I recently moved to a more conservative community, where yoga isn't yet as natural a part of life as it's become in places like California and London. While advocating strongly for yoga as a lifestyle, I've come across a number of limiting beliefs about yoga that prevent people from getting involved in this magical practice. It’s time for these to be exposed…. and thrown in the trash.
1. Those yoga people are flexible. I can’t even touch my toes.
Telling yourself that you're not flexible enough for yoga is like saying you're too dirty to take a bath. Noticing your own inflexibility is a sign that you need to do something different to look after your body. Yoga is that something different.
2. I don’t have time for something that doesn’t offer a real workout. I do work, home and gym.
Yoga isn't your ordinary workout. You'll work on strength, balance, endurance, muscle tone, and stretching muscles that haven't been stretched for years. You'll have to create space in your spine so you can move properly again and achieve strength in places not known before to support your lengthened and strengthened muscles, joints and vertebrae. To top it all off, you'll need to find a way to let go, breathe, release, establish softness and — god forbid — relax and expand your mind. Real workout? No, better.
3. I'll look ridiculous trying these funny moves.
What's ridiculous is depriving yourself of what you need out of fear of what others will think. Forget about others and they'll forget about you. You could worry about what you look like, or you could have fun with it. At worst, you have a laugh; at best, you do your body the biggest favor ever.
4. I can’t actually do the postures.
Just because you don’t know how to do it today doesn’t mean you wont know how to do it in the future. Do yourself a favor and cut yourself some slack. You're new at this, so taking a bit of time to learn is an exciting journey to embark on. The journey is what it's about. There is no destination.
5. I'll be the only person who doesn’t know what to do.
In a beginners class, everyone is still finding their way in yoga. Practice in yoga means to try, fall (smile), get up and try again. So you fell over. So what? In the bigger scheme of things, I'm sure you can think of worse things that could happen. Pick a beginners class with others just like you!
6. What I've seen in the yoga photos is beyond what I will ever be capable of.
No two people have the same bodies, and no two people look the same in a yoga posture. Once the posture has been set up safely, you are free to explore where your body needs to go. The success of yoga is measured by the joy and peace your practice brings — not the shapes you can make with your body. If you're capable of embracing this notion — you are capable of doing mind-blowing, amazing yoga.
7. Yoga is a weird cult/religion/foreign cultural practice.
Yoga was born in India but no one owns it. Your yoga is just that: YOURS. It’s a practice for YOUR health, vitality, balance and strength. It’s simply not true to say that it's a religion or cult, and anyone trying to make it one doesn’t understand the beauty of yoga.
8. I’m not vegetarian … and I don’t want to hear that I should be.
Some of the best yogis I have had the good fortune of meeting the world over weren’t vegetarians or vegans. Some were. Some ate red meat, some didn’t. Some at fish and others didn’t even talk about animal products, never mind eat them. Some drank alcohol, and some even drank too much. Some probably needed a wine. See what I’m getting at? There's no judgement, and you don’t need to "convert" to anything.
I hope that squashes some of the misconceptions and unfounded fears for aspiring beginner yogis. Get yourself in a yoga class! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You have more to be worried about in terms of your health and wellbeing if you continue to live in a state of contraction, tension, pain, inflexibility and unnecessary limitation. Love yourself enough to bring yoga into your life.