Guest Post by Kerry Donnelly, HR Expert and Yogi
“Some are merely intimidated by the idea of it and fear they won’t be able to keep up. Regardless of the reasons, there are misconceptions here that need to be addressed”
Before my very first yoga class, I feared that I’d be twisted up like a pretzel falling face down while chanting “om” in a dark room. I am relieved to say that I was never put in that predicament! While I’m so grateful to have had an open mind toward yoga, I know there’s still a great deal of skepticism out there preventing many of us from trying it out. Yoga is often portrayed as a having a spiritual, hippie cult-like following that you have to own $90 yoga pants in a size 4 to be part of. That concept alone is enough to deter many kinds of people. Others avoid yoga because they’re convinced it’s just a “fitness fad,” as it can sometimes come across via social media. Some are merely intimidated by the idea of it and fear they won’t be able to keep up. Regardless of the reasons, there are misconceptions here that need to be addressed. I decided to compile five of the most common myths I’ve heard and shed light on the truth for you.
I Don’t Have The Body For Yoga.
Let’s get this one out the way. Here’s the secret to have a yoga body: Have a body and do yoga. It’s as simple as that. Yoga comes in all shapes and sizes! And it certainly doesn’t matter . Teachers can always offer modifications for poses that may present a challenge for you.
I’m Not Flexible Enough For Yoga.
I have heard this countless times when trying to encourage friends, family and coworkers to try yoga. The truth is there are people who practice yoga every day and can barely touch their toes! Teachers understand that every body is different and will always offer modifications and support throughout the entire class. You’ll also be surprised what a heated room can do for your flexibility. The added temperature will significantly open up your joints and allow you to reach and stretch further than you thought possible. I have often come to the mat feeling like the Tin Man and left feeling like Gumby.
It’s Too Spiritual.
Yoga respects all beliefs – it does not force spirituality or religion upon anyone. I have actually found that most modern day yoga classes focus more on mindfulness than any form of spirituality. Teachers will typically offer guidance in the beginning or end of class, such as how to set an intention or focus on your breath. Often we are merely reminded to be present in the moment and forget about everything outside of the room (work, school, stress, etc.) We’re reminded to be conscious of what our bodies are feeling and what our minds are thinking. Is your heart racing when you raise your arms up? Is your breath shallow when you bend over? Are you present in this moment or are you thinking about something else? We’re encouraged to take the things that we cultivate throughout practice—like patience, gratitude and strength—off the mat and into our lives. You will, of course, encounter teachers who may be more spiritual than others, but you can make of it what you like. I have found that the spirituality aspect of yoga can actually be rather enlightening if approached with an open mind.
It’s Just For Women.
Like most group fitness classes, there’s no denying that you will see a greater percentage of women in yoga than men. But despite some opinions that yoga favors females, there are plenty of men who can prove otherwise. With benefits like improved strength and flexibility, cardiovascular and circulatory health, strengthened immunity, and decreased stress levels, why should something this good be exclusive to one gender?! And for guys who lift weights—there are added perks! Plenty of successful actually include yoga in their weekly routines as an active rest day away from the weights. Since yoga is proven to increase overall flexibility and mobility, it can ultimately lead to more success in the weight room. A heated yoga class will also open up any stiffness caused from the repetitive motions in weight training. Bodybuilding or not, don’t be afraid to get down, dog.
It’s Not A Real Workout.
A.K.A. it’s too easy, or it’s just a stretching session. When I hear this, I have to laugh. If you don’t consider push-ups, planks, crunches, lunges, squats and arm balances a workout, then I want to see your regimen. While the intensity level may vary among different types of yoga, most classes will keep your heartrate up relatively close to that of a cardio or strength workout. For a more vigorous, cardio-feeling flow, I recommend Power Yoga or a heated Vinyasa. You’ll even find some studios that offer a Yoga Sculpt class, where you’ll incorporate free weights into your flow. No matter what you choose, I promise you will sweat!
If I haven’t convinced you yet, I urge you to try this: Stand up straight on with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Lift your arms over head, drop your shoulders down, turn your palms in to face one another, and gaze to the sky. With your mouth gently closed, breathe in a long, deep inhale through your nose and pause at the top of your breath. As you exhale out your nose, gently brings your palms to touch as your swoop your hands down to meet at your heart. Take one more inhale here and close your eyes. Now bend at your waist as your exhale, folding your body in half on the way down. Let your head and your arms hang heavy. Inhale to rise back up with your arms at your side. Exhale your stress, pain, worries, fear, or anything that no longer serves you.
Congratulations! You just started your yoga journey.