“Yoga is not for me! I am not flexible.”
“I need to move around lots and lift weights enough to feel that I worked out.”
“I need to sweat more.”
“Yoga is boring and slow.”
“I am so fat, I can’t do yoga.”
“I am so old, my bones will break.”
Oh yeah, you hear that most of the time. And yes, to me, I heard it most of the time when I asked them why not join me to yoga or let me teach them. The idea that we yogis and yoginis spend our time daily standing on our heads, chanting, meditating, and eating only greens still run rampant through society around the globe. Surprise not surprise?! 😀 Yoga has been around for decades, but it has only start to gain its popularity as “lifestyle” in the recent years. Among the plethora of wild assumptions out there, I put some into my list and hope it could help clear out some of the misconceptions.
- Yoga is just “STRETCHING”
Yes, yoga is just stretching, says who? NO WAY! Well, I don’t blame anyone who thinks that way because I did think that way before. In the beginning I often go for yoga class only after my cardio, kickboxing workout. Felt so good after the yoga class because of all the stretching poses we did in the class. See! I used yoga for my stretching session. I wasn’t interested in yoga at all, EVER back then.
Well, not at least until Oct 2014 when I didn’t even know why I decided to give yoga another shots into my “have-to-master” list. Sometimes in life we just have to go spontaneous right?! So, yeah, I went over to a yoga studio and signed a 3-year membership to get me started. Lots of money spent and thought, I have to be COMMITTED (don’t want to waste money basically). I said to myself, NOW or NEVER! I attended my very first few Vinyasa/Ashtanga classes and I changed my mind that it was “just stretching.” I found the classes that I attended were mostly very challenging, sometimes leaving me to question why did I even think of doing this again. I was struggling with most of the poses and felt lousy at times, but I kept feeling this addiction that I need to keep coming back again and again. My subconscious mind (at least I think so) seems to love yoga at that point of time.
“Yoga is just stretching” misconception is not that all wrong indeed with the many different styles and lineages of yoga widely available from the sweaty cardio sessions (e.g.: Vinyasa, Ashtanga) to physical therapy sessions (e.g.: Yin Yoga). The different styles of yoga can act as a restorative, meditative, or even muscle strengthener depending on what you choose to practice. While it is also true that with yoga you can improve your flexibility, the practice also could be of benefit in terms of your breath awareness, body mindfulness, and mental clarity. This is why we always say that Yoga means UNION. Union of the body, mind, and soul.
2. Yoga is MERELY an exercise
The joining of the physical, mind and soul is not just it. It is also on how well we could relate the external factors of our world to our own internal world and vice versa. When it comes to yoga, most people will immediately think about “stretching”, moving the body through flows of basic movements, and performing a set of postures. What many people failed to realize is the fact that yoga is a way of life. What? What way of life you may be asking. 2000 years ago, Yoga Sutra was put together by Patanjali to assist the students to understand better the core of yoga. It consists of the eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice throughout centuries.
In brief, the eight-limbs of yoga are:
- Yama: Universal morality
- Niyama: Personal observances
- Asanas: Body postures
- Pranayama: Breathing exercises, and control of prana (breath)
- Pratyahara: Control of the senses
- Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
- Samadhi: Union with the Divine
We will not go into details today in this post about those eight-limbs (maybe some day I will write about them). I just wanted to point out the part where most people known yoga for today, which is the third limb in our yoga sutra, we, practitioners called asanas. Sure, flowing from one postures to another in asanas could be physically challenging and exerting, trying to find the perfect alignments and catching the breath (especially in hot yoga). Thus, with that in mind, yoga could definitely pose as a form of exercise. Bear in mind, that yoga, though, is a way of life. The way of life in terms practicing the eight-limbs, speaking truthfully, practicing self-discipline, living simply, controlling the senses and emotions. This could be achieved through practising asanas, meditation, and pranayama. With this in mind, you will be reminded constantly to be mindful of how you react to certain things in life, be it positive or negative. You will take notice more on your quality of relationships not just with people, but with yourself, the environment, and your divine/spiritual self.
Honestly, the point for which I mentioned about yoga as a way of life is what drives me to keep practicing yoga and keep sharing this philosophy to many people around me. For those who knows me, I used to be someone with a lot of anger and negativity in me, but after practicing yoga over a year, I realize that I feel more peaceful with myself. Of course I wouldn’t say that I am now totally zen or positive all the time, but that’s the beauty of life, I get to experience getting emotional and be mindful of it, challenging myself to be better over time. Without challenges, life would be boring isn’t it? 🙂 We don’t need to resist or change what others think about us. Always remember that in life, you have to accept yourself, love yourself, and be able to live with the consequences of being YOU. Others’ opinions don’t matter if you don’t love yourself that way. This life is yours and you are the one who has to walk the path, not that other people who think you should do this, do that, and judge you. You are not living other people’s life, you are living yours. Become the priority in your life. Yoga is your life and not merely an exercise to sweat it out.
3. Yoga helps to LOSE WEIGHTS much faster
Please……. for beginners to yoga, can I just tell you not to be disappointed? Nothing instant ever sustained for a long period of time. In yoga postures, a lot of them are to help strengthen your muscles and detox you by a sweating a little bit maybe or more depending on what lineage of yoga styles you practice. Get the fact right that it’s not the weights on the weighing scale that matters. You need to take a look at your muscle vs. fats amount in your body. Fats don’t burn other fats because they’re one family. Muscles help burn fats because muscles hate fats and they’re certainly not the same kind of species. 😀
And please boys and girls, don’t keep saying that you need to lose weight although you’re already super skinny. The most important thing is to get you toned and healthy, not to be skinnier to the bone. Many people came up to me and ask me whether they can really lose weights through yoga. Hmmm…. can I tell you please stop asking? lol. Joking. Actually you can lose weights through yoga if and only if you really do practice self-control over food and discipline yourself through morning rituals of exercising the body. Trust me, you keep eating the same amount and type of food you’re currently consuming, yoga asanas can’t help. If you are already thin and think you need to lose more weights, please please please practice being grateful and in love with your healthy body in comparison to those obese or overweight people who wants to be like you. Yes, I will say if you wanna exercise your mind and help you go through life to be more grateful, welcome to yoga. 🙂 The secret of losing weight or I rather I like to call it as keeping fit, is self-gratitude, self-control over food/diets and self-discipline over daily exercise.
No matter what kind of misconceptions you have about yoga, all I can say is yoga will be good for you. 🙂 When you begin to understand yoga more in depth, you will love it because if you don’t, you won’t love your life. Yoga is a way of life. From ashtanga, vinyasa, yin to kundalini yoga, there must some styles that you will love. Commit yourself and find styles that suit you. As a way of life, yoga will help you through paths of self-discovery journey and hopefully you will love yourself even more along the trip! ❤