(Reposted with permission from The Boozy Gardener)
As I work to convince people to give yoga a shot, I run up against a number of myths and misunderstandings.
Myth #1 – You need to be flexible.
Let’s look at this another way. Imagine if someone said they couldn’t lift weights because they were weak. You lift weights to get stronger, and you do yoga to become more flexible.
Myth #2 – Everyone can do every pose if they try hard enough.
On the flip side, the mindset that everyone can do every pose perfectly has led to a lot of frustration and (worse) injuries. In Bernie Clark’s Your Body, Your Yoga, he discusses the vastness of human variability. It’s a bear to get through because of the nuanced anatomy lessons, but he does an excellent job of proving that many devoted yoga students may never reach lotus pose – not due to lack of effort but due to anatomical limitations.
Luckily, most yoga teachers are receiving this message, and for new yogis, you can expect to enter classes where teachers are much more sensitive to physical limitations than in the past. All of our teachers at Point Bliss Yoga offer modifications for each pose. The individual yogi's challenge is to listen to their body and make sure they're not pushing themselves to the point of pain/injury.
Myth #3: Yogis look a certain way.
Full disclosure: when I started doing yoga 25 years ago, I did so because I had read that Sharon Stone did yoga, and I wanted to look like her.
My yoga journey began with a Sara Ivanhoe VHS. I’ll talk about how a video changed my life in a moment, but I bring her up now because I think Sara and Sharon (and probably even me) are the sort of people many picture when they think of a yogi, which is unfortunate because yoga practitioners come in every size, shade, shape and gender. Many never realize this, though, because they are too afraid to enter a studio. If they did, they would see that there is no “one type” of yogi.
Myth #4: Yoga is about handstands.
Or lotus pose. Or downward dog. Or any of the asanas.
The poses you see in class make up only one of the eight limbs of yoga. They are the physical aspect of this path, but they are not the entire practice. Yoga is a spiritual practice that enables us to live happier, healthier lives by using study and practice to unite our spiritual, mental and physical bodies.
This is why I’ve stuck with yoga for 25 years and have stopped Pilates, spinning and a myriad of other fitness programs. That Sara Ivanhoe video offered an angsty teen her first glimpse into the calm and contentment that resides in each of us but is so often hidden by our overactive egos (the lower-case self).
That's the bigger lesson each of us try to teach at Point Bliss. Yes, yoga can make you more physically healthy--but any regular fitness routine can do that. The magic of yoga, is that it can also make you mentally and spiritually healthier.