Before I started practicing yoga, I thought it was just for a certain “type” of person: You know, the skinny, bendy, double-jointed, put-their-leg-behind-their-head type of person. (If I sound naive or just plain crazy, bear with me.) I also ignorantly thought it was only for the weird, devoid-of-personality (i.e., never get mad enough to tell someone to f*ck off or excited enough to spit their margarita out during an off-color joke) types who spent their days chanting, singing and living in a blissful, zen-like state.
What I discovered after my very first class is that I couldn’t have been more wrong. In addition to discovering yogis of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, I found they were actually nice, real human beings! Which led me to jot down the top misconceptions and truths I’ve uncovered during my yogic path (did I really just say “path“?):
1. Not all yogis are tie-dyed wearing, patchouli-smelling, Grateful Dead-listening hippies. Actually I have yet to meet one. I used to associate yoga with this groovy crowd, but soon enough I learned yoga was equally loved by the non-hippie crowd: moms, dads, corporate professionals, entrepreneurs, teens, athletes, non-athletes–even Lady Gaga! That’s not to say I don’t now own a tie-dyed yogi tote and bar of patchouli soap, of course.
2. Being fit doesn’t equate an easy yoga practice. No amount of running, swimming, biking or anything can prepare you for the mental and physical challenge of yoga–especially power yoga. As a marathon runner, I started out with an ego that said: “Of course you can do this. It’s just yoga, after all.” It didn’t take long for that thinking–and me–to get wiped out. Now, when someone new walks into the studio all pumped up and boasting about their Crossfit, I just chuckle.
3. Likewise, being unfit doesn’t mean you can’t do yoga. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. After the first class I thought, “Good heavens, I loved that, but I s-u-c-k-e-d.” Then I realized it’s more important to be challenged with something than good at it. Besides, who doesn’t like attempting a good tadasana, trikonasana and garudasana–let alone figuring out what they mean.
4. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or a vegan to be a yogi. Respect your body and the planet, but eat what you want and what feels right to you. On the same note, enjoy some red wine and an occasional cocktail. There’s no judgment amongst true yogis.
5. There is no perfect yoga body type. I have seen some of the thinnest and most toned women struggle with many poses, while someone shorter with a curvier physique pops up into handstand like it’s how she spends half her day.
6. You can take it at your own pace. There is no comparing or competing in yoga class. It took months to finally give myself permission to take child’s pose when I was overcome with exhaustion or distraction during a class. “What will people think if I drop out of this pose?” “Does this mean I am a quitter?” Who cares, and no. It’s all ego really, and it’s unnecessary in and out of yoga.
7. Yoga is not a religion. Having said that, it can be as spiritual as you want by allowing you to connect with your true inner self, reflect on thoughts and feelings and learn how to view yourself as part of a larger, global community. But if you want to just get a good sweat and some stretching, that’s cool too.
8. Namaste is a super cool word. There was a time when I had no idea what it meant–even though I would chime in at the end of each class with a hearty “Namaste”. I now know the basic translation is “I bow to your true self” or a number of other similar definitions. Your true self. How awesome is that? It’s like saying I honor, respect and love the authentic person you are.
9. We each have the potential to be a badass in life and not settle for mediocrity. Being a yogi doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. It doesn’t mean we don’t like to succeed, compete (off the mat) and say an occasional “f*ck yeah” when we kick some butt. We are all put here to break some rules, make a difference, stand up for what we believe in and color outside the mat.
What have been some of your yoga truths?