Like many who've wandered into a yoga studio for the first time, I had my own beliefs about yoga and what it could offer me.
I even made sure to get to the gym early so I could get a "real" workout in before yoga class. I convinced myself I wouldn't make it through class because I don't like to sit still and just the thought of meditation stressed me out.
Yoga was also intimidating because I was far from being able to do the splits or comfortably fold myself in half. Also, I wasn't ready to replace chocolate with granola, so I wasn't sure how accepted I'd be in a community of yogis.
Fortunately, all of the beliefs I had about yoga were as far from the truth as I could've imagined.
Here's a rundown of the myths I believed about yoga:
1. You have to be flexible to do yoga.
Yoga is all about accepting yourself and others as we are. You don’t have to come to yoga with flexibility. This is what you'll develop by deepening your practice and melting a little more into each pose. More importantly: the greatest flexibility you need for yoga (and also what you gain from yoga) is flexibility of the mind.
2. You have to be able to sit still to meditate.
Meditation does not mean allowing no thoughts to enter your mind and to sit perfectly silent and still. Meditation actually allows you to process thoughts, accept them, and move on. For some, moving meditation is the best way to accomplish this. You can be walking and meditating or even biking and meditating. Yoga itself is a moving meditation.
3. You have to be calm and earthy.
Some yogis may be calm and earthy, but you can make yoga your own. It can mean something different to everyone and there is no requirement that you recycle or grow your own food in order to enter a yoga studio. The less calm you are, the more you may be able to benefit from yoga.
4. You’re choosing a “softer” workout instead of a real one.
Like most things, you get out of yoga what you put into it. If you’re looking for a less strenuous workout or have an injury, you can modify poses to cause less strain. If you’re looking to increase your heart rate and build strength, you can find that in your yoga practice as well. Activating your muscles appropriately, being aware of your form, and focusing on proper breathing, can make poses as challenging as you want them to be.
5. Yoga is a religion.
Some people find spirituality in yoga and some people treat yoga as a religion, but you can be part of whatever religion you like and still gain the benefits of yoga. Yoga is no more a religion than running is a religion. While many runners find spirituality or meditation on their runs, many yogis find the same during their practice, but your studio is not a church in which you will be pressured in any way.