The practice of yoga is a beautiful one, which truly enriches one’s life. I can tell you from my own experience. There are so many ideas, expectations, and stereotypical opinions around yoga, which unfortunately prevent many from practicing yoga. In this post I will address some of those, talk a bit about why yoga is for everyone and give some tips for those of you who would like to begin a regular yoga practice or just try it out, but are not sure how to. I will be focusing on the physical practice of yoga in this post, though it is important for me to mention that yoga is not just limited to the physical practice, but includes all aspects of life.
I myself am practicing yoga regularly for about 3.5 years now. Throughout these years I have learned to integrate the practice into my ‘modern, western’ way of living, but the practice has also helped me to adapt my lifestyle to a life, which nourishes my well- being. I have developed since I began practicing, which I am happy about, because I see self- development and growth as a very positive and important part of life. To the surprise of some people though I have not quit drinking alcohol, eating junk food from time to time or going out. I also am still not able to take my leg behind my head or get into a full split and I do not manage to meditate without any thoughts popping into my head on a daily basis. These are some of the stereotypical ideas many people have about yoga.
I have put together a list of misconceptions about the practice of yoga I am being confronted with on a regular basis, and am clarifying them right below.
‘ I am not flexible enough.’
I can’t say no one was born flexible, because we were actually all born flexible, but allowed our body to stiffen up over time. What I can say though is that almost no one (except for dancers etc.) begins a yoga practice completely flexible, but one of the outcomes of a regular asana practice is flexibility.
A body, which is not flexible, is in need of a yoga practice. The practice will create flexibility and with time lead to lengthened muscles, healthy joints and ligaments, smooth connective tissues, an increased blood flow and a balanced metabolism.
‘I am not spiritual or religious and Yoga is for spiritual people.’
Yoga, like everything in life, can be a spiritual practice depending on your intention. Different teachers approach the practice differently. So you might have been to one class where the teacher was singing a mantra or was talking about things you perceive as spiritual. Try not to judge or form an opinion based on one class or what you heard from someone else. Try out different teachers and you will find your style of yoga. The bodily postures can definitely be approached without focusing on spirituality.
‘Yoga is easy and boring. I wat to do real sport.’
The answer to this statement is similar to the one above. There are so many different styles of yoga and different kinds of teachers. Many of those styles, such as Vinyasa yoga or Ashtanga yoga, are very physical and sweaty. You will be moving around and sweating. I can assure you that! These practices are dynamic and sportive and definitely not boring.
‘My mind is constantly running. I can’t just sit still.’
The nature of our mind is active and distracting. Just like we have to train our muscles, we have to train our mind. Without practice we are not able to control the mind and it will do whatever it wants. In combination with our hectic lifestyles the result usually is overthinking and lots of worrying. The practice of yoga with its different aspects slowly trains the mind to be calmer and gives you tools to control your mind. In this case patience is required. It is completely normal to feel un-restful after 5 minutes of sitting still when you are not used to it. With time this will change and the practice will increase your overall well-being, creating a sense of calmness and focus.
‘Yoga is only for girls.’
The practice of yoga is not gender specific. As mentioned before there are many yoga practices, which are very physical, not only creating flexibility, but strongly working on our strength as well. I believe that another reason for thinking that yoga is for girls is the fear among men towards facing their internal world. Even though our society starts to open up, for many men showing emotions and feelings, and engaging in self- reflection is still thought to be some kind of weakness. We need to understand that doing so, no matter whether you are a men or a women, actually is a sign of strength. We are a body and a mind with all its aspects and cannot ignore that. So either we start looking inside or our psychology will control us. We can just give in to what is or we can be strong and face what is.
The practice of yoga starts already right here at this point: leave your stereotypical ideas behind, let go of judgment and fear of failure or not being able to perform. There isn’t just one style of yoga but so many, ranging from very calm ones where one holds a posture up to several minutes to dynamic sportive forms where one moves much quicker from posture to posture, focusing not only on stretching but also on strengthening the body. So no matter what kind of person you are, what your lifestyle is or what your intention is you can find a style, which will fulfil your needs.
Here are some tips for yoga newbies:
- Find out for yourself which style suits you best. Make a list of different styles, visit classes and then decide which one you liked most.
- Go to beginner’s classes or visit a beginner’s course. This will introduce you to the practice slowly, so that you won’t feel overwhelmed, but will be able to understand the practice and progress step by step
- Don’t quit after your first 3 classes. You and your body need to get used to the practice, so give yourself some time, practice consistently and do not quit after just having taken a few classes.
- Practice regularly, especially in the first few months
- Let go of comparisons and expectations. Do not compare yourself to the person in front of you. Comparison demotivates and takes the focus away from yourself. You do not have the same mind and body as any other person. While one posture might come easy to you, another won’t at all. So comparing yourself to someone else won’t lead you anywhere.
- Keep reminding yourself of the benefits the practice has for you
- Be patient, remember the way you were living for years. Your body and mind have adapted to your lifestyle over years and you can only develop that with time and continuous practice (not within a day or week)
Happy yogaying 🙂