Before I started practicing yoga the word I used to imagine those people who “did yoga” as tie-dye-wearing, vegetarian hippy type ladies who were seeking enlightenment by bending their bodies in completely inexplicable ways. I think that we are all aware of some of the stereotypes that go along with yoga. Personally, as a yoga instructor, I will admit that I am biased about the man benefits of yoga, but clearly I’m not alone – why else would millions of people around the world practice regularly if there weren’t some benefits to be felt (physically and mentally)? Still, I am only too aware of the myriad of myths and misconceptions that surround the practice.
Regardless of whether you’re a devoted yogi or you’re just beginning your journey on the mat, you’ve probably heard a handful of these stereotypes and misguided notions.
Here are 5 myths about yoga I’d like to bust once and for all, and replace with one simple fact – Yoga is for every body.
You have to be flexible to do yoga
This is probably the most common myth out there – you absolutely do not have to be flexible in order to do yoga. Yoga builds strength, balance and flexibility. It is there to serve you and poses can be modified to suit every body.
Yoga is just stretching
In Sanskrit the word yoga means union – the union of the mind, body, spirit and breath with the surrounding environment. In yoga we learn to direct our attention inwards and by linking movement with breath we experience a moving meditation.
All yogis are hippies
Not all yogis have given up on razors, deodorants and basic cleanliness, they don’t go around hugging trees or talking about balancing their chakras – I promise! People who practice yoga come from all different parts of the world and each have their own life experiences, family backgrounds and opinions. With that comes differing political and lifestyle views. Trust me, most yogis live in the real world and won’t want to bore you with talk of your aura or crystals!
Yoga is for women
It’s true that in the West yoga is more popular with women than with men however when yoga began it was almost exclusively practiced by men. Yoga is not gender specific – it is for everybody – if you have a body and you can breathe you can do yoga regardless of your gender.
Yoga is a religion
There is a spiritual side to the practice of yoga but it is not a religion, it is a philosophy which interweaves philosophies from Buddhism and Hinduism but it doesn’t require you to renounce your faith – or indeed to have a faith in the first place!
I would just like to leave you with a reminder that yoga is for everyone who strives to be mindful, present and compassionate regardless of their shape, size, gender, religion or anything else that you may have heard. If you have a body and you can breathe you can enjoy yoga.