By Yoga Journal
The good news is that yoga has exploded in the US and Europe and more people than ever are dipping into the practice. The bad news is all the misinformation out there that can be at best confusing and at worst a big turnoff for some folks who would otherwise really love and benefit from the practice. Here are a few of my faves.
Myth 1: You're not flexible enough to do yoga.
This is my all-time favorite myth and as a yoga teacher one that I hear often. Saying you are too stiff to do yoga is like saying you're too sick to go to the doctor. Stiffness leads to lots of aches and pains. I'm not saying it will be easy, but I can promise that a healthy range of motion throughout the body will reduce your aches and pains today and down the road. Just keep your sense of humor handy.
Myth 2: You need a certain diet, body type, outfit...
Nope, not at all. Yoga is inclusive and can meet you where you are--there are no prerequisites. A byproduct of yoga may be better physical, mental health and well-being, but I assure you that it is not required to start. I was a train wreck when I began yoga and over 20 years later I'm still at it (and hopefully less of a wreck). The best thing about yoga is that you can come as you are and let the practice tend to you in the most generous way.
Myth 3: Yoga is religious.
Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is a philosophy. Do some people engage in yoga religiously? Yep, but there is no dogma or required belief system in yoga. The philosophy is meant to engage you in asking important questions, gaining insight, and making your own informed choices.
Myth 4: Yoga is just for relaxing.
Yoga is an eight-fold path that actually requires a pretty disciplined effort. Relaxation and stress reduction is a wonderful byproduct of a focused practice whether that is asana (poses), pranayama (breath), or meditation.
Myth 5: Yoga is only for women.
When I first started teaching vinyasa yoga, it was about 20 percent men. These days most of my classes are closer to 40 percent men. I love the guy who comes into his first class a skeptic and leaves a sweaty, blissed-out convert. Yoga creates flexibility, builds strength and refines your ability to focus. Don't take my word for it look at all of the male superstar athletes like Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James, Ray Lewis, Victor Cruz and Kevin Love (just to name a few) touting its benefits.
Myth 6: I'm too busy to do yoga.
Again the too-sick-to-go-the-doctor analogy applies, except maybe even more here. These days you can get very high-quality yoga online in formats that range from 15-90 minutes. You can do yoga in the comfort of your home through Yoga Journal's online courses or other sites like YogaGlo.com and Gaia.com. Add in the efficiency of getting to check off all of these boxes: fitness, stress relief, and skillful focus all in one session. Try just 20 minutes a day and observe the return on that investment. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised.
Myth 7: I'm not young or fit enough to do yoga.
I know lots of folks who started practicing at 50 or over 60. It's not only a great healthy choice but also provides community and positive social benefits that may surprise you. You are only as old as your thoughts--and yoga can positively affect those too, so get yourself into a class with a great teacher and have some fun.
Myth 8: I'm injured--I can't do yoga.
Au contraire. I have had many students, who come to yoga while they're recuperating from an injury and displaced from their regular form of exercise. Those who first try yoga as a means of rehab, typically stick with it because it not only helps them heal but can also help prevent future injury.
Stephanie Snyder combines creative vinyasa sequencing with concise alignment and traditional philosophy. She is the creator of the Yoga Journal DVD Yoga for Strength and Toning and offers classes online, as well as workshops and teacher trainings in San Francisco and around the world. As a founding board member of the national nonprofit organization Headstand, Stephanie is an advocate and community contributor who works to bring yoga and mindfulness to at-risk youth. Featured in many publications worldwide, she is ever grateful for the gifts of the practice.