5 Misconceptions About Yoga
1. You have to be flexible.
I get this one a lot! Flexibility is not, I repeat, not a prerequisite for coming to class. I have incredibly tight hamstrings and feel it every time I practice. Yoga over the last 5 years has vastly increased my flexibility, but it took hours and hours of work. Look at it like this, a student is not expected to speak fluent Spanish on the first day of Spanish class. Yoga is where you come to work on your body, like a never-ending project. It doesn't matter if you are weak in the upper body, tight in the legs or just looking for a a bit more agility, regular yoga practice is good for your whole body- increased flexibility & strength are its natural byproducts.
2. You have to be a certain body type.
This is completely untrue! Yoga is for all body types. Social media is very good at depicting a narrow vision of what it means to be a yoga practitioner. One if its main draws is it being suitable for all bodies & ages. Despite its depiction, yoga is an inclusive, wholistic practice that welcomes all. Media portrays a 'yoga body' as one type when in reality the majority of people practicing come from all backgrounds & body types. I have grandparents, kids, dancers, climbers, doctors, teachers, programmers in my classes & not one looks alike! This is the beauty of yoga- it reflects our communities. Some people come to shift some weight. Some come to tone up. Some come to build strength. Each person takes away a different experience from practicing yoga & that is exaclty what is meant to happen.
3. It's easy.
Yoga is challenging. Not only is it a vigorous form of movement for your body, but also challenging mentally. The body becomes more stiff the older we get, and starting a yoga practice can be eye-opening. Even for athletes there are many ways the body is challenged in yoga. Balancing strength & flexibility in a safe, gentle way is unique to yoga, which is why it is the most accessible way to try things you may have never thought possible (standing on your head?!) Though the physical elements of yoga are challenging, most find the mental element even more so. Learning to harness the breath, transcend thoughts & establish a meditation practice can take decades.
4. You need all the gear.
Don't let the media make you feel like you need all the latest gear to practice yoga. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable. Having the latest leggings or the most expensive mat won't make much of a difference when you are sitting quietly in meditation. In fact, the teachings & practices of yoga emphasise non-attachment (aparigraha) to material things, as attachment breeds a cycle of desire & discontent. Detachment from 'things' helps the mind to move away from the ego and deeper into the practice. Trust me, your down dog will not be any different in £8 leggings vs. £80.
5. It's about the postures.
The idea that yoga is all about the postures is a misconception. The postures are just one of the eight limbs of yoga (patanjais yoga sutras) and they are just one way of practicing yoga. For most of us, the postures are the most accessible entry point into a yoga practice. Getting to the mind is difficult without first dealing with tension in the body. The postures help to make the body strong and flexible so that eventually the mind can reflect it. Think of your body as a gross form of your mind and your mind a subtle form of your body. If the body is tense and uncomfortable, the mind usually is too. It is very difficult to jump straight into a sitting meditation without first working to remove tension from the body.