Many of the commonly held beliefs about yoga have to do the false sense of reality created by social media and advertising rather than actual reality. Media tends to favor extremes. The sports highlights on the news lean toward epic feats of athleticism and achievement. They draw viewers. Yoga advertising is no different. You’re much more likely to see a photo of a person who can place their palms flat on the floor in a forward fold than you are to see one of a person who can’t reach their toes. Take in all yoga photos with a big ol’ grain of salt!
So, What are the biggest myths about doing yoga?
You have to be flexible to do yoga
Yoga is for women
It’s too easy
It’s too difficult
All yoga is the same
All yoga teachers have the same training
You have to be flexible to do yoga.
Saying that you have to be flexible to do yoga is sort of like saying you have to be in shape to go jogging or have big muscles to lift weights. You have to start somewhere. The fact is flexibility varies greatly from person to person and can be influenced by genetics as well as your history and lifestyle. Maybe you’ll never touch your toes – and after more than 20 years in the world of yoga I promise you are not alone – but that shouldn’t stop you from savoring a stretch!
Yoga is for women.
Yoga is for anyone with a body. Period. A quick Google image search for “yoga” would have you believe that yoga is exclusively for woman, but don’t let that fool you. While the face of yoga has changed since its masculine origins (about 80% of yoga practitioners are women), more and more men are embracing (or should I say re-embracing?) the practice. Athletes like Lebron James credit yoga with keeping them mentally and physically balanced and preventing injury. There is a growing body of research to back these claims.
Yoga is too easy.
Yoga rests firmly outside of the “no pain, no gain” realm. If you’ve never tried yoga before try different classes with different instructors before you pass judgement. If you’ve taken a class and it’s still too easy, chances are you need to do one of two things: 1) find a class/teacher that challenges you or 2) slow down and stay with it! And for most of us, it’s number two. We live life at break-neck speed and for many of us slowing down is uncomfortable and also exactly what we need. The physical practice might be “easy” but perhaps the real challenge is mental. Sometimes what’s easy is hard.
Yoga is too difficult.
A highly-skilled instructor will know how to make any yoga pose accessible to any person in the room. That said, there are classes designed to meet the needs of every student – trauma-sensitive, beginner, chair yoga, yoga for back pain, pre/post-natal yoga, etc. If you have tried yoga before and had a negative experience, find another teacher or another class. You’ll often have to try several classes before you find the right fit. Call and speak to the teacher or studio manager to ask for their experience teaching students with your particular needs. Ask for recommendations about the right class for you. (A sign of a good instructor is that they will refer you to a different teacher if they feel they can’t meet your needs.)
All yoga is the same.
I used to think this too. While all yoga shares the same origin, distinct practices have evolved over the years. There are so many different styles of yoga, especially as teachers work to distinguish themselves and serve different populations. Some instructors focus on only the physical practice (asana). Some integrate different components such as pranayama (breathing practices), meditation, chanting and/or philosophy. Others blend yoga with elements of other disciplines such as Pilates, body-weight training, functional movement or mindfulness. Finding the right yoga class is like finding the right car: you might have to do some test-driving before you discover the teacher or style that feels right. Go online and read teachers’ bios and class descriptions. Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions or request a complimentary trial class. (To try a free class with Karin use code FIRSTFREE and book here.
All yoga teachers have the same training.
The training instructors have can vary widely. Generally, a yoga teacher will have completed a minimum of a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. The next level would be to complete a 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. If the training program is certified by a governing body such as Yoga Alliance it will meet criteria from certain categories of instruction such as Asana, Philosophy, Ethics and Anatomy & Physiology. If an instructor is registered with Yoga Alliance they are required to participate in a designated number of hours of continuing education. Yoga Alliance registered teachers also may have an “E” designation with their credentials that indicates they have a minimum of 1,000 hours of teaching experience since completing their training program. (So, an instructor who has an “E-RYT500” designation will be a Registered Yoga Teacher who has completed a 500-hour training program and taught for at least 1,000 hours since completing their 500-hour training.) In addition, many teachers elect to become certified in yoga specialties such as Chair Yoga, Yoga for Children, Trauma-Sensitive Yoga or Pre/Post-Natal Yoga.