There are lots of myths surrounding yoga. Sometimes your mind looks for any excuse not to do something that challenges you. So, if you excuse yourself for not having to practise yoga for whatever reason, let’s clear up these yoga myths before you go any further!
1. I have to be flexible to do yoga.
We are all flexible to some extent. Opening your eyes requires flexibility, and so does yawning! Many yoga sequences aim to increase flexibility slowly and safely. You can also adapt many poses to work with the flexibility that your body has already. Most yoga teachers explain these variations in the classes. Yoga increases your flexibility and builds your strength over time. So have patience with yourself.
2. I’m too old to start yoga.
Generally, yoga is quite an accessible activity, adaptable to most ages and abilities. For example, if you can’t stand, there are plenty of yoga poses for sitting down. There are many studies that show doing yoga improves health issues. Osteoarthritis, for example, which we can develop as we get older. (5) Yoga can improve your bone health, support your immune system and prevent cartilage and joint breakdown. (6) The yoga market is growing and growing, meaning that there’s a type of yoga and a yoga teacher for every body type. Remember, too, that yoga doesn’t have to be physical. It can be a lifestyle more than a physical practice, so if you can’t find the right asana practice for you, you can always start with the morals (Yamas and Niyamas), Pranayama (breath work), mindfulness or meditation.
3. Yoga’s religious and I don’t identify with this.
Not always true:
While there are yogic systems of philosophy, you don’t have to know them or believe in them to practice yoga sequences. Asanas often concern unity of the body, mind and breath, and this concept doesn’t have to apply to a specific religion. To you, your body, mind and soul might exist outside a religious context, so you can choose if your yoga offers you a belief system, personally. But beliefs and yoga can be totally separate experiences if that’s what you feel.
4. Yoga’s religious and it clashes with my own religion.
We think this one’s for you to decide:
It depends on you, your yoga and your religion! There are books, theses and lives devoted to understanding this encounter.
To be cautious, we think that yoga does involve belief systems that could, at times, clash with some religions. However, the practice of yoga is too different from person to person, for us to advise you personally. Perhaps this is first and foremost a point of self-growth for you to explore on yourjourney.
To start with, it depends on the type of yoga you are practising, down to where you are practising, and even who with. Many forms of yoga asana, especially in the West, don’t have to dominate your belief system in order for you to benefit from physical and breathing practices, though some would say you lose the essence of yoga if you consider it only physical. We asked yogis around the world what they thought, and they all had diverse answers. Some say that yoga doesn’t require you to believe in anything specifically, some say yoga has nothing to do with religion; that it is a science. Some do not see yoga outside its beliefs or spiritual experience at all and say the opposite, asking how yoga could be experienced at all without its original and historical spiritual aspects.
We are fascinated by this question but won’t pretend to have an affirmative answer to it.
5. Yoga’s time-consuming and I don’t have time.
Yoga sequences are creative, meaning that you can create your own at home that suits your body and your timetable. It can be difficult to make the time you want to spend on yoga if you have a busy life. But even a practice of 10 minutes is a great success! Every day is a day to practice yoga. Every day is a new day to make a change. A little goes a long way.
6. Yoga’s is too slow and easy for me:
Like with anything, there’s always room for improvement! If you think you’ve got everything perfectly, do that sequence again but focus on something else. Bring your attention to your breath, the speed of your movement, or the way you transition between poses. Play and discover your body. Challenge yourself to find more advanced variations. And while you’ve been worrying about the physical aspect, what about your body’s unity with your mind: body-mind connection? The process is never-ending; make it your own.
7. I find breathing patterns uncomfortable or dangerous:
Your breath is for you to take when you need it!
But first, let’s tackle any anxiety. In a yoga class, the yogis aren’t breathing to be in synchronisation with each other. They’re taking a breath that’s comfortable for them personally. The yoga teacher instructs you to transition to a new pose on your next exhale – not NOW! Yoga asks you to listen to what your body needs. If you have a condition, physical or mental, that affects your breathing, remember that your inhales and exhales are on your terms. Breathe when you need to, but breathe well.
Make the most of your breath and enjoy it! Don’t do anything that increases your anxiety: if you need a pause, take one. If you suffer from injuries, mental or physical illness or if you’re pregnant, mention this to your yoga teacher. Most instructors will be able to tell you which breathing exercises you could or shouldn’t do.
8. I can’t do yoga because I’m on my period.
Not entirely true:
This is a very personal subject. Everyone who menstruates has a different body, different cycle and different hormone levels. So this is one you really need to decide for yourself. However, even those of us badly affected by our periods can still do yoga.
Imagine: you’re in bed with a hot water bottle or castor oil pack, ready to sleep until your period’s over. Before you do so, lie down, relax the body completely and focus on taking deep, long breaths. There you go: Savasana. You’re doing yoga. Then there are specific poses such as ‘butterfly pose’, wide-legged child’s pose with a pillow between the legs, and yin practices that help to relieve menstrual cramps and stomach aches. It’s about adapting your practice to what you can benefit from at that point in your day.