Yoga Rockford: Beginning yoga and dispelling the myths

By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio

Many misconceptions about yoga unfortunately seem to be supported by the covers of popular magazines. If someone wants to begin yoga and looks to the cover of the most recent publication, they typically see a skinny, white female performing an overtly-advanced posture. Though these covers may sell magazines to those already practicing, they definitely aren’t showing the raw beginner what yoga has to offer them. So, as I now have three specifically beginner classes on the schedule, a FREE week of yoga coming up March 1-5, and a new session starting March 8. I am hoping to dispel some of the most common “myths” and invite all those interested in yoga to finally give it a try.

Myth No. 1: “I can’t do yoga. I’m not flexible.”

Well, that is exactly one good reason to begin. I, personally, could not touch the floor when I started, and found out I was tight in many other places as well. Through practice and perseverance, I am now able to do many things I never thought I would; even the simple seems amazing. And with Iyengar Yoga, the type of yoga taught at Pranayama Yoga Studio, most classes are specifically designed for those who are stiff or who might have other ailments. With a focus on alignment of the body and the use of props, there is a lot of guidance and support for those who are just beginning or have certain issues they need to deal with.

Myth No. 2: “Real men don’t do yoga.”

As a matter of fact, from its inception thousands of years ago, the majority of people doing yoga were men. To this day, most Eastern gurus are still men as a result of traditional values. But, as we know, times have changed, and this is the West. So, because Western men seem not as inclined toward the “spiritual arts and sciences,” yoga has attracted more women. The misconception that yoga is a “softer” exercise of “only stretching” has not helped men connect to it, either. The truth is, yoga offers a great balance of strength and flexibility. It is something that can complement any other training that we do and, in many cases, is a necessity to staying limber and more focused in other activities. Specifically, Iyengar Yoga speaks well to men, having a more “mechanical” approach and an ability to introduce the spiritual in a very practical manner.

Myth No. 3: “Yoga is too easy. I won’t be challenged.”

People who think this have obviously not been in a yoga class, at least not an Iyengar Yoga class. Merely learning how to stand better can be a huge challenge to even the “fittest” person. The work of yoga is like nothing else we do in our normal day-to-day. We are challenged in every class to change our old bad habits and create new and better ones, both bodily and mentally. Even the beginner classes (or especially the beginner classes) can be a challenge because it is there that we must face our most blatant issues: tight hamstrings, stiff hips, stressed nervous system, wandering and distracted mind, etc.

Myth No. 4: “I’m too old, too fat, too whatever…”

NOT! For me, the beauty of yoga is that it is for everyone. Every age, shape and size of person has their own beginning. One of my best friends from Texas started at the age of 63 and is now pushing 70 and on her way to certification. I am naturally more stocky and stiff than skinny and supple, but receive maximum benefit from practice. Ninety-five-year-old Mr. Iyengar has been through illness and debilitating accidents and still practices three hours a day. The poses are designed to heal, the props can help us through our toughest obstacles, and every day is a new adventure no matter who you are.

Don’t let these “myths” continue to be excuses. We all approach yoga from our own body and with our own mind. As long as we have a sincere desire to better our self, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or all of the above, yoga has something to offer. All we have to do is begin.

For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit or call (815) 968-9642.

From the Feb. 24-Mar. 2, 2010 issue

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