Okay, I wouldn’t be the Irreverent Guru of Mindfulness if I didn’t occasionally talk about things like yoga. So in this blog, let’s take a look at the top four myths about yoga that are keeping you from dusting that ratty old yoga mat off lying somewhere in the depths of your dark and smelly closet and getting your booty to class.
Top Myths About Yoga
Myth about yoga #1: I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.
No matter how long I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga, I still fall into this trap from time to time. And it’s hard not to when you look around and see some swan of a student in front of you who has absolutely no problem touching her head to her feet in a forward bend. I mean, really? I regularly tell my students that the reason I haven’t gotten that far is my 36 inch inseam, and it’s a long way down. I’m not sure if it’s that or just sheer laziness, but it makes me feel better.
When a student tells me that a posture is just too difficult, there are two things I typically say – “Start where you are.” “Do what you can.”
That’s it. What were you expecting? Yoda?
So often we resist starting where we are. We view the practice as something that you need to get fit first in order to do. Then we fill our minds with stories about why something is impossible, e.g. my legs are too long, I have a bad back, I’m not a flexible person. No matter what your physical condition is, there is always something you CAN do. No matter how small. This is also why many practitioners refer to yoga as a practice. Each day you get up, do the best you can, and the next day you start all over again. And while this may sound a bit like groundhog day, it’s also why we teachers often use the trite but true “it’s about the journey, not the destination” when speaking about yoga.
Which reminds me of the following story. Once upon time there was an old man who was trying to practice yoga. Frustrated he went to his guru, telling him, “I’m never going to be able to do these postures!” My body wasn’t built for this, I’m just not flexible enough!”
His guru took one look at him, smiled, and said “Good. Your journey is longer then.”
Myth about Yoga #2: My postures look like crap
Now, let’s talk about the postures, those tricky little poses that get you all tied up like a pretzel and falling over in the middle of tree stand. I mean, don’t these things have to be done correctly in order to practice yoga?
The yoga postures, or asanas as they are called in Sanskrit, were invented for one reason and one reason only – to focus your concentration. That’s why I often call a hatha yoga class a moving mediation. The postures are a tool for meditation and a tool for meditation only. They weren’t invented for you to obsess over them and then constantly compare yourself to others in a cruel and self-depreciating way. That’s just depressing.
So basically what that means is that, no matter what your posture looks like, as long as you are 100% concentrating on doing the posture, you are doing yoga. If your posture looks perfect, but your mind is working on creating a grocery list for when you hit the Shop and Save on your way home (some tasty cheese, some nice chardonnay), you are not doing yoga. It’s therefore not the what (the posture) but the how (how you’re doing it) that’s important when practicing yoga.
Myth about Yoga #3: I need lots of special, expensive gear to do yoga.
You’d think so if you opened up a copy of Yoga Journal (yes, there is a magazine that is solely devoted to yoga). It’s filled with many critical and life-changing questions like:
- Would a breathe mat help my yoga performance?
- Which hydroflask will keep my water at the optimum temperature?
- Which electrolyte mixture is best for keeping hydrated between classes?
- Should I try a onesie leotard or wear capris?
I don’t care what you’ve read or who you have spoken to on this matter. You need two and only two things to do yoga. Yourself and a mat.
And it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t share with you that I have fallen into many of these traps myself. A $90 leotard did not make me a better yogini. It just made me seriously irritated when I noticed the other day in class that the dye had already started fading. Namaste.
Myth about Yoga #4: Yoga is for women.
Don’t tell me you haven’t thought it at least once, “Yoga’s for chicks.” Think this all you want, but I’ve noticed over the past few years of teaching yoga that the gender scales are becoming more and more balanced. In fact, I taught a class the other day that was almost entirely male. And don’t be fooled my male readers, yoga is tough. There are a number of times when a sporty guy has walked up to me after his first class to tell me that it was one of the hardest things he’s ever done.
And finally, if that argument didn’t persuade my male readers, fair enough. Yoga is a great place to pick up hot chicks. Or at least stare at them. For all you taken men out there, it’s like my grandmother always said, “Just because you’re on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.” Wise woman indeed.
Now, if you’re a yoga purist you can curse me as much as you like under your breath for that last paragraph, but again, start where you are!
What are your top myths about yoga that are keeping you from getting to yoga class?