YOGA FOR BEGINNERS:
5 MYTHS DEBUNKED
Despite its popularity and mainstream status in the west, yoga is still associated with so many misconceptions that we have rarely witnessed about any other practice. It has been mystified which is holding back many people from trying it.
Let’s see if we clear up some of these false ideas today and make it seen for what it is: A beautiful, ancient practice, accessible to absolutely everyone, to improve mental wellbeing and physical health.
1. YOU NEED TO BE FLEXIBLE TO PRACTICE YOGA
This is by far the biggest misconception about yoga. You don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga. Not all yoga styles include extreme body bending. Even if a yogi can bend like a snake – flexibility is the outcome of a regular practice and not a precondition to start. Yoga postures are practiced to create space in the body for your breath to flow freely, plus to squeeze and release the organs for improved function. Benefits happen even if you bend so much forward that it’s invisible from the outside. The most important thing is to combine movement and breath and to turn the senses inward. If you are able to bend like a pretzel, but don’t pay attention to your breath while your mind is creating a shopping list, it’s not yoga what you’re doing.
2. YOGA IS ONLY FOR SLIM, YOUNG PEOPLE
Once you have taken your skeletons out of the closet for a quick dance around before discarding them (hopefully) for good, the way you view yourself, your job, your friends – well, everything – is going to be very different. Yoga has the power to change you forever.
When you return home you will probably suffer a day or two. Your emotions will have been riled up, your vulnerability shown to the world, and you will likely feel a strange mix of raw but alive. This is sometimes known as a yoga-comedown. After you have adjusted you will notice that you are looking at the world through a fresh-pair of eyes, allowing you to see truth in almost every situation. Put simply, when you change the way you see yourself, your entire world changes.
3. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR YOGA
Haven’t we all been there? Shutting down their computer in a hurry and rushing to class, laying down on our mat right in time before the teachers starts? Attending a yoga class regularly can indeed be very time consuming. If you have a family and/or a full-time job it can be indeed too much and become stress provoking, rather than stress reducing. But don’t yield just yet! There are great alternatives so no one has to skip this beautiful practice. As it is when you don’t have time, that you need yoga the most.
You find lots of yoga classes online: On youtube or on special yoga platforms, like Vikasa Yoga. The sessions here are quite short, between 2 and 10 minutes, with each one focusing on a different set of poses, like core strength, twists, back-bending, and so much more. Have a look. The brief classes are very suitable for beginners as they don’t overload you with information. But feel free to combine a few if you’re feeling strong today. You can practice whenever you find a few minutes for yourself. Be it in the early morning before work, or in the evening after the kids have gone to bed.
Also, try to incorporate some mindfulness into your daily life, you will see great change happening. Even at your workplace. While waiting for the kettle to boil close your eyes and observe your breath. Tune in with your body, check how you are feeling. Or walking to the bathroom, which even the busiest of us need to do. Walk slowly and take some deep breaths. They help you calm down after an uncomfortable meeting with your boss and let you deal better with the tasks that are waiting for you back on your desk. After all, yoga is a way of life, not a fitness regime.
4. YOGA IS EXPENSIVE
Oh yes! Visiting yoga studios – especially in big cities – have become very expensive and are therefore no longer inclusive of all people.
Thankfully there are other options for which you won’t need to spend big bucks.
As mentioned above – the internet is your friend here, with lots of on demand videos to chose from.
Having said that, maybe you prefer practicing in a group.
Meetup is a platform that brings together like-minded people to enjoy activities together. In many places yoga teachers offer classes in parks in exchange for a small donation. Check if you can find a group in in your vicinity, and if not, create one! Many communities also offer charity classes in parks or you find them in yoga studios at weekends. Surely you will find one of the other as many yogis find themselves in the same situation.
5. YOGA IS ONLY FOR WOMEN
If you enter some studios in Europe you get indeed that impression as the women are always in the majority. However most of the famous yogis in India were, and still are men. A change can be seen also in the west though: You can even find exclusive yoga classes for men, who don’t feel comfortable being the only guy in a class, or enjoy a practice especially designed for their bodies’ needs.
More and more professional athletes, like football and basketball players admit to owe their extreme capabilities on the field or a prolonged career to a regular yoga practice. Some sports clubs even added yoga teachers to their team.
In the United States there are yoga classes for veterans and yoga has become a regular practice in male (and women’s) prisons with tremendous outcome. So you see, even the ‘tough guys’ get on the mat.
As you could read, most of the misconceptions spin around a) yoga is only for certain people and conclusively b) has to look a certain way. Both are fundamentally wrong.
So go out there and make a start today. Ignore the pictures you see on social media, and make the experience for yourself. Yoga means something different for everyone and every yogi feels something different in each and every pose. Find out what you are feeling and don’t care about the rest.
By Eva Flammensbeck
Eva has been working in the traditional media and digital sector for the last 10 years in Germany and in the UK. Until in early 2017 she quit her job and went to India to follow her passion in yoga and meditation. Now she is travelling through Asia with her boyfriend and working as a copywriter and yoga teacher and is doing some volunteer work in between. All this while tasting lots of new delicious food and writing about it.