Excuses to not do yoga are some of the most creative I’ve ever heard.
I’m too clumsy. I’m too stiff. I’m too busy. I’m overweight. I’m too scared. I’m not “that” kind of person. I’m too (fill in the blank). People tend to have a good case of the “I’m too”s when it comes to yoga.
In my post, “Why yoga is for you. A style for every mind and body.”, we looked at how there really is a yoga style for every mind and body.Now let’s look at some myths associated with yoga and how they are completely false.
You see… we often have that stereotypical yogi in mind that we’ve seen in the movies, magazines, and other media when we come up with our excuses. The truth is, most yogis and yoginis are just ordinary everyday people like you and me.
You might think, “Oh… but you’re a yoga teacher Kay! You are fit and flexible and strong and, and, and….”. That in fact is merely a perception that you have of me. Yes, I may be a bit of all these things, but I haven’t always been and I can guarantee to you that I’m not a very flexible yogi. I can’t do the splits and have yet to master many inversions and balancing poses, and I’m totally okay with that. You see… yoga is called a practice for a reason. It’s called a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect.
Let’s look at some common myths out there and why they are not true at all.
1. Yoga Is Just For Women & “Sissies”
Did you know that when yoga originated, it was mostly practiced by men? For some reason, in the western world, yoga seems to have a dominance of women practitioners, but thankfully, that’s starting to change. Men are popping up in yoga classes more frequently and classes specific to men’s bodies and needs are becoming more popular. Unless classes are specifically marked women-only or men-only, both genders should feel free to attend. I have a feeling that if we called it “stretching class” instead of “yoga class” there would be a larger influx of men in our classes.
There is also the idea that yoga is easy and that men would not get enough benefit from it. Yoga is as physically demanding as you care for it to be. It builds strength, flexibility, and has an entire other aspect that helps reduce stress, among other things. For men that are hesitant to go out and practice in a group setting, online yoga, such as that offered on my website, is popping up everywhere. A few videos and you’re set to practice in the comfort of your own home.
2. Yoga Is Just For Wafer Thin People & I’m Overweight
Unfortunately, our media portrays yoga this way. Tiny little women in tight fitting clothing (or barely any clothing) plastered across yoga magazines. Are these people allowed to be yogis? Of course they are and they are beautiful human beings, but the fact is, so are you and the average sized yogi is not often portrayed in the media. Even larger bodied individuals can practice yoga.
You are right, not all poses are suited for larger bodies, but this is when a good teacher that is sensitive to their students will offer props and alternative options for poses throughout a class. Do body parts get in the way? Let’s get real here. No BS. Yes, body parts can get in the way! Bellies and boobs can be a curvy woman’s nemesis in yoga class; just Google it. There are actually plenty of tips and tricks to keep “the girls” under control while practicing. A very good supportive sports bra is a good place to start.
Some studios offer classes geared towards larger bodied individuals. These classes are designed to use props and variations to suit everyone. No body should ever be left behind when it comes to yoga. Ever! If you are ever in a class that makes you feel this way, I encourage you to find another teacher. It is also a good idea to speak to the teacher ahead of time so that they know your concerns. That way they will add modifications throughout the session to help with your practice.
3. Yoga is Just For Flexible People & The Physically Fit
Here’s a newsflash! People go to the gym and lift weights to get strong. Folks go biking, running, and more to increase their cardio and lose weight. So why wouldn’t the inflexible go to yoga to get flexible? It just makes sense!
Ask me if I can touch my toes. Go on, ask me! I dare you. No, not at first. Hardly ever at first. I need to warm up before I can touch my toes and as I warm up, I eventually get my full palm to the ground.
Ask me again if I can touch my toes. Yes! Always! All I have to do is bend my knees and so can you! It’s truly that simple and I encourage it for beginners and seasoned yogis alike.
There’s a quote that says “Yoga is not about touching your toes. It’s about what you learn on the way down.” Pretty much any yoga posture can be modified and any good yoga teacher will provide at least one or two variations as they are working through class with their students. Everyone should feel like they have a place they can be.
4. Yoga Means I Need To Balance On My Hands, Head, Legs…
If you’ve ever been to a class and crazy balancing poses were practiced without options given for modifications, choose to not perform the pose if you are not comfortable. Safety first! Balancing poses are challenging and can be fun if practiced safely. Props such as chairs, yoga blocks, and walls are great tools for the beginner and seasoned yogi alike.
Any long time practicing yogi will tell you that everyday is different and even different times of day are different when it comes to balance. When I first began practicing crow pose at home I would place pillows all around me in case I tumbled. I laughed with myself often and had a great time in this learning phase. Do what works for you and honour your body along the way. Yoga is much more than balancing poses.
