Thinking of starting Yoga but going to a group class fills you with doubt...? It's very common; we are so often bombarded with images of super flexible bodies in impossible yoga postures that our perception of Yoga can unfortunately become a bit distorted.
Let’s go over some misconceptions about yoga and put a few things straight; alongside some reasons why you should take the plunge and go to that Yoga class you’ve been thinking of...
A common misconception is that you need to be flexible to do Yoga... This is like saying you need to be an artist to go to an art class or that you're too dirty to take a shower!
Flexibility is an attribute that we practice and work on every time we step on our mat. Being physically inflexible is actually a blessing in disguise as you can learn to do the poses with safe alignment within your capabilities, helping you to avoid injuries that can come with over-stretching.
Why Yoga: It will improve your flexibility over time and this will help you move more freely within your individual range of movement.
I’ve heard this too many times; people think they should be already fit before they start yoga. Wrong again! There are so many types of yoga classes out there, there is a class out there to suit your fitness level, and as a bonus it'll help you gently increase your fitness too.
Why Yoga: Start slow, stay kind to yourself, keep on going to class and you will feel your fitness level improving.
Stretching vs Strength
Yoga is not only about stretching; it cultivates strength too. Yoga engages the whole body by activating and strengthening muscles and by encouraging correct alignment so that we can safely lengthen the muscles. This conditions the body in such a way that you feel stronger and leaner.
Why Yoga: Most beginners that I have come across (including myself when I started) will tell you that they were surprised by how much strength is required. Good news is, that this will also come with time.
Yoga is too slow
Well there isn’t much of a myth to bust here; most Yoga is slow! (There are fast paced classes too, but as a beginner you'd be better off giving these a miss until you know your basics). Years back when I tried my first yoga class, being at the peak of my dance career I did find it rather slow... It was a few classes later that I started appreciating how a slower practice brings the focus inwards; the space it creates not only in the body but the mind as well.
Why Yoga: Slowing down means we can pay more attention to the sensations arising in the body. Being mindful is a great skill to acquire and can help us in our everyday lives to be able to stay calm and present.
The biggest thing to remember is that Yoga is personal and it should adjust to your needs, not the other way around. Our body is the living representation of who we are, the emotions that we have felt and the way that we live. It's a beautiful and tangible way to self-understanding and discovery. Yoga is a tool that is accessible to all; it's an investment in yourself. By taking that first step on the mat, you are already starting a dialogue of self-enquiry and beginning your personal journey to your own wellness. So why not give it a try?
Intelligent Yoga, Re-educating Mind and Body. Peter Blackaby