Yoga is becoming more and more popular. 36 million people practiced yoga in 2016, up from 20.4 million in 2012, according to the Yoga in America Study from 2016 (released by the Yoga Alliance).
According to the Yoga Alliance, the advantages of regular practice can be extensive and include pain reduction, enhanced strength and flexibility, stress alleviation, better breathing, weight management, cardiovascular conditioning, better circulation, and a calmer mood.
And while almost every variation of this age-old practice combines some strength, flexibility, and breath training to enhance both physical and mental well-being, not all practices are the same. Yoga comes in a wide variety of styles, from calming restorative exercises to strenuous, sweaty workouts.
So, if you want to start practicing yoga, you do have a number of possibilities. And if any of the aforementioned yoga myths have been preventing you from giving it a try, don’t let them.
1. I’m Not Flexible
It’s understandable why you might assume yoga is exclusively for flexible people given the abundance of yogis on social media who can move their bodies in unfathomable ways. But now is the time to face reality.
According to Samantha Clayton, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer and yoga instructor coach who holds certifications from both the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the International Sports Science Association (ISSA), you don’t practice yoga because you’re already flexible; rather, you do it to improve your flexibility and mobility. Every position can be altered to meet your current level of flexibility because “we all have to start somewhere,” according to the author.
For all levels of exercisers, yoga (and the stretching you’ll perform as part of it) is beneficial. While you might never be able to stretch as far as the Instagram yogis, over time, your flexibility will increase. According to Clayton, who is also the vice president of global sports performance and fitness for Herbalife Nutrition and a former Olympic runner, most people begin feeling a difference after three to four weeks of training.
2. I Have Back Pain
Good news: Your back pain shouldn’t prevent you from applying. Samantha Parker, an exercise physiologist in the United States Air Force in Washington, DC, a Yoga Alliance-certified yoga instructor, and an International Association of Yoga-certified yoga therapist, claims that yoga can be customized for practically any medical condition (meaning she is trained to modify yoga practices for various health and medical issues).
For instance, Parker notes that certain poses would need to be changed if you have glaucoma (a condition that affects the optic nerves in your eyes) because you need to avoid lowering your head below your heart.
Although health conditions shouldn’t prevent you from doing yoga, Parker advises checking with your doctor to see if there are any movements you shouldn’t be doing if you do have a health condition.
Then, before the yoga session, speak with the instructor to let him or her know you have specific moves you need to avoid. Your instructor should be able to demonstrate different stance modifications to help you achieve that. (If your instructor is a licensed yoga therapist, she or he can suggest modifications for certain medical issues, says Parker.)
3. I’m worried that my religious beliefs and the spiritual side of things may clash.
Despite being frequently culturally linked to Buddhism and Hinduism, yoga can be performed in a wholly secular manner and does not require any particular religious views, according to the Yoga Alliance.
However, Parker asserts that yoga does foster the concepts of serenity and purpose, which some people mistake for spirituality. If you don’t like that, look for yoga courses and instructors who only emphasize the physical side of the practice.
4. Yoga Is for Women
According to the 2016 Yoga in America report, women do make up the bulk of yoga practitioners (72 percent vs. 28%), however everyone interested in fitness can benefit from yoga.
Everyone benefits from increased joint mobility, range of motion, and general core stability, according to Clayton. He claims that these advantages can assist men and women with performance goals in a variety of activities, including weightlifting, jogging, and more. Yoga also incorporates many of the smaller stabilizing muscles and tendons that may not receive the same attention and stimulation with other workouts, and it also helps to build good posture and muscular control.
5. Yoga Is Just Glorified Stretching
Stretching is a big part of yoga, but you’re getting more than simply flexibility and mobility. Additionally, you’re gaining muscle. According to Clayton, several of the exercises call for bearing your own body weight as resistance, which can increase muscle strength and stamina.
For instance, a 12-week yoga program enhanced a group of healthy adults’ flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and muscular strength and endurance, according to a study that was published in June 2015 in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
6. I Don’t Have Much Time to Practice Yoga
When Parker learns about this myth, she is not subtle. You just choose to use your time on other things, she continues, even when you have time to spare.
She also asserts that there is no required minimum or maximum duration for doing yoga. Yoga sessions can be brief or long, depending on your goals and the reasons you practice. However, even short yoga sessions can improve mood, reduce stress, and improve physical fitness. To reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and relieve pain, Parker advises performing easy yoga poses at your workstation. To have the same results, you might also do Sun Salutations for five minutes in the morning or at night.
7. Yoga Will Prevent Other Forms of Training
Yoga complements practically every other physical exercise, according to experts, because of its restorative, strengthening, and contemplative qualities. According to Parker, “If your muscles are tight, they are also weak, and if you lack flexibility, you can’t reach the muscle’s full power potential.” Yoga could help you improve your performance in other exercises like strength training and aerobics.
Yoga also provides those muscles with the much-needed rest they need after other activities. According to Parker, “most yoga is intended to heal and support active healing.”
According to Parker, the secret is to select the perfect practice to counterbalance the various sorts of activity you engage in. If your main goal is strength training, search for a yoga practice that emphasizes flexibility and mobility. Consider finding a yoga practice that will aid in your strength development if you spend the majority of your time performing cardio. Or, if you’re on a rigorous training schedule for a forthcoming race or event, try a restorative yoga session.