by Tracy Badders
The hardest part of doing yoga is walking into your first class. Before I started practicing yoga, what kept me from walking into my first class were a short list of preconceived notions that were actually myths. Yoga classes help you conquer fears and overcome your ego (generally, the things that keep you from taking a yoga class in the first place).
In case you carry some of these same misconceptions about yoga, keep reading to bust these myths and get to the truths:
Myth: Yoga is a religion.
“The individual is not required to believe in any religious dogma, and there are no prescribed modes of worship. The yoga practitioner can be of any religious persuasion and, true to this, many people find that their personal belief is strengthened through their practice.” This is from Yoga The Iyengar Way by B.K.S. Iyengar. Personally, I am a Christian who uses yoga to exercise, stretch and as a guide to live a healthy lifestyle.
No, yoga is not a way to worship idols through physical poses; instead it is a way to form an inner connection between breath, body and mind. It is also a way to form connections with other people. There are plenty of things in this world that create separations between people such as politics, religion, age, race, etc. I use yoga as a mediator to bring us all together as one human race. Deep down our core beliefs lead us to a common want of overall happiness, for ourselves and for others.
Myth: Yoga is only for flexible people.
This is like saying bodybuilding is only for strong people or exercise is only for thin people or college is only for smart people. Through the practice, we gain the result. In the case of yoga, flexibility is gained through a regular yoga practice.
Myth: There is only one kind of yoga.
Many people think that if they go to one yoga class that all other classes are the same. Fortunately there are plenty of different yoga stylesmto best suit your needs. Even within the same type of yoga, the instructors’ styles may vary from class to class.
Myth: Yoga is only intended for women.
Yoga is available and beneficial for every person and every body. Some of the benefits of doing yoga include mental focus, stress relief, preventative therapy, and the ability to overcome adversities quickly and healthfully. These benefits aren’t greater for women than men – they are available equally to all.
Myth: The goal of yoga is to perfect each pose.
Yoga means “to unite.” Yoga classes help unite the body and the mind, often while strengthening the spirit. In many exercises, we make our bodies fit the workout. In yoga, we make the poses fit our bodies. Good yoga instructors emphasize ways to modify poses to make them either easier or more difficult. I like to say that the goal of yoga is not to perfect each pose but to find your edge. Edge in yoga means finding the balance between pushing yourself beyond what your mind says you can’t do, and humbling yourself to modify to the things that could possibly harm you.
Myth: Yoga only involves physical exercise.
Some people think of yoga as a group of people doing yoga poses. By now you hopefully recognize that yoga is much more than just poses; yoga is a lifestyle of balancing between stretching and strengthening, work and play, physical and emotional goals, etc. Yoga has codes of ethics called eight limbs. The limbs include truthfulness, compassion for all living things, self study, the art of breathing, physical practice (poses), the study of the self and more. This code was created to interlink the various elements of yoga practice to achieve a greater awareness of ourselves internally and of our relationships with others.
Although stepping in to take your first yoga class may be a bit scary, hopefully you have a better understanding of all yoga can offer. You may even be willing to try a few different styles to see which fits you best. Take that first step, and enjoy discovering more about yoga as you discover more about yourself in the process.
Tracy Badders, E-RYT, is the owner of VIP Yoga Texas, which is a Yoga Alliance Approved 200 Hour School. Tracy teaches group yoga classes at various fitness centers and studios and is offering a 200-hour Flow Yoga Teacher Training that begins Nov. 7 and continues through Feb. 28, 2015. For more information about VIP Yoga Texas and the upcoming yoga teacher training course, visit www.vipyoga.webs.com.