For anyone practicing yoga as a beginner, these are common misconceptions. But it’s important to understand yoga myths and reality along with the misconceptions before stepping on your yoga mat.
Yoga myths and reality | Misconceptions about yoga
When I ask my friends to practice yoga with me, the standard response is either an enthusiastic “yes” or a “no way.” To the dissenters I’ll ask, “why not?” To which they’ll say any variation of the following:
- “It hurts.”
- “It’s uncomfortable.”
- “I’m no good at yoga.”
- “I’m not flexible enough.”
Let’s take a look at each idea one by one:
Yoga should never hurt. Ever.
If you are in a pose and experience pain, you should back out of the pose immediately. Pain is your body saying, “you’ve gone too far.” And going too far will do nothing but harm.
It’s remarkably easy to stretch or pull a muscle, and feeling pain is the first sign that something isn’t right. By harming your body, you’ll not only suffer, but you’ll slow your any progress made during your practice.
I admit, sometimes yoga is uncomfortable. But here is where the misconception comes in: feeling uncomfortable is actually good thing, not a bad thing. In order to allow change to occur in your body, you have to feel some level of discomfort. Don’t fight this discomfort – embrace it. It’s a necessary thing to improving your asana practice.
Be cautious, however. There is a fine line between discomfort and pain. Hold a pose and allow discomfort, but as soon as you feel pain – back out of the pose slightly.
I’m no good at yoga.” or “I’m not flexible enough
If you’ve ever found yourself thinking this, ask yourself: “what does it really mean?” In order to answer that question, you must first define what it means to be “good at yoga” or “flexible enough.”
But this is actually impossible to define. There will always be someone “better” or “more flexible” than even the most well-respected yogi in the world.
Try this little experiment to better understand what I mean: first, think of the most flexible person you know. This person could be a famous gymnast, a famous yoga teacher, or that girl in yoga class.
Do you have someone in mind? Now, I’m assuming you picked this person because you believe they are “flexible.” Specifically, they are flexible when compared to you. For example, you would not have picked someone less flexible than you are.
Now what if I told you this person you picked is not actually “flexible.” Would you believe me?
Now remember that person you thought was so flexible a moment ago? Do you think they are flexible now that you’ve seen the amazing flexibility displayed in the video above? Probably not.
The point here is that by playing the comparison game you only set yourself up to lose. And the point of yoga is not to lose, the point of yoga is to win by growing spiritually, mentally, and physically – wherever your start point may be.
As to the physical practice of yoga – or the asanas – the goal is not to attain the full pose. Instead, the goal is to enjoy each pose in whatever way you can practice it today.
Take this scenario: let’s say you are only flexible enough to touch your knees. Now let’s say your neighbor is flexible enough to touch her toes.
Now imagine you both practice yoga asanas every day and push yourself far enough to feel a bit of discomfort, but not far enough to feel pain.
Who is practicing the physical aspect of yoga better?
The answer is both of you are practicing equally well. Why?
Because it doesn’t matter where you start, but how you practice.