15 Reasons You THINK Can’t Do Yoga - And Why None of Them Are True
There are almost as many great reasons to do yoga as there are yoga poses. Studies are showing what many yogis already know: yoga increases strength and flexibility while decreasing stress. Additionally, yoga has been found to improve our respiration, heart health, and sleep quality. Yoga has also been used successfully as a complementary therapy in the treatment of addiction, chronic pain, and mood disorders.
With evidence of yoga’s benefits mounting, why drag your feet? Don’t let any of the misconceptions below keep you from starting a yoga practice that just might enhance your life!
1. I’m just not flexible/calm enough to do yoga.
This is the most common thing I hear as a yoga teacher, and it really makes no sense. It’s like saying you can’t go to a Spanish class because you don’t speak Spanish. If you go to the class, you’ll probably learn some Spanish. If you go to a yoga class you’ll probably gain some flexibility and calmness.
2. I have to lose some weight before I start yoga.
Why? People of all shapes and sizes are going to be in class. The poses and movements can be adapted to all body shapes, so that’s no problem at all. Check out the wonderfully Jessamyn Stanley http://jessamynstanley.com/ for some inspiration (whatever your body shape).
3. I need to give up a vice or two (smoking, drinking...) before I start.
All you have to do is give these things up for the hour of your yoga practice! You might find that as you get more involved in yoga, you end up making some shifts in your lifestyle so you can practice more, or more easily, but those changes will happen at their own pace. But you absolutely don’t have to be a clean-eating, vegan, tee-totaller to come to a yoga class!
4. My feet are too unsightly to reveal to the public.
Okay, now you’re really just making excuses. Keep your feet reasonably clean, stick to your own mat (it’s considered bad yoga manners to walk across other people’s mats), and I promise your feet aren’t going to bother anyone. Wearing shoes can make your feet rigid and weak; to use the muscles that support your arches and ankles effectively and keep your feet supple, it’s important to take your shoes off now and then. (But if you’re still feeling shy about your feet, or if your feet get cold or sweaty during practice, there are special yoga socks you can get—with grips and individuated toes!)
5. I have to wear tight, expensive yoga clothes.
Since many classes focus to some degree on alignment—the positioning of your body in a healthy way—it’s helpful for your teacher, and for you, to be able to see certain landmarks on your body clearly (which way your knees are pointing, for instance), hence the tightness of dedicated yoga garb—but you can wear whatever is comfortable and stretchy (as opposed to things like denim, belts, and buttons, which are not so good for yoga). So tracksuit bottoms or leggings, and a tshirt are perfect (from any shop, not a special yoga brand).
6. I have to buy a mat, and those seem to be expensive, too!
In most yoga studios mats will be provided for you. I always provide mats for my classes, but you are welcome to bring your own if you want to.
7. I need to be feeling energetic to do yoga. And I’m just too tired after work. Or before work...
You’ll be glad to know that yoga just might make you feel more energetic and help you sleep better at night.
8. Yoga is going to be way too easy.
Ah, there’s a good chance that no matter how much you can bench press or how far you can run, you’ll find yoga challenging, the way most things are if you’ve never done them before. The point of yoga is tuning into your body, your breath and your mind and allowing all three to come together. Its not the physical aspect that’s challenging necessarily, but the ability to calmly focus and still the chattering mind.
9. Yoga is going to be way too hard.
There will be challenges, but a good yoga teacher will often suggest various versions of a pose or offer modifications that make a challenging pose more accessible. You don’t have to do the most “intense” version, do the one that works for you, in your body, in the moment. Stop being competitive with yourself, that is a huge lesson to be leartn and practiced at a yoga class.
10. Everyone in class is going to be watching me.
In yoga, often a gazing point is taught with each pose—students are encouraged, for instance, to look at their outstretched hand, at the tips of their noses, or at a point on the floor or on the wall in front of them while they practice—not at you. As you’ll soon discover if you do start yoga, when your eyes dart about the room, it’s a whole lot harder to stay balanced! In short, our fellow classmates won’t be paying that much attention to what you’re doing because they’ll be busy paying attention to what they’re doing and trying not to fall!
11. Everyone is going to be better than me. I’m not going to know how to do anything.
If you are in a beginners’ class, then many of you will be in the same boat. If you are taking a mixed-levels class, yes, some people might be more experienced in the poses than you, and more familiar with them, but so what? We all have to start somewhere. It also means you can take a peek at them to see what’s going on if you need to. And if we only did the things we were already good at, wouldn’t life be boring? Every time we learn how to do something new that is outside our comfort zones, we improve our cognitive functioning.
12. I can’t do yoga if I have injury, pain, or illness.
Let your common sense and your doctor be your guides as to whether or not you are healthy enough to exercise. If you feel up to it, and your doctor has given you the okay to get moving, a gentle/basic yoga class may be a great way to ease yourself back into physical activity.
An experienced teacher will know how to approach common, minor injuries in the space of a group class. Most of us expect that in any class there will be students with wrist, shoulder, back, and knee limitations. For some poses, we will offer you alternatives, and some poses you will get to skip. That’s fine: No one has to do absolutely every pose.
Most of us yoga practitioners have, or have had, some illness or injury, but seldom has this meant abandoning yoga entirely—more often it’s simply caused us to change our practice in some way. For example, if our wrists are injured, we might still go to class, but skip the poses where we put weight on our hands. If we have something more severe going on in our bodies, we might find that we can still practice some of yoga’s breathing or meditative techniques, and that these help us with our anxiety, fatigue, or pain.
There are many conditions which, rather than precluding a yoga practice, seem to be aided by it. Yoga has been shown to help with PMS, back and neck pain, depression, diabetes, and cancer recovery, among others.
Tell your teacher what is going on in your body before class, or contact the studio to see if a class is appropriate for you. Keep in mind that there may also be yoga teachers in your area who would be able to work with you privately, creating a class suited to your specific needs.
13. Yoga is for women.
Although women do outnumber men in many classes, men do go to yoga classes. How about Andy Murray, Tom Hanks or Russell Brand – they have all publicly told of their positive experiences with yoga. Due to our differences in biology, some of the poses that entail, say, flexible hips, might indeed be easier for women (in general), but men tend to have an advantage in many of the poses that require upper-body strength (again in general). And yoga was developed by men, for men. Women doing yoga is actually a modern western phenomenon and the opposite of its ancient Indian roots.
14. I don’t want to chant, especially in a language I don’t speak.
Sometimes in yoga classes we “om” at the beginning and end of class, and some teachers might throw in a little more chanting here and there, but you don’t have to join in. In my classes I don’t chant, and I don’t use any Sanskrit words either. I think this makes yoga more accessible for people. So its plain English all the way!
15. I don’t have the time
This is the commonest excuse! Modern life is busy, absolutely. But if we really want to try or do something we can usually re-jig and fit it in somehow. You don’t have to do a class every week for 90 minutes - you could do a longer monthly yoga workshop at the weekend, take a 1 to 1 private lesson at a time to suit you, or have a shorter daily practice when you get up or before bed for say 20 minutes. Or even just a short breathing practice or meditation before bed for 5 minutes. There are lots of different ways to fit some yoga into your life. And all of them will help you to feel better.
So there you go, no excuses now! Get on and try some yoga in your life. :)
If you are inspired to join a class or take a workshop, then check out my current timetable here - http://www.yogaformodernlife.com/classesworkshops/
Adapted from an article by Amber Burke https://www.facebook.com/amberburkeyoga.