Here are a few myths about yoga you might be carrying around with you…and some yoga magic to help you on your way.
If you’ve ever thought “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”, this one is for you.
Yoga myth: The aim is to keep ticking off more advanced poses
Yoga magic: There’s no such thing as a yoga to-do list
“You’re not adding yoga poses to your shopping trolley”, said my yoga teacher during one of our teacher training sessions a few years ago. She was right of course.
You might be tempted to focus on ticking yoga poses off your list, as if a yoga pose is something to achieve (oh we’re so conditioned to love “achievements”!). But a yoga pose is something you experience. And each time you step on the mat and move your body, whether in familiar or unfamiliar ways, you are actually experiencing something brand new. If you allow yourself that experience you can learn a lot about yourself too.
Yoga myth: Yoga is just about your body and breath
Yoga magic: Yoga can reveal your state of mind
The physical practice of yoga can reveal how our minds work, shining a light on unhelpful thought patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed.
So some days you might breeze through an energising practice but still find it hard to settle your mind. Other days your mind and nervous system will drop into an effortless meditation as if it’s what you had been waiting for all week. It’s all interesting information about your state of mind.
At times you might resist stillness with all your might because your mind is desperately avoiding something. Emerging from another practice, you might suddenly feel at ease with a situation you were finding overwhelming. Each experience teaches you something about yourself.
Yoga myth: Practice makes perfect
Yoga magic: Progress is personal
We’re complicated beings. Progress will look very different for each of us. We move at different paces, and have differing possibilities, depending on a multitude of challenges and opportunities presented by our bodies, minds and life circumstances.
Progress might involve bumps in the road…a step forward then a step backwards on your journey, or a detour along the way. You might feel progress in your body’s ability to access a pose while your mind seems to take a step backwards in its ability to access stillness. Or vice versa. Progress is not always visible on the outside. Which is another good reminder not to compare ourselves to what we can see of other people
Yoga myth: “Let’s do the same thing on the other side”
Yoga magic: It’s never the same on the other side.
How many times do you hear your yoga teacher (including me) say “do the same on the other side“? This phrase seems innocuous but underlying it is that mindset of ticking things off the list, and moving on to the next thing.
It might be a pose or sequence you’ve practised many time before, but not only will it feel different each time you practise, in all likelihood it will feel different doing something on the right or left sides of your body.
It’s never the same thing on the other side. It’s a brand new experience waiting for you, if you have your beginner’s mind open and receptive to it.
Yoga myth: You have to be flexible to do yoga
Yoga magic: Yoga is not about what shape your body makes
You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. Yoga is not about achieving the most advanced pretzel-like poses. You’re not adding poses to your shopping trolley. Because yoga is not really about what shape your body makes. It’s about meeting your whole self, in whatever state that may be on any given day. Sitting with difficult feelings you’d rather avoid. Experiencing discomfort and breathing through it. Softening your body and mind so that you can build strength. Shifting your energy away from anxiety or stagnation to a place of ease. And, you know, you’ll probably get more flexible along the way anyway.
So the next time you hear someone say “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”, or one of the many other yoga myths, remind them that the yoga magic happens no matter how flexible you are.