If you’ve never tried yoga, chances are you probably have some misconceptions about the practice. For starters, it’s not just for women and it’s not just for hippies. With September being yoga awareness month, it seems a good time to debunk some of the most common misconceptions about yoga so that you can get your om on.
1. There are much easier ways to relax – like having a glass of wine.
Yes, a glass of red wine can be relaxing and has its own health benefits, but there’s no contest when compared to the physical and mental health benefits yoga offers. Studies have shown that yoga can not only relieve stress and anxiety and fight depression, it can also help improve your memory, lower blood pressure, help you sleep better, alleviate chronic pain, boost your sex life and improve digestion. Watch this video with integrative medicine expert Mosaraf Ali, MD, to find out how yoga can also help relieve headache pain.
2. You have to be flexible to do yoga.
Inflexibility is actually one of the best reasons to start doing yoga. Most people aren’t like Gumby. They can’t fold their body in half or touch their toes. But over time, yoga will help you become more flexible. Just remember to work within your body’s limits. Blocks and blankets, called props, can be used to modify poses and support your body as you learn them. Most people aren’t born super flexible, that’s why it’s called a yoga practice. Just keep working at it and you’ll be touching your toes in no time.
3. There is only one style of yoga – and it’s not for me.
That’s like saying there is only one style of shoes! The styles of yoga range from slow and gentle to athletic and vigorous. There’s Hatha, Kundalini, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Power Yoga and the list just keeps going. Yoga is not a one-size-fits-all type of exercise. Make a point of trying out different studios and teachers to help you figure out the perfect-for-you yoga class.
4. Yoga isn’t a workout.
While yoga isn’t about doing fast movements to Lady Gaga music blasting in the background, it certainly increases your heart rate and can help you lose weight. It also works your major muscle groups, challenges your balance, and helps build endurance (imagine holding plank pose for an entire minute!) Not to mention you can burn anywhere from 500 to 700 calories in an hour-long Power Yoga class.
5. Yoga can ruin your body.
A widely publicized story in the New York Times shook up the yoga world a year ago when a highly respected yoga teacher of four decades said that many people should give up yoga because of the risk of injuring themselves. Well, of course you can get hurt doing yoga. The same goes for any physical activity, whether you’re running or riding a bike. But in general yoga is safe when it’s done correctly. Injuries usually happen when people are misaligned in a posture or they push their body beyond its limits. That’s why it’s so crucial to practice yoga with qualified, knowledgeable instructors. On the flipside, yoga can promote healing. If you have an injury, consult with your doctor about adding yoga to your recovery plan. If you do try a class, be sure to speak to the teacher before it begins to let him or her know of your condition. Namaste!