By Yoga Journal
Bad Yogi Erin Motz wants to set the record straight: Yoga really is for everyone. Here she debunks 10 myths about yogis and their lifestyle.
As a former yoga class wallflower, I consider myself an expert on the outsider's image of the yoga community. As uninformed as it may be, it's easy to paint a very one-dimensional picture of what it means to be a yogi, but the yoga community isn't a one-size-fits-all group. Our diversity doesn't disappear as soon as we put on our leggings. So in the name of proving that yoga really is for everyone, I'd like to debunk 10 popular myths about yogis and their lifestyle.
Myth 1: All yogis are vegan.
Hi, have we met? I'm Erin, and you may know me from Bad Yogi. Not surprisingly, while I have mad respect for vegans everywhere, it's not a choice I've made for myself. I've been teaching for over a decade and I still enjoy the heck out of a burger, a big scoop of ice cream, and a real BLT occasionally. Since some of the most vocal vegans happen to be yogis, it's easy to come to the conclusion that ALL of us are that way. Not so. In fact, even at some of the biggest yoga events, you'll find food vendors making wood-fired pizzas and pork belly noodle bowls and guess what? They coexist harmoniously next door to the little juice bar and vegan, gluten-free falafel stand. It's all good!
Myth 2: Yogis are all "energy" people.
Not all yogis are hippy-dippy, woo-woo, tree-hugging flower children who care more about balancing their chakras than their checkbooks. The intangible elements play a big part in many people's practices, but sometimes leaving that part out makes the whole thing seem a little less intimidating, and that's totally OK. Rest assured, most yogis are firmly planted in the real world and won't bore you to tears with a bunch of talk about the color of your aura.
Myth 3: All yogis live on the left side of the political spectrum.
Yogis come from all parts of the world, each with their own life experience, education, family influence, and opinions. There are a million influences that form someone's political beliefs, and regardless of where you fall on the scale, you definitely won't be the only yogi there. (Living in France, I actually saw a Prius with a Trump sticker on it--anything is possible.)
Myth 4: If you're not super serious, you're not a yogi.
Have you ever heard of Laughter Yoga? It's pretty much the opposite of the austere, militant practices you may have seen in movies or TV shows. It's wholeheartedly joyful and downright hilarious. So many of the most famous yoga teachers in the world aren't afraid to laugh at themselves or at the funny idiosyncrasies of the yoga practice. I once went to a Kundalini meditation where we literally sat in a circle and laughed while making eye contact for 8 minutes. To each his own: You can certainly find some very sober classes, but you can just as easily find ones that are the polar opposite.
Myth 5: If you're not "good" at yoga, you have no business being there.
There is no such thing as being "bad" at yoga. You can be a Tin Man with the flexibility of steel, but that doesn't make you "bad" at yoga. You can mentally curse your teacher for making you hold Chair Pose for too long, but that doesn't mean you're "bad" at yoga. Conversely, the person who can hold Handstand for 3 minutes is no "better" than you. They may have simply developed certain skills or strengths that you haven't yet, but they're no different from you as a person OR as a yogi. The yoga practice is an equalizer, and all "better than" or "less than" speech goes out the window here. End of discussion! Promise you'll never say that you're "bad" at yoga again, OK? Good, glad we agree.
Myth 6: You have to be a hippie to fit in with yogis.
Not all yogis have forsaken the glories of razors, deodorant, and general hygiene. Not all yogis live in the forest and spend their days and nights waxing poetic about the merits of composting. In fact, almost every high-profile yogi with significant influence falls squarely outside this stereotype. I'd go even further and say that most yogis you'll meet in your community look more like you than they do like this picture I painted above.
Myth 7: Guys don't really do yoga...
False, false, false! If you go back to yoga's humble beginnings, it was almost exclusively a men's activity. Only since the westernization of yoga has it become a trendy and occasionally female-dominated pursuit. There have been countless stories over the last few years about the NFL, NBA, and MLB introducing their athletes to yoga because it makes them more effective performers and balanced individuals. Veterans and police officers and firefighters have incorporated yoga into their habits because of the clarity it brings them in a stressful job. I could go on, but I'll leave you with this: Yoga is for people with bodies. If you have a body that breathes, you can do yoga.
Myth 8: All yogis are spiritual.
Many may disagree with me on this, but I firmly believe that for some yoga is just a physical practice--and that is perfectly OK. Some people may feel conflicted about the spiritual element, or simply just unready to embark on that part of the journey. This is fine! The great thing about yoga is that it will meet you where you are. If that means you just want to work up a bit of a sweat and feel powerful in your body, then there's a yoga class for you. The spiritual side is certainly available, but it's not mandatory if you're not looking for it.
Myth 9: Yogis are always peaceful.
Yogis are real people. They experience the full spectrum of emotions just like any other human being, and just because they can sit in meditation for 20 minutes, doesn't mean that they're constantly basking in the white light of inspiration. Yogis curse. Yogis get pissed off when they're running late for an important meeting. Yogis flip out on their significant other for not putting the dishes away for the thousandth time. Yoga is a tool that can help us process these feelings, but it doesn't eliminate them.
Myth 10: You either like yoga or you don't.
There are dozens of different yoga styles, and I truly believe that anyone can find a version that they enjoy. There's everything from highly athletic, rigorous styles of yoga, to the more peaceful, incredibly spiritual styles. Beyond the styles, there are thousands of different teachers! Each individual will bring you a different experience, even within the same style of yoga. You never know who or what might resonate with you. So if you feel called to explore this practice, don't give up just because your first class or two classes didn't sit well with you. Keep searching! You'll find your yoga home.
All this to say, there is no one "type" of yogi. No matter how well you think you know something, there's always room to explore more. Don't be afraid to step outside your box, try something new, and be open to how YOU, personally, experience it. You never know what might happen.
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