By Carly Manning, Freelance Writer, Portland, OR
Over the last few decades the popularity of yoga in the western world has increased at a rapid rate with yoga studios popping up almost everywhere you look. In 2016 there were over 26 million people reportedly practicing yoga in the USA alone, which is no surprise given the many amazing physical and mental health benefits that come with a regular yoga practice. But despite its popularity, there are still plenty of myths and misconceptions about yoga floating around out there. So, before you think you’ve made up your mind about yoga, let’s start busting open a few of those myths!
Myth #1: You have to be a human pretzel to do yoga
If only we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard someone say, “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough”. Of course, flexibility is a part of yoga but it’s about so much more than just that. Yoga is about observation, self-awareness and learning how to be present. Yoga is accessible to people of all fitness and flexibility levels. Even after just a few classes you will begin to feel the positive benefits of yoga - your body will begin to feel more supple and the mental chatter will start to quieten. And hey, if you’re worried about your flexibility then yoga is a fantastic place to start working on that. Your teacher can help you modify poses so you can watch your flexibility improve with time and regular practice.
Myth #2: Men don’t do yoga
This one could not be further from the truth. While yoga in the Western world tends to draw a large female following, yoga was actually started and practiced almost exclusively by men. Not only do we get some pretty amazing male yogis in our studio but some pretty successful men like Le Bron James, Robert Downey Jr, Alec Baldwin, David Beckham, Ryan Gosling and Tom Hanks credit a regular yoga practice to helping them keep in great health both mentally and physically. So, come on guys, give it a go!
Myth #3: You have to be thin and fit to do yoga
Absolutely not! Yogi’s come in all shapes and sizes, and a yoga class is a place free from judgement. Everyone is there to better themselves both physically and mentally. There are many different types of yoga from the gentler yin and restorative styles, to the high energy vinyasa practice, so almost everyone can find a style which suits them and their body. Through yoga we also learn about self-acceptance, and this is something that all us regardless of body type, age, race, religion, or sexuality can benefit from.
Myth #4: Yoga isn’t a real workout
Anyone who thinks this has obviously never taken a vigorous, high intensity power yoga class. While it’s true that yoga will probably not get your heart pumping as much as a cardiovascular activity like running or a spin class would, that certainly doesn’t make it easy or an illegitimate form of exercise. Yoga requires a combination of strength, balance and flexibility – three key elements of any form of exercise. And if you needed any further convincing, the health benefits of yoga are undeniable and research shows that a regular yoga practice lowers your risk for heart disease and hypertension.
Myth #5: People with injuries or chronic pain can’t do yoga
Completely false! This is actually one of the biggest reasons to practice yoga. Yoga can help heal and strengthen your body, and even manage pain relief. In fact, many people use yoga as a way to reduce pain related diseases like arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines and lower back pain. Always remember to speak to your teacher before class about any injuries you have or areas of sensitivity so they can give you modifications and check in with you during class.
Myth #6: Yoga is only for hippies and spiritual people
Yoga is for everyone, and practicing yoga certainly doesn’t mean you need to start buying crystals or becoming a vegan. You will find people from all walks of life in a yoga class. Yogi’s all have their own life experience, and everyone’s intention and reason for doing yoga will be different, with none better or more important than another. While some people who practice yoga do embrace a more spiritual lifestyle, everyone is free to take the parts of yoga that work for them and leave those that don’t.
The list of myths could go on and on really, so why not try a yoga class and bust some of those myths yourself.
Namaste on Williams offers a new student special of 30 days of unlimited yoga for $40 AND also has an unlimited yoga membership for only $65 (limited time offer). You can check out our class schedule at www.namasteonwilliams.com/schedule.