Search any yoga hashtag on instagram you’re likely to see thousands of posts that perpetuate the myth that yoga is reserved for the young, slim and hyper-mobile. But if you fall into the trap of believing these myths, you could miss out on the host of mental, physical and spiritual health benefits that result from a regular yoga practice. We debunk some of the most common yoga myths that can act as a barrier to stepping on the mat.
You Have To Flexible To Practice Yoga
Saying you have to be flexible to practice yoga is like saying you have to be clean to take a shower. Improved flexibility and mobility all result from a regular and consistent asana pratice - the physical postures you move through on the mat.
A good teacher will offer options and variations that work with your body and range of motion. Yoga teaches us to tune inwards, to honour where we are and to move from a place of compassion, whilst dropping the ego. It’s a practice that is concerned with feeling and sensations, not how deep you move within a posture. Arriving as you are to the practice is already enough. And hey, that’s what yoga props like blocks and stretching straps are for, to offer support - so reach for them.
Yoga Is Only Stretching
Take a peek inside a yoga class and it may just look like a series of fancy stretches, but that isn’t the full picture. Yoga is a practice that combines eight parts to offer an entire system as a holistic guide to living well.. This includes yoga postures (asana), mindful breathing (pranayama), social ethics and personal practices (yamas and niyamas), concentration (dharana), letting go (dhyana), tuning inwards (prathyahara) and reaching harmony with oneself and the universe (samadhi). When you consider the small part that yoga postures play, it makes up only a tiny fraction of the entire practice. Yoga can be practiced without ever performing an asana, and the lessons gained on the mat during asana practice, transcend beyond it.
Yoga is Just For Women
The stereotype that yoga is just for women has been floating around for some time. But yoga is for everybody regardless of gender, age, size, strength, flexibility or background. Yoga is a challenging practice that has the potential to transform many aspects of your life both physically and mentally.
Yoga Will Make Me Happier
We’ve all heard yogis exclaim that yoga has made them calmer and happier, but huge transformations are unlikely to occur after a single class. Yoga in time can help you to look at life with a renewed perspective. Iinternal self-reflection and stillness can be uncomfortable initially and if it’s something you’ve never done before, your mind is likely to put up some resistance. Like with any change or new habit, it takes consistent work and effort to feel the benefits and the journey may be a little bumpy along the way.
‘Advanced’ Poses Make You Better at Yoga
It can be tempting to think that the ability to go deeper in backbends, further in forward bends or be able to do long holds in arm balances are signs of an advanced practice. But physical ability bears no indication of how ‘advanced’ a practice is. With time, you may be able to do some of those things, or none of those things and either is perfectly ok. A practitioner may come to the class with a strong gymnastic or athletic ability but have no connection with the breath or understanding of yogic philosophy. Similarly, a person may never be able to touch his or her toes but have decades of meditation experience and deep self-study.
Yoga is Just Exercise
Yoga is the union of body, mind and spirit. Practicing asana (postures) along with conscious breathing improves flexibility, strength, balance and takes the nervous system out of the fight or flight response triggered by modern day stresses. Yogic philosophy helps us connect us to our true Self, guides us to clarity and ultimately helps us to reach a state of self-acceptance. Yoga enables us to live life - and serves as a guidance system beyond just physical movement.