Take a browse through Instagram these days and it is enough to prevent anyone from trying yoga for the first time! News flash- what you see on instagram is most likely not what you will be doing in a beginners yoga class! Yoga isn’t all about fancy arm balances and pretzel-like twists. Yoga isn’t for any one set age group or gender or body type. Yoga is for every body. You may have heard this claim before and still have doubts that are holding you back. Yet yoga has so many incredible benefits, and it is a shame that many women feel intimidated or uncertain about stepping on the mat due to these social constructs and mindsets.
This article aims to remove the fear or trepidation surrounding yoga by diving into the most common myths about the practice. By the end, we hope you will be inspired to take that first step on your yoga journey.
Myth #1: You Have to be Flexible to do Yoga
Possibly the most common myth of all! Yoga is designed to help you improve flexibility, and therefore, it does not assume that you already possess wild acrobatic skills. Every human body is different and capable of a unique level of flexibility and movement. Many people seem to think it is essential that you can touch your toes in order to attend a yoga class. The great news is this certainly isn’t the case. In a yoga class, you will come across a wide spectrum of mobility in different people, yet chances are, most people will not be busting our Cirque du Soleil moves on the mat next to you! Maintaining a yoga practice will help you to improve your flexibility over time, yet it is only one of the many benefits. No matter how tight your hamstrings are- you are perfectly ready and able to do yoga.
Myth #2: Yoga is For Young People
While a younger generation has embraced yoga over the last decade or so, they are certainly not the only demographic that the practice is for or suited to. More likely, your local yoga class will have an array of age groups and abilities. While so much yoga advertising displays young, slim, active women in brightly coloured yoga attire, in reality, yoga is for all age groups. If you still feel unsure, try going along to your first class with a friend who is also new to yoga. Do some research into your local studios and even send them an email or give them a call if you would like to find out which class is best suited to you. Rest assured, no matter your age, you will easily be able to find a yoga class with your name on it.
Myth #3: Yoga Isn’t for Anyone with Injuries
If you gone to your chiro, osteo or physio with an injury guess what they may just recommend for you? Yoga! Yoga is a wonderful way to assist people recovering from injury in the body. In fact, yoga is a common part of many recovery programs. If you have general body pain or discomfort commonly caused from modern life- sore lower back from sitting, tight shoulders from posture, or a stiff neck from typing, then these common issues can be greatly assisted with a yoga practice. If you partake in a lot of cardio or weight training, yoga can also be a terrific addition to your routine and help with flexibility, mobility and recovery. Of course, be mindful of your injury and also alert the teacher of your injury so that they can help you modify poses where necessary. Specific yoga therapy classes can be wonderful when dealing with or recovering from a particular injury or ailment.
Myth #4: You Have to Have the Right Yoga Clothing
Do you think BKS Iyengar had a pair of $100 tight lycra stretch pants when he was practicing yoga in India decades ago? Most likely not! The popularity of yoga in the west has spawned a mind-boggling number of yoga companies and businesses that profit from selling the ‘image’ of yoga. A trip to LuLuLemon for a single yoga outfit may set you back hundreds of dollars. Not only are these types of clothing expensive, they are not essential. Practicing yoga is best done is something you feel comfortable in. Something slighted fitted yet lose is perfect to allow movement and avoid you getting tangled up in fabric! Simple leggings, a comfortable t-shirt or singlet and supportive undergarments are all you need. Don’t feel like you need to buy into the hype of yoga attire to attend a studio- remember that at its core, yoga is about non-judgement, so go as you are.
Myth #5: You Need to be ‘Alternative’
Tattoos, dreadlocks and crystal jewellery are not a requirement of yoga. Yoga attracts all types of people. Yes, there may be people in class who have tattoos or dreadlocks or crystals, yet there will also be many people that look very ‘normal,’ and ‘average’ in a day to day sense. Just as there are people of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and genders, there is no single yoga stereotype. Yoga offers something for everyone. That means that people may be drawn to the practice for its more spiritual or philosophical offerings. Yet people also come to yoga for its physical benefits, its emotional benefits, or its mental benefits. Some classes may have chanting or incense or speak of yogic texts. Other classes may be more focused just on the breathing and movements. Keep an open mind and you will find that everyone fits in perfectly in the yoga room and you can take what you like from all that is on offer.
