Yoga has deep ancient roots, and has evolved over time into a variety of styles creating access to it for everyone ~ and it seems at this point that nearly everyone is doing it, yet multitudes are still apprehensive to give it a try. Having gone through a 200 hour yoga teacher training program, and now leading the practice with others, I can confidently share concepts on dispelling the myths of yoga that have been a false deterrent for so many.
Myth #1 : Yoga is too spiritual and not in line with my religion.
Yoga works to connect your mind with your body and breath. It’s that simple. The word yoga means, ‘yoke’ or ‘union’ (to join together … to connect.) That is its original Sanskrit translation. Back in the day, a yoke was a physical device used to join horses together and calm their minds so they could focus and do the work of war. If war horses can be settled, then so too can our minds. Yoga has changed from a noun into a verb and we practice it to obtain the greatest connection with our own selves, which ultimately leads to a greater connection with our own spirituality and higher power. In my yoga teacher training program there have often been groups where no two people shared the same faith, yet the principles and intentions spoke to everyone. Yoga does not preach a religion. Your practice is your very own.
Physical poses were developed ages ago as a means to make us more fit to sit in meditation for longer periods of time. Sequences of poses flow together as a type of moving meditation. Meditation is not a scary time where strange things people imagine get talked about in yoga happen. You are merely guided to focus on the sensations of your breath. What you will hear are phrases like, “Feel the air when you inhale as it passes through your nostrils, and notice it as is passes back out, perhaps brushing against your upper lip.” Mindfulness like this helps you learn how to give your mind a break from what it is busy doing all day. Practicing this on my mat in class has helped me in so many life situations off the mat, ‘out in the wild’ of the real world.
Myth #2 : I am not flexible enough to do yoga.
This is a big one! It is my great desire for everyone to know that yoga is a ‘Come as you are’, and a ‘You are exactly where you need to be’ type of practice. Please do not be afraid to walk in the door of a studio because you can only touch your thighs and not your toes! As Jigar Gor said “Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is what you learn on the way down.” People who are very flexible actually have to work harder to get out of yoga what it has to offer. Sure, each pose has specific benefits to the body that open our hips, lengthen our spine, improve digestion, … etc, but the real essence is the lessons we learn while being uncomfortable, while pushing through barriers, while being still, and more that can only be experienced so it wouldn’t be fair of me to spoil them for you.
Myth #3 : My mind is too busy … AKA I can’t sit still or move slowly.
There are so many different styles of yoga. Each has a different pace, from long held seated positions to continuous flowing moves done to more upbeat (sometimes even rap) music. It is possible to find YOUR yoga. But then again … aren’t we supposed to practice what we aren’t good at? I often find that the elements of yoga that frustrate me the most are the ones I need the most. Find a class that you love and then mix it in with others. Let your teachers help you practice improving.
Myth# 4 : I tried it once and it didn’t work for me.
This goes along with Myth #3. There are many different types of yoga to choose from. It might take time to find the one that suits you the most. Even in a class you adore, however, you will not understand the true life benefits until you have practiced on a regular basis for a little while. You will start to see yoga appear in the uncomfortable tension filled moments you face … in quiet moments, vulnerable moments, joyous times and so many more. After taking just one class you may feel like you have had a great workout or stretch, and you may even have the best sleep you have had in a long time, but don’t judge the whole world of it based on that. As so many yogis say “Practice and all is coming!”
Myth #5 : You have to be vegan and change your whole lifestyle.
One of the main principles of yoga is, ‘Not Harming’. Many people choose a vegan lifestyle based on that. This is not a necessary thing to do, nor should you be judged for whichever stance you take. Unfortunately, there is a stigma around vegans and non vegans and how they view each other. This brings me back to the first point in this post where I explain that your practice is your very own. You make the choices that your mind and body desire, and then support others on their own path of choice.
It is of ultimate importance that you find a studio where everything mentioned above is true ~ (the myth busting … not the myths!) When you find that place, make it your home. If you enter a place where you feel you must own designer workout clothes, try someplace else. There are studios that will be more ‘fru fru’ and possibly more of an enlightenment journey based space. You will encounter yogis who get high to practice and incorporate that into their lifestyle. There will be people who do judge you. But this is all life and can be applied to most anything new you try to do. If you are reading this and are an experienced yogi, please be welcoming to newbies who are scared.
Finding a yoga studio near you.
By downloading the MINDBODY App, you can locate studios nearly everywhere in the world. The App isn’t just for yoga. Try searching boxing, Lagree Fitness and more! There are reviews written by clients as well. Most importantly though, will be the vibe you get personally when you attend. If you are in the Phoenix, Arizona area I can personally attest to a few safe places for you to try: One Tribe (a tribe called human ~ you are already a member!) located in Tempe, Nrysh Yoga (Nourish ~ yoga and nutrition coaching) located in downtown Phoenix, and the various Lifetime Fitness Centers’ yoga rooms. There is a beautiful new mobile yoga company that will bring yoga right to you. Yoga’s Arc is currently available in a few select Arizona locations, but it doesn’t hurt to reach out to them wherever you are. You won’t regret starting a yoga journey!