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Yoga Myth Busting

What’s stopping you from giving it a go?

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I spent years ‘flirting’ with yoga. I’d dip in and out trying different styles, studios and teachers. Sometimes I would go years without going but it always pulled me back in. About seven years ago I found a really good teacher and class and finally started to take it seriously. This was after a period of intense stress in my life and I was out of shape physically and mentally. Over the next five years I found myself getting stronger, coping with stress better, making new friends, getting more confident and connecting my mind and body in a way I never had before. Subsequently two years ago I decided I to train to teach.

I first went to India and stayed in an ashram to learn some of the history and philosophy behind yoga, and also kick-start my training. On my return I started my foundation course, which I completed in 2016, and then went on to complete my Advanced Teacher Training last year. I also started teaching with my first class for a group of amazing mums who all have children with additional needs, which is still going now as Shine Mums, and have had other teaching opportunities, including my weekly drop-in Shine Yoga, at Yogafurie. The training course was hard work, but I could never have imagined just how much I would love teaching!

But I remember that nervousness about yoga, that curiosity about it, while worrying that it wasn’t really ‘for me’. I hear a lot of myths and misconceptions about yoga and I worry that some of them put people off even giving it a go. So if you’ve ever been tempted by yoga, but worried that it isn’t for you, I’ve tackled a few of the myths for you here. If afterwards you think you would like to give to ago then get in touch, or drop in to Shine yoga at 10am on Wednesday mornings.

You have to be flexible

I hear this myth the most. You do not have to be ‘flexible’ to do yoga. We all have different body patterns, some people, like me, are naturally flexible (actually I’m hyper-flexible, which means I’ve actually used yoga to gain more control of my flexibility, so really I am less flexible now), and some people have much tighter muscles, stiffer joints, or have genetic limitations in their range of movement.

Yoga helps you find space and length in the body; but if you have a lot of tightness, a good yoga teacher will be very gentle with you and help you find that openness bit by bit, whilst respecting your limitations.

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You have to be strong

Some people are flexible, but don’t actually have the accompanying strength, which can cause problems in later life. So building strength whether you are flexible (or not) is one of the first benefits people notice from yoga. Again, if you don’t feel strong at all, a good teacher will help you find poses and movements to build that strength.

The good news is the kinds of muscles you build from yoga are actually stronger and leaner than muscles you build from weight lifting!

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Only women do yoga

Yoga does seem to be popular with woman but it is no means a women only activity. Yoga was developed in India and for centuries was mainly practiced by men, and most of the well-known teachers and gurus spreading yoga through the West have been men. Men can gain a lot from yoga, especially the aforementioned space and openness in the body.

There is even a new yoga style developed for men called ‘Broga’ (because of course there is). Men are always welcome at my class!

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I can’t do it if I have a health condition

Obviously it depends on the condition and you might want to check with your GP or health specialist before you start yoga, but there are very few conditions that are totally contraindicated. Yoga can be a terrific medicine for the body – and mental health – and as long as you find a teacher with awareness of your condition and let them know before a class, there is no reason why you can’t practice, even if it’s just learning how to get the most out of your breath.

It might be worth booking a one-to-one with an experienced teacher or a teacher with physiotherapy experience to help you build an adapted practice that you can then implement in classes, or do at home.

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Yoga is for young skinny girls!

Alas yoga magazines, Youtube, Instagram and other social media platforms would have you believing that only skinny young white girls practice yoga; but this is not the case at all! Check out yogis such as Dana Falsetti, Jessamyn Stanley, or the infamous Täo Porchon-Lynch to see that there really is no such thing as a typical person who practices yoga!

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It’s not proper exercise

Oh I love this one. There is a great misconception that yoga is just about sitting around ‘breathing’ (as if learning to breathe properly isn’t a good thing), and isn’t ‘real’ exercise. Yoga is MORE than exercise, but if you’re looking for something to keep your body fit, strong, lean and supple then yoga will do all of those things. If you want to add in cardio too, try hot yoga, or go to a more dynamic flow class; but I assure you apart from walking and cycling to and from various studios, yoga is pretty much the only ‘exercise’ I do and it is more than enough to keep me fit and healthy!

Speak to anyone who comes to my classes and they’ll tell you that they feel like they’ve ‘worked out’ afterwards!

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It’s a religious thing

There certainly is a spiritual element to yoga, after all it did evolve as a spiritual practice in India and is closely linked with other practices such as meditation and chanting; but yoga is non denominational and non dogmatic and you don’t have to follow a religion to start learning yoga (nor are people of any faith turned away). You will find some teachers who are really into the philosophy and spiritual side of yoga and some who have taken elements of yoga and made them more Westernised; perhaps mixing them with other features such as dance, pilates, even boxing.

Just make sure that whatever your yoga teacher is teaching you, they are focusing on the breath – otherwise it’s just fancy keep fit, using yoga as a selling point. You need to find a teacher you resonate with. More than spirituality, yoga has links to psychology, neuroscience, anatomy and lots of interesting ancient folklore. However I must say don’t knock the spiritual and philosophical elements of yoga until you’ve at least had a look, as it can be really enriching to your practice, and your life; if you’re anything like me, you’ll start as a sceptic and end up as a geek!

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If you have any more questions about yoga, or my classes then please do get in touch. My email is emma@bristolshine.co.uk, or via the contact page, and I hope it see you at one of my classes soon!

 

 

 

 

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