Breaking the Chains of Common Yoga Misconceptions
Yoga is a practice that most people misunderstand, especially if they have never tried it themselves. It is a personal experience that differs from one person to another. But before claiming any opinions (not just in yoga, but almost anything), give it a try and experience it yourself. There are a lot of common stereotypes about Yoga that are not necessarily true. Most of these statements are from individuals who have not tried practicing yoga or are afraid to even begin. Remember that yoga is a personal practice. Everything depends on your mentality and your willingness to practice with an open mind. Here are some common misconceptions about practicing Yoga:
Yoga is meant for flexible people only.
There are varieties of yoga and you don’t necessarily have to be flexible to begin. Flexibility will be developed alongside your balance, focus and strength as you dig in more to the practice and you become familiar with your body. You’ll be surprised at how flexible you can be!
“I can’t even touch my toes!” Some yoga poses would require flexibility of the hamstrings such as standing forward bend. But you do not have to go deep into the posture to feel the stretch. Listen to your body and go as deep as you can without hurting and forcing it.
“I can’t twist myself into pretzel.” Twisting poses are not meant to be rushed. It has to be carefully and mindfully done to avoid any injuries. Do not force your torso to perform twisting poses or it will be detrimental to your spine.
Most yoga asanas have gentler modification to match your level of flexibility and it will take time to develop it. But with regular practice, you’ll see it come without even noticing!
It’s a girly thing:
Totally wrong! Men found the practice of yoga thousands of ages ago. Both men and women can benefit from yoga. There are different levels of difficulty from easy breathing exercises (pranayama) to a more advanced physical practice of yogic postures in asthanga yoga. It will test not just the body but mostly the will of the mind!
“Yoga is a low impact physical activity.” There are different types of yoga you can choose from and the ashtanga practice is the most physical of them. It is a series of stretching, twisting, arm balances and inversions that would require not just strength but balance of both the mind and body.
“Not a workout at all!” Practicing yoga is not just physically molding yourself, although you will be toned during the process. It teaches patience, calmness and open mindedness through spirituality to unify the mind and body and unmask higher self from ego. Yoga is a physical practice with spiritual intention and it challenges not just the muscles in the body but the capabilities of the mind and its will to seek truth within.
You have to be skinny to do Yoga:
Everyone can do yoga. Anyone can. Any age. Any level of physicality. All you need is a good intention and a mind open to change. There’s a lot of yoga practices you can choose from like Hot Yoga, Vinyasa and Power Yoga that could actually help you shed pounds and tone your muscles. Yoga does not have any prerequisites. You can practice anytime, anywhere. No equipment needed. A mind open to transformations and a heart willing to accept realizations is all you need.
“My body’s too heavy.” Your body already has the strength it needs to carry its own weight and control how it moves. You just have to discover the techniques that properly execute flows and postures, which can surely be achieved with regular practice.
“I don’t look good wearing Yoga pants.” Yoga is not about looking good, but rather feeling good. It’s not about whether your pants look nice or not. It is about accepting yourself as you are without any judgments.
There’s no need to follow any standards for one to start practicing yoga. It’s open to anyone willing to embrace change and truth.
Yoga is a religion:
People who practice yoga came from different religions and belief systems. You might notice relics of Hindu Gods/Goddesses in yoga studios because it revolves around the belief of unmasking our higher self. Yoga does not impose any religion upon anyone, but rather, it proposes a way to understand the unification of the mind and the body through physical practice and spirituality.
“It conflicts with my religion.” Yoga is not a religion. It does have its own principles which may differ from what you personally believe, but when these different beliefs are properly assessed, analyzed and absorbed, both can lead to better understanding of self. Yoga never forced anyone to change their religion but offers possibilities to unravel the best version that you can be.
True danger only surfaces when one practices with ego. If you flow with the intention of boosting your ego, every failure you encounter while practicing will turn to frustrations. Not lessons, as they’re intended to be. Your journey in unraveling and self-realization will turn to an annoying routine and eventually, you will stop with the practice and end up worse than when you started.
“I’m afraid I’ll break my bones.” Patience plays a vital role in Yoga. The progressions needed to develop and familiarize yourself with the flows and posture will assure that you won’t hurt yourself as you advance in the practice. Do not jump into postures just because they look cool! That’s ego. And ego causes danger.
Be patient with the practice. Be patient with yourself. Stay humble and always be a student willing to learn new things. Slowly and surely progress further into the practice without any detrimental injuries that could hinder you to go deeper.
Before making any assumptions and opinions about the practice, first you have to try it out yourself. Everyone has different perspectives and different experiences. But yoga is intended to aid in one’s improvement of Self. The physical reward of the practice is just a bonus to its true prize – a developed personal knowledge of self.