By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
There are many reasons to try yoga, although it’s not surprising that many misconceptions persist among the general public about the practice and what it entails. Covers of popular magazines commonly depict young, skinny, white, scantily-clad females impressively performing advanced postures. Though this may sell magazines to those already hooked on yoga, potential beginners are given the wrong impression. I, myself, still hear many common “myths” from those who have yet to try a class. So, in my continued efforts to encourage people just to try yoga, I have addressed some common misconceptions below.
Misconception 1: “I’m not flexible, so I can’t do yoga.”
Inflexibility may be one of the best reasons to begin a yoga practice. The balance of strength and flexibility that yoga practice provides can protect us from common injuries that happen with simple missteps and falls — especially as we age. I, personally, could not touch the floor when I started, and I soon found I was tight in many other positions as well. But the practice of yoga has given me the ability to do many things I never thought I would, including many simple everyday things like standing straighter and having more energy and endurance. Especially in the Iyengar Yoga method taught at Pranayama Yoga Studio, classes are specifically sequenced to bring progress in every student, no matter how stiff or with whatever ailment they might be working through. With a focus on alignment of the body and the use of props, the Iyengar method works at a pace accessible to all body types.
Misconception 2: “Men don’t do yoga.”
Since historically the majority of yoga practitioners have been men, this is a strange assumption. To this day, most traditional Eastern yoga teachers are men. But, when yoga hit the West, it came mostly through “New-Age” spiritual movements, giving it a “softer” image. This softer image and the misconception that yoga is “only stretching” has not helped to attract a majority of Western men. In reality, the practice of yoga is a discipline of both strength and flexibility. Yoga complements all other body training, adding the element of mental focus and concentration for better performance in all things, including life in general. A larger number of men seem to be drawn to Iyengar Yoga with its more “mechanical” approach to poses and practical application of the spiritual and philosophical aspects.
Misconception 3: “Yoga is too easy. I want to be challenged!”
Those with this perception have yet to try the right yoga class. There are yoga classes in every possible style, from “gentle” to “boot camp,” from “aerobics” to “traditional.” You have to find the right method for you. The work of yoga is like nothing else we do in our normal day, and the real challenge of yoga is not just physical. Yoga works to transform our old bad habits, both mentally and physically, into new and better ones. Beginner classes in the Iyengar method are especially challenging as the focus is mostly on strong and steady standing poses, which bring awareness throughout the body and ask the mind to stay present in action. The true aim of yoga is to quiet the fluctuations of the mind that bring agitation and disturbance. It is this mind-body connection that really sets yoga apart.
Misconception 4: “I’m too old, too fat, too whatever…”
“Whatever” is right. We all come to yoga with what we have, and the practice helps us deal with it. Every age, shape and size of person has their own beginning. The best thing about yoga is that it is your own journey, not to be compared to or in competition with others. I am naturally more stocky and stiff than skinny and supple, but I receive tremendous benefits from practice. Ninety-four-year-old BKS Iyengar, the teacher in this lineage, has encountered illness and debilitating accidents and continued his practice through it all. Yoga poses are designed to heal, props help support us through our toughest obstacles, and every day is a new adventure, no matter what life has to offer.
So, don’t let these “myths” continue to be your excuses. The best way to experience yoga is by trying a class. A new eight-week session begins Aug. 5 at the Pranayama Yoga Studio, so come give yoga a try!
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the July 31-Aug. 6, 2013, issue