As a yoga instructor, I hear plenty of excuses why people do not do yoga.  But the truth is most of the reasons given are simply that, just excuses.  One of the most common things I hear from people all the time is “Oh I could never do yoga, because I’m not flexible.”  Over and over I have heard these words; along with many other reasons people avoid trying yoga.  I’m here to dispel the fears, disprove the popular myths and prove once and for all that yoga is for everyone!  
 
 
Myth 1—I am not flexible enough to do yoga 
Absolutely false!  Most yoga practitioners were not flexible before they started, but that is not a reason to skip yoga, it is all the more reason to do yoga.  Speaking from my own personal experience, I couldn’t touch my toes when I first started yoga. I couldn’t stand on one foot.  I couldn’t do a headstand.  And I STILL can’t put my feet behind my head.  That’s ok though!  In yoga classes we use props to assist us in the various poses, making our arms longer, are legs shorter, helping us balance and with repeated practice, the body begins to open up throughout.  But if you can’t touch your toes now, sitting on the couch isn’t going to make you any more flexible.
 
 
Myth 2—All yogis are thin
Yogis come in all shapes and sizes.  I have studied with several world class instructors who were not rail thin.  In fact, I have taken yoga classes in India with a very famous Indian instructor that was over 6’ 3” and weighed several hundred pounds.  Compared with the very small size and stature of most Indians, he seemed enormous.  And yet, underneath it all, he was strong and his body was supple.  He could flow through the poses with fluidity and grace.  And when he laughed, the whole room seemed to shake, he was so powerful!  I really loved his classes and learned so much from him.  Do not be afraid to try yoga because of your size or shape.  Yoga teaches us to appreciate the differences within our own bodies, and love ourselves just the way we are. 
 
Myth 3—Yoga is for women
Yoga originated in India over 5000 years ago, and since this time, it has been practiced primarily by men.  Although women from upper class families in India sometimes practiced yoga inside the home, and it wasn’t until yoga came to the west that it became common for women to practice.  And still in many areas of the world, men still dominate the practice.  Anyone who is looking to advance themselves physically, mentally or spiritually should try yoga, regardless of gender.
 
Myth 4—Yoga is just a fancy name for stretching 
Yoga is much more than just stretching.  Within yoga, you have physical postures, which are dynamic in that they not only increase flexibility, but also strength, balance, coordination and cardiovascular endurance.  But yoga is a workout for your mind and spirit as well.  There are 8 limbs of yoga which include ethical guidelines towards ourselves and others, physical postures, breathing exercise, concentration, meditation, breathing exercises and more.  Moreover, yoga is a 5000 year old science of holistic wellness which can be used to cure disease and ailments and ultimately liberate the practitioner from the ties to the material world. 
 
Myth 5—Yoga is a sport
Yoga is about what is going on within us, not around us.  We begin to quiet the mind and turn our focus inwards.  We also learn to root ourselves in the present, letting go of our tendencies to spend all of our time in our heads, planning for the future or reminiscing about the past.  I often tell my students, “Yoga is not a competitive sport.  If you are spending your time in class worrying about how you look compared to the person in the front row, then you are missing the point of yoga!”     
 
Myth 5—Yoga is a religion
Although yoga was commonly practiced within India by Sages and Saddhus (holy men) yoga is not a religion in itself, nor is it connected to any religion.  It is, however, a spiritual practice and encourages the practitioner to connect more deeply with whatever spiritual traditions they are drawn to.
 
Myth 6—I can’t do yoga with certain injuries or health conditions
Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies and be mindful of what is going on in and around us.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do yoga if you have an injury or condition.  There are various modifications for most of the poses and you can work with your yoga instructor to develop a sequence of poses suited to your individual needs.  Also, there are numerous class options; including gentle yoga and therapeutic yoga that are specially designed to give the practitioner modifications they can work with.  And often, yoga can be used as a tool for healing the body.  Talk with your doctor and your yoga instructor to see if yoga can help you! 
 
Myth 7— I am too old to do yoga
No one is too young or too old to do yoga.  I know moms who practice yoga while pregnant, and then after giving birth, they take their babies to mommy and me yoga classes.  There is also yoga for kids, yoga for teens, yoga for seniors, and everyone in between.  I have been blessed to take yoga classes with Yogi Swami Yogananda in India, he is 101 years old.  And he still practices every day, and is a testament to the benefits of yoga in your life. So happy and healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him teach yoga for another 10 years! 
   
So now get out there and find yourself a class that resonates with you.  I recommend trying several different instructors and styles.  Don’t just stop at the first class.  And believe me when I say, hot yoga is not for everyone.  Neither is Vinyasa.  Find a class that suits your needs and is level appropriate.  I encourage you to talk to the instructor ahead of time and find out what is to be expected, let them know of any fears or concerns you may have, as well as any injuries or limitations.  And then get to moving on the mat.  And don’t forget to have fun! 
 
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