It´s not plain-sailing to follow your instinct and start Yoga when social prejudices can not be aligned with your personal misconceptions. There are 3 big misconceptions somebody can run into when they’re just starting. We show you these hurdles and how to surmount them.
1. “I am not flexible enough to do Yoga”
This is one of the most common misconceptions ever. Yoga can be the path towards increased flexibility. It does not require a particular physiology. Perceive stiffness as a new challenge. Nobody is born a full-fledged weight lifter or a runner at their best time, and it’s the same for flexibility.
Secondly, Yoga is not about flexibility in the sense of it being the main goal. Yoga aims to re-establish balance in your muscular system. Due to our sedentary lifestyle or one-directional training, over-tension is an issue most people have to deal with. The consequences of shortened and stiff muscles are enormous as they lead to back pain (1) in the case of tight hamstrings, or the increased risk of injury (2). Also, tight chest and neck muscle can be the main factor leading to headaches (3) or in general, detrimental posture (4). Yoga helps here by re-establishing a healthy range of motion, as well as increased functionality of the muscles and surrounding tissues while being stretched. Yes, the outcome of a regular Yoga practice can be flexibility gain.
Even where some women have some advantages due to hormonal differences, pregnancy or due to the anatomy of the lumbar spine (5), they might have a harder time when it comes to the execution of Chaturangas (= push-ups) or arm balances. Everybody has some weak points and Yoga is just a way to confront them.
2. “I feel bad. It seems so easy, but I am just not performing well”
That´s ok. Yoga is not easy. In fact, Yoga is challenging for everybody, because it triggers the weaknesses of the human mind and body. There is no such thing as the “best Yogi” or a “perfect Yogi”. On the mat, everybody has their own struggle against tightness, weaknesses and a nasty mind. With some practice, you will be able to exert a pose correctly, but only a few people in the world can truly turn their minds off and maintain the constant and even breath. Maybe it´s cheesy to say, the journey is the reward, and there is no real reward, but everything you learn physically and mentally during your time on the mat is applicable to your daily life and sport. Love the challenge and be patient with yourself, because there is no goal other than personal improvement.
And in the end, who cares if you perform great or not, when you have just started Yoga. As NFL legend Terry Bradshaw says “When you’ve got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge”. You will see the results after your first workouts. It’s a misconception that you can naturally spring into hard poses without any effort.
3. I do it all wrong. The posture. The breathing
These moments when you are still busy checking your alignment and damn! again, you are completely confused about whether to inhale or exhale. Happens right?
Take it step by step. We know it´s hard to follow all the instructions. That´s why you can repeat a workout a couple of times and you will always find new elements to work on. Do it right or dont go it at all is again, one of the misconceptions you should run from.
After the first 3-5 workouts, your body has already automated a repertoire of poses and it becomes natural to follow the flow. In the first weeks, it is enough to focus on the poses. Sometimes you are spending an extended time in a certain pose, take this time to check your alignment. Try to build up every posture from the ground. Ask yourself: “Is my foot positioning stable?” Afterward, you can take a look at the middle or upper body. You will get the breathing right in time, promise. Want to read more about it? Go here. Also, It will be repeated on several occasions and you will be given more details during different Yoga workouts.
Don’t start Yoga with all these common misconceptions in your head. Focus on your personal goals instead of letting yourself be intimidated by presumed yoga ideals. Flexibility is part of the process but neither a prerequisite nor the main goal of Yoga. Yoga re-establishes muscular balance and for some people, it might imply more flexibility, for others it might be stability or endurance.
Every day it will be easier to follow the flow and to hold the postures. After some weeks you will be able to bring more and more attention to the breathing and other details. Take the challenges one by one.
The great thing about Yoga is, that it is challenging for everybody whether they are just starting out or are an old hand. Do Yoga just for yourself. You can not always win it. You can not always be the best at it either. The only thing you can do is simply practice.