Myth #6: You Must Know About Yoga Philosophy
Don’t know your bandas from your mudras? Unsure of who Kali, Durga or Shiva are? Haven’t read the Yoga Sutras or know what Shanti means? Chances are, most people in the yoga room don’t either! There is an enormous and rich history when it comes to yoga, yet to really dive into the history and philosophy, you generally will need to seek out specific classes, workshops or trainings to find it. Your average yoga class may potentially dabble in a few words of Sanskrit or offer an ‘Om’ at the start of class, yet don’t be concerned about having to be down with the yoga lingo. If you have your own religion, don’t be concerned that you will have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable or compromise your beliefs. Yoga is not a religion and is not dogmatic. Over time, you may feel a desire to dive a little deeper into yoga philosophy, yet there is no need nor pressure to. There is no application form or quiz at the end of class, so rest assured you will be fine with having limited experience with the philosophy of yoga.
Myth #7: You’re Going to Stand on Your Head
Unlikely. One of the great things about a yoga class and a good teacher is that they will always offer variations, options and modifications. You are never going to be forced to do a pose that you do not feel comfortable doing. If a headstand is offered at any time in class, you will not be the only one who chooses not to flip upside down. Advanced poses, while splashed all over social media and yoga marketing, do not form your average yoga class and certainly are not representative of a beginners yoga class. If you never do a headstand in your entire yoga journey, it makes absolutely no difference at all.
Myth #8: You Will Have to Chant
As stated above, every yoga class and teacher is different and will bring different elements to the class. Chanting is an aspect of yoga, yet chanting is often offered in classes specifically called Kirtan or Bajan classes that are all about singing and chanting. Your average yoga class may have a single chant or Om at the start or end of class. Yet students do not have to join in and you are perfectly welcome to simply listen. Many classes will not have any chanting at all. Again, don’t allow this to deter you from a class- having a perfectly pitched singing voice is absolutely not essential!
Myth #9: You Will be Pushed into Poses by the Instructor
The very essence of yoga is about kindness, peace, compassion, unity. No yoga teacher will push you into doing any kind of pose that you do not want to do. Hands-on adjustments are routinely offered in classes, yet you are often given the opportunity to say if you would rather not be touched or adjusted if this makes you uncomfortable. You can also have a quiet chat to the teacher before class if you would rather not be touched. When adjustments are given, especially in a beginner class, there are very gentle and primarily a way to help you find greater ease and benefit from the posture. There is never any pressure to do any of the poses and teachers will often allow students to simply rest in “Child’s Pose” at any time in class if you need a break or wish to take a moment to yourself. The practice is your practice, no one else’s.
Myth #10: Everyone Else Will be More Advanced Than You
Everyone is on their own journey when it comes to yoga. Every student in a yoga room will have been practicing for a different duration, have unique goals, and have their own strengths and limitations. No two bodies are alike. Yoga classes are generally structured in terms of the level of difficulty, so a beginners class will be perfectly catered to if this is your first time on the mat. In a mixed level class, advanced modifications of a pose may be given, yet many students will not take these options and stick to the basic pose. Yoga isn’t a show or a performance, and everyone is focused on their own practice. You should never feel intimidated by what others around you may be doing. Making sure you opt for a class suited to you and even chatting to the teacher beforehand will ensure you feel entirely safe and comfortable in class and won’t feel out of your depth.
Ready to dive into the great world of yoga? We welcome many beginners to the practice on our Bali yoga retreat. A retreat is the perfect way to spend seven consecutive days showing up to the yoga mat and learning a little more as the week progresses. Our full time yoga teachers are with you every step of the way and cater to your exact needs and goals. We welcome all levels of yoga practitioners on retreat and no matter your age, level of experience or background, each class is designed to help you move forward on your yoga journey. Find out more about our Bali yoga retreat here.
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We invite you to experience our award-winning Bali retreat. If it’s time to fill up your cup and reconnect with yourself on a deeper level, we’d love to help you rejuvenate, unwind, reawaken and experience the very best of Bali. Dive into transformational yoga and meditation classes, exhilarating surf lessons in the warm waters of Bali, fun fitness classes and restorative healing sessions. How much or little you do is all up to you.