Let's Set the Record Straight on 5 Major Yoga Misconceptions
If you’ve never done yoga before, the practice may seem intimidating. Do I need to be flexible? Will I really get a workout? Do I have to go to a studio? These reflect just a few of the common misconceptions about yoga. But know this: Yoga offers so many benefits (this article alone lists 19 reasons to get started) for people of all ages and fitness levels.
We spoke with Brent Laffoon, an instructor in Openfit’s Yoga52 at-home yoga program and founder of The Association of Yoga Professionals, to set the record straight on these myths — and to prove once and for all that yoga is for everyone.
1. You have to be flexible.
Being flexible is not a prerequisite for yoga, even if social media is littered with shots of super flexy yogis twisting their way into seemingly impossible poses.
“It’s not about being flexible,” says Laffoon. “It’s about finding your own personal edge.”
That might mean working toward more flexibility within your practice though. Remember, not all yogis started out that bendy. In fact, some of their limberness could be directly attributed to practicing yoga, as research shows that the practice helps improve overall flexibility.
And, flexibility aside, yoga can also help you build strength!
2. You have to go to a studio.
If you’re still not ready to be in a real-life fitness class, that’s totally understandable. Learning yoga in the privacy of your own home is completely doable. Yoga52 is a wonderful way to explore different teachers and styles, and you can also check out Openfit’s live yoga classes.
If you do end up going to an in-person class, Laffoon encourages calling ahead or checking the website to see what type of class they offer for those new to yoga.
Laffoon compares learning yoga to learning a musical instrument. You might spend an hour or so a week with a dedicated teacher, but then it’s up to you to keep practicing and exploring.
“It’s important for people to figure out how to take what they are learning from a teacher and then spend some time with it on their own,” says Laffoon. “That way you get to really feel poses on a deeper level and spend some time with your breath.”
3. Yoga is just stretching (and not really exercise).
The misconception that yoga is just stretching (and not actual exercise) is a pretty large one. It does, of course, offer different benefits than say, running or biking, but that doesn’t mean that the only takeaway is flexibility.
“Yoga can be as intense as any HIIT workout or circuit training,” says Laffoon. “You can certainly build strength practicing yoga.”
Plus, one pillar of yoga is its mindfulness practice and thus mental benefits. Research has shown that a consistent yoga practice can help improve stress and overall mood, and it may help ease anxiety, too.
4. Yoga is all the same.
“There are an infinite number of ways to practice yoga,” says Laffoon, “and they are all either somewhat different to extremely different.”
Some practices will be more relaxing and focused on breath work, while other practices aim to grow strength and stamina. The key to a consistent practice is finding the type of yoga that you enjoy the most.
5. You have to look like the typical yogi.
“There is a yoga for every body,” says Laffoon. “No matter what age, race, level of physical ability, or conditions, there is a practice that is ready to help people improve their situation, wherever they may be.”
Check out the different yoga trainers on Openfit, or scroll through Instagram to find someone whose practice speaks to you (and doesn’t limit your own beliefs about yoga). As Laffoon says, “yoga is about recognizing that we are not limited.”