I was at the store with a friend the other day. We were buying him a new yoga mat. The man in line ahead of us asked, “Oh, you’re into yoga?” and of course we started talking about how awesome yoga is. I – being the yoga teacher and yoga advocate that I am – suggested he try yoga. He says, “I can’t do yoga. I’m too old. I’m not flexible, and I’m not a skinny white woman.”
It was very hard for me to control my frustration with this comment! Yoga is for EVERYBODY! You don’t have to be young, white, skinny, female, flexible, rich, or a stay-at-home-mom to be able to do yoga! But I hear these beliefs ALL THE TIME. Where I live yoga is not a common practice. People hear yoga and think of super skinny white women doing incredibly bendy poses. There is this belief that in order to be able to do yoga, you have to be a super skinny white woman who is naturally already flexible.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve decided to bust some of the common yoga myths I hear from people who are rejecting the notion of starting a yoga practice.
Myth #1: I’m not flexible.
Truth: Yoga increases flexibility and strength. You don’t need to have either of those attributes to get good at yoga. When you see people in magazines doing really awesome yoga poses it’s because they do yoga they are able to do that. Yoga increases flexibility overtime. When you see people doing fancy super-bendy yoga poses it’s because they have practiced to get to where they are.
Myth #2: I don’t have enough time.
Truth: You can do yoga for just a few minutes a day. You don’t need to commit 90 minutes to a big yoga practice to reep the rewards. You can bust out a warrior pose in the kitchen, a tree pose at the grocery store, or even triangle in the parking lot. Yoga is flexible. Yoga can be made to fit your body, your life, and your time constraints. A little yoga is better than none at all.
Myth #3: Yoga is only for skinny white women.
Truth: It does appear in America that you have to be a tall skinny white woman to do yoga, but that isn’t true. There are tons of amazing yogis who are busting this stereotype every day. You can do yoga regardless of your shape, size, race, or gender identity.
Myth #4: Yoga is only for rich people.
Truth: You don’t have to be rolling in dough to be able to go to yoga. While there is this notion that you can only do yoga if you have expensive yoga pants or expensive yoga mats, that’s really all a bunch of marketing B.S. You only need two things for yoga:
1. Your body.
2. Your mind.
Make the commitment to show up, and the rest will follow, even if you’re doing yoga on grass or on the kitchen floor. There are many mats and props out there that can enhance your practice (by reducing slippage or allowing for modifications), they are completely optional.
And thanks to free yoga videos online, you don’t even need to go to a studio and pay lots of money to enjoy the benefits of yoga.
Myth #5: Yoga isn’t a work-out.
Truth: Yoga is the hardest workout I’ve ever done in my life, and here’s why: Yoga forces you to get down and dirty and in tune with your body. You can’t do yoga without an understanding of your body and your limitations. This is not the case for many other forms of exercise which promote rote repetition. While there are definitely many forms of exercise that are “more intense” than yoga on a physical level, yoga is itself a work-out, but it’s also a work-in.
Myth #6: I can’t do yoga if I’m a Christian.
Truth: A dear friend of mine refuses to come to my yoga class. When I asked him why, he said it’s because he doesn’t want to pray to false Gods and practicing yoga goes against his Catholicism.
While yoga has spiritual roots, it is not a spiritual practice if you don’t want it to be. Doing yoga does not mean you are worshiping other gods, or violating your Christian beliefs. Most yoga practices in the West – especially here in America – are non-secular, and available to anybody of any religion.
If you end up in a class that involves meditation, don’t think about it as meditation: think about it as prayer. You can use that time to talk to God.
Myth #7: I’m too old to do yoga.
Truth: You can do yoga at any age. Yoga is a great way for people to maintain their health and wellness as they age. There are yoga classes available for children, seniors, and everybody in between.