Yoga Myths, Exposed!
During my first 100 days of sobriety, I finally gave yoga a try. After seeing a fit woman in a bendy pose on Instagram, I was intrigued. At first, I wasn’t exactly blown away, but something about it kept me coming back for more.
After initially going it alone, I joined a gym with many yoga offerings on the group class schedule. Today I am hooked. Most days I get in at least 10 or 20 minutes of practice. And now that I’m 5 months sober, I can confidently say yoga has been a great addition to my weekly routine.
While I am thrilled about this new-ish addition to my life, I cringe at how I used to be. For the past 15 years, I talked major smack about yoga. I now stand corrected. Everything I previously thought has turned out to be dead wrong. I can’t be the only one who held such misconceptions, right? (Please say yes!)
In lieu of my former ignorance, I’d like to debunk a few yoga myths that I held prior to getting on the mat. If you’re on the fence about trying yoga, see if clarifying any of this pushes you into action!
*This post contains affiliate links
Yoga Quick-Start Guide
1. Check out Yoga with Adriene on YouTube — she’s great for beginners
2. Download my FREE printable chart of 24 yoga poses for beginners (you can download the chart from my free resource library – request the password at the bottom of this post)
3. Optional items include a cheap yoga mat like this one, yoga blocks like these for balance/posture, and this kind of yoga strap for stretching.
Yoga Myth #1: Yoga is Boring
I realize that what’s “fun” will be different for different people, so this may not apply to you. But in my case, I’ve always preferred higher energy forms of exercise. I love cranking up the volume on my earbuds and going for a hard-core run, rolling my hips in a Zumba class, or twerking it out in “Booty 101” (yes, that’s a real class name), so I always believed that sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting “Om” with my fingers in tiny circles would be, well… boring.
What I discovered upon giving it a try was that this is a huge yoga myth! There are many different styles of yoga that have varying focuses and purposes. There is something there for everyone! After exploring different styles I’ve found that the energetic exercise I crave is totally a thing in yoga. Boredom has completely escaped me! In fact, yoga has quickly become my #1 favorite workout of all time. I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true. Sorry, Zumba. It’s been real.
Yoga Myth #2: You Must Be Fit
When I think of a typical woman who practices yoga, a particular image that comes to mind. She is thin, flexible, toned, comfortable in form-fitting yoga attire and usually white. Though I’ve retained flexibility since cheerleading in high school, I meet none of those other requirements. Surely, I was unfit for yoga, especially in a group setting. This turned out to be yoga myth #2.
Starting out at home was a great way for me to become more comfortable with yoga at first. I was still apprehensive walking into my first class, but what I found upon arrival was that:
- I was not the only woman in less-than-perfect shape
- I was not the only newbie
- I was not the only woman of color, and
- Even if I was the only any of these things, nobody would have cared
Part of the essence of yoga, I’ve found, is acceptance. Acceptance of others, and acceptance of yourself. Also, it is so personal that people are focused on their own practice and generally not concerned about others. I feel more comfortable within the serene confines of the yoga studio than I do in the testosterone-filled weight room at the gym.
The image of a yogini that the media portrays has nothing to do with what yoga is about. The super skinny, flexible girls you see on yoga further perpetuate that false yoga myth. The only physical requirement that you need to do yoga is to physically show up. You don’t need to do or be anything other than ready and willing to start!
Yoga Myth #3: Yoga is “Just Stretching”
This was huge because I thought of yoga as “just stretching”. I couldn’t imagine “just stretching” would burn enough calories to prevent me from also having to do a “real” workout. If I only had one hour 3 days a week to exercise, I wanted the most bang for my buck. “Just stretching” wouldn’t cut it!
Well, this yoga myth turned out to be so very wrong. My first class left me dripping with sweat. My heart rate monitor said I’d burned about 350 calories! Two days later, I tried “Yoga Sculpt”, where we used hand weights and integrated more planks, pushups, squats and core work into the practice. I was so wiped out!
