I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately – I love how it makes me feel, especially after doing strength training and cardio all week. It really stretches my muscles and relaxes me.
What I’ve noticed recently is that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what yoga is and who it’s for. Whether yoga is completely foreign to you or you’re curious about it but have heard some of these myths in the past, I’m here to debunk them.
Without further ado, here are 5 of the most common yoga myths I hear:
- Myth #1: “Yoga is the only exercise I need.”
- Myth #2: “Yoga is only for thin, young people.”
- Myth #3: “Yoga is only for hippie vegetarians.”
- Myth #4: “Yoga is a religion.”
- Myth #5: “Yoga is too hard.”
Yoga Myth #1: “Yoga is the only exercise I need.”
To be fully transparent, yoga is not going to give you killer 6-pack abs. It just isn’t.
By itself, yoga won’t burn the number of calories you need to burn for weight loss. According to Isha Yoga, yoga is not an exercise. It’s a different dimension of fitness that’s subtle and gentle.
Yoga is all about stress relief, inner peace, and even improved emotional health. While it does bring on health benefits like better balance and flexibility, it’s not the heavy-hitting exercise you’ll need to slim down.
If you’re interested in burning calories, toning up, losing weight, or achieving 6-pack abs, you’re better off integrating strength training and cardio into your fitness routine.
However, don’t sleep on yoga! Yoga is a fantastic accompaniment to strength training. For example, practicing yoga enables you to have better breathing during your strength training sessions. Yoga helps you sustain endurance as you lift weights. It reduces your chances of serious injury, especially when lifting heavyweights.
These are all reasons I’ve really gotten into it lately.
Ultimately, yoga is an incredible addition to your fitness rotation, but don’t count on it to help you reach your weight loss goals.
Further Reading: Why It’s Good To Accompany Yoga With Strength Training
Yoga Myth #2: “Yoga is only for thin, young people.”
This yoga myth is thanks to advertising. Most of the images put out there about yoga are showcasing super fit, flexible, young yogis. When these images get stuck in your head, it makes you think these are the only kinds of people practicing yoga.
That’s so not true! Yoga is for everyone of all body shapes and all ages. Whether you’re pudgy or thin, young or old, yoga can deliver some incredible benefits to you.
According to a 2016 Yoga in America survey, only 19% of Americans who practice yoga are between 18-29. In reality, the vast majority are over 30, with nearly 40% falling into the 50+ category.
And no – you don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga. Flexibility is a result of yoga, not a prerequisite.
Yoga Myth #3: “Yoga is only for hippie vegetarians.”
A key component of yoga is encouraging inner peace, love of yourself, self-awareness, and connection. These are many of the same values that define the hippie movement.
And it’s true that many yoga instructors give off a so-called “hippie-dippy” vibe (Eric Stevens said it!). If you’re not into the whole hippie thing, yoga can be a turn-off, but that’s not really what yoga’s about.
Yoga offers something for everyone because, at its core, it’s inclusive of all. Yoga is about being intentional, listening to your mind and body, and being comfortable with stillness. Anyone can benefit from that!
As far as the vegetarian thing, it is true that yoga teachers are twice as likely to be vegetarians (Yoga Alliance). However, that doesn’t mean that meat-eaters can’t enjoy yoga! Walk into a yoga class, and you’re sure to be met with a diverse group of people, from hippie vegetarians to traditionalist carnivores.
Yoga Myth #4: “Yoga is a religion.”
Yoga is often closely associated with Hinduism, not only because it has prospered in this culture, but also because yoga’s concepts are sometimes invoked through mantras or chants.
In addition, there is a spiritual aspect of yoga. Through the movements and poses, the inner reflection often helps awaken your spirituality as you heighten your focus and relax.
However, yoga is not a religion, and you shouldn’t worry that you’re going against your own religion if you try yoga. I get asked about this a lot, but there’s nothing to worry about there. You can’t “convert” to yoga.
If anything, the practice of yoga can help you strengthen your own faith as you have the stillness and focus to reflect internally. Various yoga experts actually refer to yoga as a science or technology, so really, the idea that yoga is a religion is a major myth!
Yoga Myth #5: “Yoga is too hard.”
Last but not least, many think that they can’t try out yoga because it’s too hard.
Watching videos of young women twisting their bodies into pretzel-like positions – or even doing some basic stretches and holding the pose for a while – can quickly demotivate you.
“I can’t do that!” I often hear people say of difficult yoga poses. If you have trouble touching your toes or standing on one foot, don’t be discouraged! No one expects you to come into a yoga class on the first day and master tricky poses!
In fact, many pregnant women enjoy yoga, and they can assure you that their bodies couldn’t possibly contort into the yoga poses of the masters.
The whole point of yoga is to go at your own pace and listen to your body. The environment of a yoga classroom is full of acceptance, no judgment or criticism, and peace. Over time, your body will develop a greater range of motion, your flexibility will surprise you, and you’ll get all the other yoga benefits like stress relief and endurance.
As with anything, you’ll get better at yoga the more you practice. For most people, I tell them to expect more confidence and the ability to perform steady poses after about six months of regular practice.
Don’t Be Scared to Try Yoga!
While magazine covers and YouTube videos can make yoga seem scary and intimidating, I hope you realize that it’s quite the opposite.
Yoga is open to everyone, and it’s a great addition to your other fitness efforts.
Try out a yoga class at McClure! We offer classes for all yoga levels, so you can start wherever you’re currently at. There’s also yoga available on McClure Fitness Online if you’d like to do yoga with me.