Despite its immense worldwide popularity, there are still a lot of misconceptions about yoga and those who practice it.
So here's a quick list of some of the things yogis want you to know about yoga — feel free to add your own ideas in the comments below!
1. You Don’t Have To Touch Your Toes
Yoga is so much more than flexibility training. You do not need to be flexible in any place other than your mind.
2. It Isn’t Some Voodoo Religion
Yoga is not a religion at all. It is simply a path. Contrary to what your teacher may tell you, the practice of yoga does not worship any god(s) or offer only one way to enlightenment. Yoga is a multi-faceted, fully adaptable way to find inner peace for yourself.
3. “Oms” Are Optional
In this same regard, you do not need to chant if you feel it doesn’t serve you. You do not need to take hand mudras or focus on chakras (energy centers). Yoga is all about you. So the only thing you have to do is stay true to yourself, whether that means calling to Shiva or skipping your breath work.
4. You Don’t Have To Be A Vegetarian
Yoga is a lifestyle choice and while, yes, many yogis choose to be vegetarians in compliance with the yama (restraint) ahimsa (nonviolence). But, again, this is a choice. Every person is different and every person can interpret ideology in his or her own ways. Being a vegetarian or flexible or anything at all is certainly not a prerequisite to practicing yoga.
5. It’s Not Always Hot
There is a style of yoga called Bikram (or Hot Yoga) that gets quite a lot of press. This is simply one of thousands of styles of yoga. If hot is your thing, then great! Bikram away if you like. If not, there are so many other options for you.
6. It’s More Than Just Stretching
As noted, yoga has many different schools, styles and forms. Some are exceptionally powerful physical workouts. Some are more restorative and slow-paced. Some are solely meditative. Whether you’re stretching, strengthening or reflecting in a yoga practice, your scope is definitely expanding far beyond just lengthening muscles and fascia.
7. It Doesn’t Have To Vigorous
With that being said, yoga doesn’t have to be vigorous, powerful and sweaty to be considered a “real” practice. Choose a style (or multiple styles) that resonates with you. Find a practice that allows you to turn inward rather than solely focusing outward.
8. You Don’t Need A “Perfect” Body
First of all, there is no such thing as a “perfect” body. Secondly, yoga is for all bodies. Every. Single. One. Your appearance has absolutely nothing to do with your practice. How you view your body has everything to do with your practice.
9. You Don’t Have To Blow Your Savings On Your Yoga Wardrobe
I mean, sure, Lululemon makes cute workout clothes. But to be a yogi, you do not need to practice in $90 leggings. Focus on the practice rather than your outfits and you’ll receive a lot more in return.
10. There Is No Shame In Using Props
Props are some of your most powerful tools in the classroom. They are there to be used, not to be frowned upon. Use them. They make a significant difference and they, in no way, make you any less of a yogi.
11. It Is A Powerful Vehicle For Change
“Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength, you start to believe in your own potential.” – Tiffany Cruikshank
12. You Don’t Have To Do Handstands
Yes, handstands are super fun. But they are not required. Too scared to flip upside down? Skip it. Or, better yet, learn to face your fears in your own time. Don’t have the strength yet to balance on your hands? Practice patience. Yoga is about the journey. There is no destination.
13. Its Benefits Run Much Deeper Than Six-Packs
Let’s face it: people exercise to improve their health and their bodies. And many people use yoga solely as exercise in order to achieve these goals. And there is no harm in that. But even if you come to yoga with the sole intention of developing a six-pack, you will soon find yourself transformed by the deeper benefits of the practice. Just try. I dare you.
14. “Letting Go” Is More Than Just A Cliché
We’ve all heard a yoga teacher say, “let go” more than once. It’s a cliché of the practice. But it is also chillingly accurate. So much is out of our control, and yoga teaches us to not only accept that fact but also to embrace it. Letting go is just the beginning. The sense of peace that letting go creates is indescribable.
15. We Are Not More Enlightened Than You
Yoga teaches us to turn to our breath, to acknowledge our thoughts, to let go of what does not serve us, to care for ourselves (both physically and mentally), and infinitely more. Practicing yoga does not guarantee enlightenment but it does (hopefully!) send you on a path toward it, a path toward acceptance and inner peace.
This, in no way, makes yogis better than anyone else. And anyone that acts that way is no yogi at all. Yoga teaches us the very opposite, that we are all one and the same, that the divine within me sees, honors and bows to the divine with you. Yogis are not “more” enlightened. Nor are they trying to be. We are just trying to figure out this life, same as you.
16. It’s An Internal Practice
“Yoga is an internal practice. The rest is just a circus.” – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
What happens in our physical bodies on our mats is virtually meaningless. The real yoga is what is happening inside.
17. It’s A Lifelong Practice
There is no “end” to yoga. You do not finally nail handstand and suddenly become enlightened. Not even when you nail one-handed handstand. Sorry. Yoga is a practice. And it is just that: forever continuing, forever improving, and forever “advancing.”
“Practice. And all is coming.” – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
18. It’s All About The Breath
The physical practice of yoga gets lots of press and acknowledgement, but the real practice is the connection of the breath to the body and back again. This conscious connection is the essence of the practice linking the internal workings of our minds and spirits to our physical, earthly bodies.
19. Presence Is Key
Yoga is meaningless if you are not present on your mat. If you are simply “running through the motions” of the physical practice, you lose all of the benefits. Similarly, you are not practicing yoga if you are not present in life. If you do not take your practice off your mat then you have lost the essence and the teachings of the practice. Presence is everything.
Practice presence. Practice yoga. Practice love. #andalliscoming