tension and years of not being challenged. I think I need to write a whole blog post on the benefits of stretching, but I will just say that if you are not flexible, yoga is exactly what your body is craving!
Myth #2 - I can’t do yoga because I’m not strong.
Guess what? Strength does not happen all by itself. When the heaviest thing you ever lift is a gallon of milk, it makes sense that your body isn’t prepared to support you in a full handstand. But how awesome is it that yoga doesn’t expect you to be able to do that?! Oh sure, if you practice long enough you might do a handstand one day, that is, if that’s what you want. But how about we just start with building enough strength so that your muscles can support your spine the way they were designed to do? Just like flexibility, yoga will build strength in ways you can’t even imagine.
Myth #3 - I might pass gas in yoga class.
I read a blog post recently that was titled something like, “What to expect when you go to yoga” and the very first item on the list was “You will fart.” I could hardly believe my eyes because that is totally not true. Does it happen sometimes? Sure – you are twisting and moving and human. It happens sometimes but not often (like, hardly ever), and certainly not enough to be the very first item on the list of things to expect when you go to a yoga class. If this is on your list of stuff to worry about – trust me – cross it off!
Myth #4 - I’m embarrassed/afraid I can’t keep up in yoga class.
Here’s the thing about this life: we are all beginners at something. No one starts anything as an expert. That person on the mat next to you doing the advanced version of the pose you are struggling with? They started out just like you! Yoga teaches us acceptance and appreciation for what our own bodies allow. Yoga is not a competition! The more you can hold that thought the better you’ll feel when your time on the yoga mat is done - I promise you this. Keep your eyes and thoughts on your own mat, and be grateful for everything revealed to you there!
Myth #5 - I can’t do yoga because I have arthritis/fibromyalgia/an injury.
You absolutely can do yoga if you have arthritis/fibromyalgia/an injury, but you should do so with caution and with the right teacher. And I believe that yoga is definitely an avenue to help overcome those issues. Obviously, you won't be signing up for an intermediate class or a hot vinyasa format, but there are plenty of other types of yoga to choose from! I would recommend yin yoga, or a gentle yoga class (restorative is good but is a very passive practice). Rather than spending a lot of time explaining, I found a couple of informative articles that I'll link to. Here’s a link to a great article on dealing with fibromyalgia and chronic pain. And here’s a great article on the benefits of yoga for folks with arthritis.

Myth #6 - Yoga is a great workout.
Now, I’m not saying that yoga isn’t a great workout because it certainly can be, but yoga is not only about that. Depending on the teacher and the class you land in, you may notice some sore muscles the following day, but the benefits of yoga go way beyond just a workout for your body.

Yoga teaches us to focus on how we are breathing, what our attitudes look like, to pay attention to posture and alignment, and how to take the right action at the right time. Holding yoga poses and breathing through them teaches us to breathe through stressful situations off the mat. Focusing on our breath means we aren’t focusing on a stressful work situation. Yoga teaches us to know our bodies, mind our thoughts, and to honor our limitations with gratitude.

If you want to tone your body and build strength, yoga can - and will - help you with that! I’m just hoping you will discover more benefits from yoga than a toned bottom.
Myth #7 - I don’t have a yoga mat.
Most studios have mats that you can borrow or rent, but I’d recommend that you invest in your own mat. Having your own mat will encourage you to roll it out at home, plus you always know whose feet have been on it. ;o)
Myth #8 - I don’t have cute yoga clothes.
For real? Now you are just being silly. Show up in comfortable clothing that is easy to move in and you’re all set.

Myth #9 - Yoga is a religion {or it's against my religion}.
Yoga has been practiced on the planet before Christianity even existed, and was practiced as a way to enable the body to be able to sit comfortably in meditation (read: prayer) for hours at a time. Yoga connects us to body, mind and spirit by bringing our attention inward. However you relate to your own spirituality, yoga honors that and can deepen your spiritual connection. And even though we practice yoga in group settings and allow yoga teachers to lead our practice, it still remains a very personal experience. Yoga is for everyone and knows no religious boundaries.

Myth #10 - I tried yoga once and I hated it. The end.
Hm. That’s like saying you tried Chinese food one time and hated it – you’ll never try another dish for as long as you live. Maybe you went to a yucky restaurant? Maybe you ordered the wrong dish? Maybe you weren’t with the best company that night?

There are so many different styles of yoga and so many different types of teachers. I feel fortunate that the very first yoga class I ever took was led by a teacher that I immediately felt safe and comfortable with. In hindsight, I’ve had a few teachers that I know would have completely turned me off from yoga had they been my first experience with the practice.

Now, as a seasoned yoga-class-taker, I know that every teacher – no matter what my opinion of their teaching style is – has lessons for me. I try to go into every yoga class with an open mind and heart, ready to receive what is being presented. If I don’t care for the teacher’s style, I just find another teacher next time.

So if you've tried yoga and didn’t like it, I hope you’ll try again and keep trying until you find a class and a teacher that works for you. Oh, I really hope you will…


Robyn said...

Great post! Makes me want to give it a try again! :) I was in the "I'm Not FLEXIBLE!" group.

Susi said...

Thanks for sharing. I tried it once also...bad teacher group. I've been talking to my hair dresser whom is also a Yoga teacher. She suggested I try slow flow Yoga to get started. Thanks to information provided by you and her I've decided to give it another try. Oh and a new studio is about to open up close to my house.

Sian said...

This is a great post. A good read.

My Pilates teacher suffers terribly with arthritis. I think maybe that's how he got into the Pilates in the first place, as an effective way of exercising because he couldn't run anymore

debs14 said...

Rachel's going to her first yoga class tomorrow night, will be interesting to see how she gets on. Reading this post makes me wish that we had a good yoga class nearby. I don't suppose we could encourage you to start an online class could we?!

Abi said...

This was a fascinating post Deb. The more you post about Yoga the more I am tempted to go and find a class near here!

Abi said...

Also, I second the online class! You could do video tutorials!

Karen said...

Great post!

scrappyjacky said...

Really interesting,Deb.

Kay G. said...

Oh! I took a yoga class once, and I loved it!
The very best thing for me, was the relaxation at the end, they played the music, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face".
To this day, when I hear that song, I want to just lie down on the floor in complete relaxation!

Missus Wookie said...

Interesting - and good luck with the training.

I'm looking forward to getting back into yoga now I'm released from Physical Therapy. Definitely helps with my flexibility issues and my PT was happy that many of my stretches were similar to her exercises for me.

Anonymous said...

What a great post Deb. It really spoke to me as I hadn't realized that with arthritis I could still do it. Off to find out more about the yoga classes the Y offers and if that doesn't work then I'll be checking out some of the yoga studios in town. Thanks, I read your post at the perfect time for me.

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