5. Yoga Is Boring
I once shared this sentiment. Yoga can take so many forms that there is bound to be something out there for everyone. Some forms of yoga are extremely slow moving and require the participant to hold poses for longer lengths of time. That said, many forms of yoga have lots of fluid movement. Some teachers also include wonderful upbeat music in their classes.
Another thing to keep in mind is the atmosphere and feeling an instructor or studio brings to their classes. Some classes ask for complete silence, while others encourage students to ask questions if needed and are much more “light” in nature.
Your best bet is to do a bit of digging before just heading out to a class. Ask questions, call the studio, talk to the instructor, talk to other people that attend the class. The first class I ever attended was truly not a good fit for me at the time. I attended the class 3 times at best and then decided yoga just wasn’t for me. I didn’t practice yoga for 10 years after that. I wish I would have known someone that would have told me to keep looking for a class and style that suited me.
6. Yoga Is Only For Experts. I Will Embarass Myself
So many people I talk to are afraid to look silly in yoga class. “What if I fall?” “What if I can’t follow?” “What if I’m the only one that can’t touch my toes?” “What if…..?”
I get it! Anything new is challenging and offers up that sense of the unknown. It’s totally normal to feel this way. I encourage you to find a class for true beginners at a local studio or yoga for complete beginners programs such as the one offered on my site. Some studios advertise their classes as beginner friendly, however, if there are 30 students in the class, this may be a stretch (no pun intended). Make sure to call the studio and ask them if the class is strictly for newbies. Some places will offer a series of 10 classes for people to learn the pose breakdowns, how to use props, and more. I’ve personally taught these classes and students learn a lot and leave feeling ready to tackle other types of classes.
7. Yoga Is A Religion
This is not true. It is not a religion. Yoga is a study of our true Self. It helps us figure out the Self through movement, meditation, and breathing techniques.
Yoga definitely has a spiritual aspect, but it’s up to us as individuals how we define this spiritual part. This can mean studying your true Self (Think of the big “S”as your soul. It never changes.) or accessing the Divine (God, Nature, The Universe, or whatever you wish to call it.)
“It is not religion in the form of ideology, dogma, belief systems, or compliance; it’s a spiritual experience that gives us access to a universal domain of reality.” – Deepak Chopra
Some teachers do incorporate religion or christianity into their yoga classes. Yahwehyoga.com is one such example. However, I would dare to say that most yoga classes in our western culture do not incorporate it into their classes, nor is yoga affiliated with any particular religious group. Many yoga teachers do choose to incorporate yoga philosophy into their classes. If this is something that you are concerned about, I encourage you to chat with the yoga teacher prior to attending class. As always, the goal is to find a yoga that works for you.
8. There Is Not Enough Time For Yoga
There is an old Zen saying that goes like this: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then, you should sit for an hour”.
If we are too busy and running around like the proverbial chicken with it’s head cut off, there is no focus to be had. Nothing gets done or if it does get done, it’s done poorly. It seems like “busy” is the new “in” thing. It’s glorified really. It makes us feel important to tell someone we are busy when they ask how things are. In reality, our busy-ness is cramping our style and causing us stress and health problems.
Want to be “too busy”? Then be too busy to surf the internet or too busy to watch 6 episodes of a show on Netflix. Don’t be too busy for yoga. Yoga is proven to reduce stress and improve focus. I don’t know about you, but when I’m relaxed and focused, I get a heck of a whole lot more done in a shorter period of time PLUS I’m usually happy while doing it.
9. Yoga Is For Tree Huggers, Hippies, and Vegetarians (I lied… here’s a bonus one to make it nine!)
This is not true. Some yogis have chosen to not eat meat because they take the teaching of yoga called Ahimsa (do no harm to self or others) to include animals that we eat. I’m not here to judge one way or the other since another teaching of yoga that can be encompassed in Ahimsa is to be non-judgemental.
Yogis tend to be more aware of their bodies and what they put in it. This in general is a good practice and can often lead to better health and weight loss. I certainly don’t see anything wrong with that.
The whole tree hugger/hippie myth also doesn’t hold true. Sure… it does appear that many of us like to wear funky scarves and psychedelic print leggings for some odd reason. This may be more true of teachers rather than students.
Truth be told, most yoga practitioners are just everyday Janes and Joes that live everyday hectic lives just like me and you. That said… a little tree hugging never hurt anyone! Connecting with nature is extremely therapeutic.
And The List Continues
I could probably sit here all day typing the excuses and misconceptions that people have about yoga. Let’s leave it at this shall we? If you have even thought of trying out yoga. Do it. If you are hesitant, do some research first to find something that works for you.
What About You?
Has this article cleared up some misconceptions you’ve about yoga? Are there others that I haven’t listed here? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment below. Do you know someone that has been hesitant to try yoga for any of the reasons I’ve listed? If so, make sure to share this article with them.