I hear every excuse in the book about why people think yoga is not for them, and yes, for some people it just doesn't fit into their lifestyle. But for most, they are just slightly misinformed about what exactly yoga is and the benefits of the practice.
I asked yoga teacher and health coach, Heidi Kokborg, to help debunk some of the most common myths about yoga.
1. You have to be thin to practice yoga
Anyone and everyone can practice yoga. I always say that if you can breathe you can do yoga. It doesn’t matter what body size you have. I’m not tall and skinny. In fact, I’m average height and weight. I am just a normal girl. I have all sizes in my classes. Some are smaller than me, some are bigger than me. I promise you that no matter what size you are you can do yoga. If anyone tells you differently they are wrong, and you shouldn’t listen to them. Like I said, if you can breathe you can do yoga.
2. You need to be really flexible to practice yoga
That’s kind of like saying you’re too dirty to take a shower. Doesn’t make much sense does it? Yoga is not about being flexible, and you can still do the poses even though you aren’t flexible. Perhaps you need modifications in the beginning but that’s fine. You’ll build up your strength and flexibility. There’s a saying I love about the whole flexibility thing:
Yoga is not about reaching your toes. It’s about what you learn on the way down.
Don’t be scared by flexi yogis on Instagram. You can do yoga too.
3. Yoga is just stretching
That’s actually what I thought when I went to my first yoga class eight years ago. My legs were stiff from all the spinning and running I had been doing, and I thought yoga would be a good way to stretch. However, I soon realized yoga is so much more than stretching. Yoga became this sanctuary for me where I could just be. I was struggling with an eating disorder, depression and anxiety at the time, and yoga became my therapy.
When my boyfriend unexpectedly passed away in November 2016, yoga was once again my therapy. Yoga has taught me how to listen to my body and my intuition. In yoga you connect your breath with movements, which means you become so much more aware of what’s going on in both your mind and your body, and it becomes therapeutic.
Sure, if you wanna go to yoga just to stretch, do it. No judgement. But most likely you’ll get so much more than stretching out of the practice.
4. Yoga is not a good workout, you can't break a sweat that way
Well… Have you tried practicing arm balances and inversions? Or do a Power Vinyasa class? Yoga can be really sweaty. It doesn’t have to though. I have days where I just do slow flows or Yin Yoga and don’t break a sweat, and then I have days where it’s one sweaty session.
But I really want to emphasize that yoga is not actually a workout. It’s more of a work in where you tune into your body and intuition. But sure you can sweat a lot, be sore after a class and it can be really challenging and hard. I’m telling you yoga is way harder than any spin class I’ve ever taken. And if you want to call it a workout, be my guest. I won’t judge you.
5. Yoga is for hippies
LOL then I definitely wouldn’t be able to do yoga. I am the opposite of a hippie. I love wearing make-up, high heels, do my hair, wear a suit etc.
Like I said earlier; yoga is for everyone. You don’t have to be vegan, a hippie, go to India, shave your head or stop drinking coffee. Seriously. I’ve never done any of these things, and I’m not vegan, and I drink coffee like Lorelai Gilmore.
If you don’t feel welcome at a yoga studio, find another place to practice because yoga is for everyone. No matter how you eat, what you political beliefs are, how you dress etc.
6. Yoga is more difficult for men
Well, since I’m not a man I don’t technically know if it’s harder for men. But I know plenty of men who practice yoga, and they don’t have it harder than the women in my classes. If you’re new to yoga it’s going to be challenging. It’s doesn’t matter if you’re male of female.
I think people think it’s harder for men to do yoga because the yoga community is predominantly female. This, however, doesn’t mean men can’t do it. It’s just like most mechanics are men; that doesn’t mean women can’t be just as good a mechanic. Don’t be fooled just because you mostly see women in yoga classes. It’s no harder for men than women.
7. I won't be able to do the poses in class
If you’re new to yoga I recommend that you take a beginners class. If you walk into an advanced class as a beginner you will have a hard time, and it might discourage you because you won’t be able to follow the class. So start with a beginners class.
I can’t promise you that you’ll be able to do all the poses but I can promise you that they’re modifications or different poses. But say you have a slip disc in you lower back, then chances are backbends aren’t for you. So yes, there MIGHT be one or two poses that you can’t do if you have an injury. However, I have taught many people with injures, and there’s always poses that works for your body.
Find a good teacher, and I promise you the poses won’t be a problem.
8. I have an injury so I can't do yoga
I have so many coming to my classes because of an injury. I’m teaching quite a few retired people who all have hip problems, and were told by their doctor to take up yoga to recover. I’ve had a woman in my class who were taking medicine every day and was supposed to have hip surgery. After a few months of yoga, her pains disappeared. She no longer takes medication, and she never got the hip surgery.
I have people with slip discs, shoulder injuries, knee injuries etc. They all tell me that yoga help them.
I will say one thing though. If you have an injury please, please, please always listen to your body. If a pose hurts in any way, slowly get out of it. Ask your teacher for a modification or a different pose. Don’t force your body to do anything that it doesn’t like. This also goes for people without injuries.
9. I don't have the strength to do inversions
Well, I can’t tell for sure if you have got the strength to do a handstand or forearm stand but downward dog and shoulder stand are also inversions. You don’t have to start with a handstand! If you haven’t got the strength, work on building up the strength, and keep practicing every day. That being said many people do have the strength to do inversions they are just terrified. It took me two (!!) years to be able to do a handstand against a wall because I was so scared of falling. It took me about three years to do a headstand in the middle of the room because I was afraid. I had the strength and then some. It was my fear that was holding me back.
I hear a lot of people using their strength as an excuse when in fact they are just plain scared. That’s okay. As you can hear I was scared, and it took me a long time and a very patient teacher that I trusted with my life before I could do it.
If strength is the issue, just work on building it up. That’s the easy part. It’s a lot harder if being scared is what’s holding you back.
If you’re scared I encourage you to keep practicing, and find a teacher you really trust. Also maybe use the wall. My teacher is actually not a huge fan of the wall because you aim for the wall and not your balance point. I tend to agree with her but guys, the wall has helped and still is helping me a lot. Just be sure to slowly move away from it. Inch by inch.
10. Yoga just isn't for me.
There are so many different types of yoga that you can hardly say yoga isn’t for you. If you like to get sweaty, you can choose Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Bikram (it’s taught in a heated room) or if you’re based in the US, I like CorePower Yoga if I want a good sweat (I go there when I visit the US). If you want something relaxing there’s Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga, and lots of studios also offer Slow Flow. If you’re really into alignment there’s Iyengar, and if you’re into the very spiritual part of yoga and energy work try Kundalini Yoga.
This is only a handful of the different types of yoga. There are SO many yoga types, and chances are one of them will suit you. So don’t just ‘give up’ on your yoga just because the first time you tried wasn’t for you. Try a different type of yoga, try a different teacher or a different studio. I’ve had many teachers throughout the years and I’ve tried many types of yoga but it took some time before I found my personal style and found a couple of teachers I like. So give it time and don’t be afraid to try new teacher and other types of yoga.