It’s true that yoga can be meditative, spiritual and relaxing — all of which is really good for those new to sobriety, whether we want to admit it or not. But yoga can also be a physically challenging, sweat-inducing, calorie-burning activity that rivals your toughest cardio or weight-lifting session. Yoga is definitely a real workout if you really want it. Bottom line.
Yoga Myth #4: Yoga is Just Not for Me
For the longest time, I just thought that I wasn’t the type of person who would do yoga. To me, yoga was for super calm, spiritual, meditative people. That just wasn’t me! I like my music loud, my workouts intense. I’m competitive and ambitious and strong. When I finally started, however, I noticed that yoga was most definitely for people like me, too! Especially in sobriety.
I fell in love with the rigor of Ashtanga and was thrilled to be pushed to my limits. It was definitely “for me” in that way. But what I found was that yoga began to change how I viewed myself in the first place, and fast.
I can’t say that I’m any more spiritual than before, but yoga has changed me some. It has calmed me down, given me inner peace, and made me confident and self-aware in sobriety. Yoga has taught me my physical limits and how to gently work within them. Breathing intently brings such calmness and focus. Kundalini practice left me feeling euphoric.
So, while I still enjoy aggressive exercise, I’ve come to appreciate the gentle side as well. Yoga was “for me” as I already was, but as I progress on my sobriety journey, I’m discovering more about what “for me” even really means. And yoga is for that, too.
Yoga Myth #5: Yoga is too Time-Consuming
This was huge. As stated a bit above, I always felt that I’d have to choose my workouts wisely with such limited time. If I only had an hour, surely I’d rather go running than lay on the floor like a human pretzel. This idea only got worse after the birth of my son. For the first several months after his birth, I couldn’t even get to the gym. I’d just baby-wear and go running around the neighborhood park, thereby eliminating the need to travel. Bonus points for the free weighted vest that carrying a baby provides!
Now, I’m finding that yoga beats virtually any other activity I’ve engaged in when it comes to time constraints. Here’s why:
You can do it at home. There is no need to even put on your shoes or leave the house. This makes it ideal for stay-at-home-moms… you can get your full workout in while your baby naps!
It is a complete workout. Depending on the style, you can get your cardio and your strength training in one complete package. Most other workouts would still require training of the opposite type. (If you run, you still need to do resistance training).
You can break it up into parts. 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. All of it is effective. You can even do yoga in bed!
So yup… yoga myth #5 is that it takes too much time. Quite the contrary.
The Best Way to Get Started with Yoga
Some experts believe starting at home is a no-no. It is generally suggested that you start with at least one teacher-led session so that you learn proper form. However, that is not the approach I took.
Yoga classes cost money. One of my local yoga studios is $160/month. I was hesitant to shell out a bunch of cash for obvious reasons. What if I didn’t like it? If I was physically incapable in some way, then what? What if I spent all that money and couldn’t commit? Yeah, no.
One of my mottos is moderate + simple = sustainable. Sometimes you gotta do you, boo boo!
Free Yoga On YouTube
So, I started on YouTube! I quickly found that there is no shortage of free workouts of different levels, styles, and lengths. This was perfect for testing the waters!
My first day I browsed several beginner videos. I wound up sticking with Yoga with Adriene. She has tons of great content, a nice teaching style and is easy to follow. I started with a 15-minute sequence. Nothing about that session was particularly moving, but I did enjoy it enough to continue. By day 3 I found myself seeking out longer videos. The second week I was practicing 2-3x per day. At the two-week mark, I chose to commit. It was then that I joined Equinox and couldn’t be happier for having done so.
I know that we are all different and what works for one may not work for all. But sometimes things that we think may not be for us might turn out to be the perfect fit. I am humbled by discovering something that I dragged through the mud has brought such transformation into my life. My only regret is that I wasn’t more open-minded a lot sooner.
If you are on the fence about trying yoga, consider that you have nothing to lose but time. Yoga has so many benefits for women, you can’t lose! If you give it a shot and don’t like it, fine. But if you wait years then discover that you love it, you’ll regret the wasted time. So, go on, sis. Check out some YouTube videos. Take that class at your gym. Or maybe grab a cheap Groupon for a local yoga studio. You owe it to yourself to at least try. It just might change your life