Unlike any other form of exercise, sport or training, yoga is a practice for the heart, mind, body and soul. To many, this ancient spiritual practice is a way of life, whilst to some it’s a hearty daily workout. Some practice it as a form of meditation and others as an exercise in unwinding and relieving stress.
Regardless how you choose to practise yoga and no matter what your goal, the benefits are limitless and there are no reasons not to begin now. Whether you’re old, short, fat, thin, atheist, Buddhist, tall, young or unfit, yoga teaches us that nobody is any better than anybody else. We are all simply doing our best with the tools and instruments we have been given and by continued yoga practice we can finally let go and be liberated of ego.
If you have never practised yoga and are baffled by all the positions and Indian names or daunted by the prospect of exercising with svelte, nimble young girls or well-proportioned muscular men, do not be fearful. People who practise yoga are just like you: of all ages, abilities and body shapes, and the only way to improve is to keep practising. In this article we hope to dispel some of the most common myths about yoga.
You have to be supple to practice yoga
Ok, so it may help if you can touch your toes and bend your back, but yoga is not a competition. Everyone’s body is unique and each body bends and folds differently. What’s even better is that the more frequently you practise yoga the more pliable and supple you become. As the routine becomes a habit, your body will soften and ease into the positions, and as you improve technically your body will continue to change too.
You have to be young and skinny
Don’t be daunted by social media images and magazines portraying a young, toned and taut yogi, whose slim frame bends and stretches as her body defies gravity. Yes there are plenty of young and slim yogis, but the beauty of yoga is that you can be of any ability level, any age and any body type. A beginner can be forty, fifty or even sixty years old. One of the most important principles of yoga is that there is no competition. We are not in a struggle to be better, slimmer, more toned or bendy than our peers. We are only in competition with ourselves; to be better than we were yesterday.
Yoga is for ‘spiritual people’
Although yoga is at core a spiritual practice and many find that the physical routine of it can become a gateway into spiritual exploration in time leading to a spiritual awakening, it is not a vital component to an enjoyable yoga practice. No matter what is the nature of your beliefs, religion, ideology or lack thereof, there are no rules or requirements in order to benefit from yoga. Apart from the spiritual goals, the physical postures of yoga can be used to alleviate health problems as well as to reduce stress, and even the most stubborn spiritual sceptic cannot deny the physical benefits of this feel-good, low-impact workout.
Yoga is not a real workout
If you think that yoga is just sitting in funny positions and balancing in pretty poses, then you are in for a great surprise. Whilst stretching and balancing make up much of the foundations, yoga classes can be rigorous hardcore workouts for the whole body, ranging from hot yoga classes that demand great stamina to intense and concentrated position classes that require great core strength as you use your own body to support your weight.
Of course there are gentler classes, such as Hatha Yoga and other slow-flowing classes, but it is fair to say that the more you put in the more you will get back. The deeper into a position you stretch, the suppler you will become and the greater the change you will notice in your body. So the more you practise and the deeper you go, the easier yoga will be for you.
It’s a gentle, unforced way of looking and feeling good, so why not start today!