Yoga has become a popular fitness activity in the U.S. over the past few decades, and for good reason. People who practice yoga feel the benefits physically, mentally, emotionally, and even chemically.
There are many misconceptions about practicing yoga, which tends to turn away many people who might benefit from it the most. Here are a few of the myths and some clarifications. Hopefully this will encourage you to incorporate some yoga in your life!
- You need to be flexible to do yoga.
- You have to pray and light incense to do yoga.
- Stretching is just like yoga.
- Yoga is too complicated.
- You need to be skinny to do yoga.
Flexible? Ha! Yoga is best for those of us who are not at all flexible. It helps us loosen up and untie some of those knots in our muscles. Those flexible yogi’s you see are like that because they have been practicing yoga (or something similar) for years. Or they are 6 years old. If you run or lift weights, or do any type of sport you no doubt have some areas of tightness that yoga will help loosen, keeping your body in balance, thus helping to avoid injury and improving performance.
Ohmmmmm. Yes, yoga is a practice that involves a union of breath, body, and mind. This can lead to a cool, meditative state, similar to the focused state of a tempo run or steady laps in the pool. Athletes know that mental discipline is at least as important as sport training. Yoga is no different. This does not mean you need to pray, or light candles or incense or hum mantras — although you might enjoy that.
Stretch. Yes, yoga involves stretching, but it also includes balance, stability, strength, flexibility, and focusing poses. So the Quad Stretch you might do before or after your run is an isolated and static movement that has one main effect — a stretch in the quad. In yoga, we stretch our quads while also opening the hips or stabilizing the ankle and moving with the breath. It is a different feel with a multitude of effects.
Complicated is too complicated! Yoga can be as simple as standing still. Complexity comes from learning poses and progressing to new poses in order to attain the balance, strength, and flexibility needed. The best way to learn yoga is to learn and practice a few poses at a time, adding more poses or more complexity as your body is ready. Yoga isn’t about making it complex; it is about feeling change and energy in your own body from the simplest movements.
Skinny, fat, tall, short, young, old, injured, arthritic — yoga works for all of us! The key is to use the poses that fit your body’s needs in a way that supports and enhances your lifestyle. Injuries can heal with the practice of certain yoga pose modifications. Too stiff, too large, too sore? There are poses and modifications for everyone.
Now that we’ve busted those myths wide open, isn’t it time to pull on your comfy pants and find the poses that work best for YOU?