I tried yoga once but took off for the mall halfway through class, as I had a sudden craving for a soft pretzel and world peace. - Terri Guillemets
What’s so great about Yoga!? Although yoga has become popular in the United States within the past 30 years, there are still many misconceptions out there about the 5,000-year-old practice.
#1. Yoga is easy. Fact: Yoga can be physical, powerful and an extreme workout.
#2. Yoga is too physically challenging. Fact: Yoga can be restorative, relaxing and gentle.
#3. Yoga is just a physical workout. Fact: Yoga has physiological, psychological, and biochemical benefits. It has been known to cure disease, reduce stress and anxiety, it can be meditative, spiritual, invigorating, can quiet the mind, boost confidence, increase self-awareness, increase mental alertness, treat depression, remove toxins and waste, increase weight loss, reduce cholesterol and pretty much improve your overall health.
#4. Yoga is just for women. Fact: In reality, women in the United States popularized yoga, but in India yoga was developed for men. In many yoga rooms today, you will find a large percentage of men – I actually met my husband at a yoga studio, but I digress….
#5. You have to be “flexible” to practice yoga. Fact: Numerous times people have said to me “oh, I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible.” Unless you are a gymnast or dancer, pretty much everyone is not flexible when they start. It’s a progression that becomes easier with time and practice.
#6. Yoga is too expensive. Fact: There are many centers that are donation only, that offer discounted community classes, or work-study programs. All you need is your body and a mat to begin. In addition, there are great videos out there, and the Wii Fit is gaining popularity.
#7. Yoga is just for the young and virile. Fact: I have seen men and women of every age practicing yoga. Yoga has become popular in senior centers, in retirement communities and on the opposite end, baby and kid yoga is becoming more and more prevalent in childhood development and education.
#8. Yoga is a religion or cult. Fact: There are no services to attend, sacred icons to worship, and there is no formal statement of religious belief.
#9. All yoga is the same. Fact: There are numerous types of yoga out there – the key is to discover what fits your needs and what you are comfortable with. Here are a few examples:
Anusara: is a relatively new form of yoga, which pairs strict principles of alignment with a playful spirit. Postures can be challenging, but the real message of Anusara is to open your heart and strive to connect with the divine in yourself and others.
Ashtanga: which means eight limbs in Sanskrit, is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga practice, a system of yoga transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. A set series of poses is performed, always in the same order. Ashtanga yoga is very physically demanding, because of the constant movement from one pose to the next, but students progress at their own pace. Ashtanga yoga can be teacher “led” (where the teacher leads the class in a traditional way) or “Mysore” style. Mysore is a city in Southern India where Pattabhi Jois taught, in this style the class teaching is one-on-one within the group class setting, students practice their own portion of the Ashtanga sequence of asanas at their own pace and level where the teacher assists each student individually by giving physical adjustments & verbal instruction.
Chair: is considered a gentler form of yoga and uses a chair for additional support. Most of the exercises are done while sitting on, leaning on or holding onto a chair. This makes it a great way to practice yoga for people of all ages and those with limited mobility.
Hatha: is an easy-to-learn basic form of yoga that has become very popular in the United States. Hatha Yoga is the foundation of all Yoga styles. It incorporates Asanas (postures), Pranayama (regulated breathing), meditation (Dharana & Dhyana) and kundalini (Laya Yoga) into a complete system that can be used to achieve enlightenment or self-realization.
Iyengar: the living yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar developed Iyengar yoga. It promotes strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance through coordinated breathing and poses that require precise body alignment. The poses are generally held longer than in other styles of yoga. In Iyengar, you slowly move into a pose, hold it for a minute or so, and then rest for a few breaths before stretching into another.
Kundalini: is a practice that concentrates on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward. In addition to postures, a typical class will also include chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises.
Power: is the American interpretation of Ashtanga yoga, a discipline that combines stretching, strength training, and meditative breathing. Power yoga differs from Ashtanga in that many of the poses (also called postures or their Sanskrit name, asanas) resemble basic calisthenics — push-ups and handstands, toe touches and side bends.
Restorative: in a restorative yoga class you’ll spend long periods of time lying on blocks, blankets and yoga bolsters – passively allowing muscles to relax.
Vinyasa: focuses on coordination of breath and movement and is a very physically active form of yoga. Vinyasa classes vary depending on the teacher and are a very popular form of yoga for beginners and advanced students.
#10. Yoga is just for vegetarians, hippies etc… Fact: I have seen every type of person regardless of dietary background, political affiliation, economic range, or profession, practicing yoga. ….even NBA players have started practicing yoga.