Three Yoga Myths Debunked
If you’re reading this, there's a good chance you’re already practicing yoga. I mean, you probably wouldn’t be on a yoga blog if you didn’t already like yoga. But maybe you’re here because someone you love is reluctant to try the practice you love, and you want some talking points so you win the next argument. Or maybe you just want to learn more about the benefits of yoga for emotional and physical health (they’re real), and you’re interested in improving your mental health, physical well-being, and overall fitness. Maybe you’re tired of CrossFit. Whatever your reason, if you want to practice yoga — like really practice it — there’s some stuff you need to know. And there’s some stuff you’ve been told that you have to let go of, and yes, we recognize that last phrase is just so...“yogi-ish.” Sue us.
So, let’s go. Here are three things that we hear about yoga, especially yoga and men, that are about as useful as a dirt flavored lollipop. Don’t let this BS get in the way of your emotional spiritual and physical fitness.
MYTH #1: YOGA IS FOR SKINNY CHICKS AND DUDES WITH LONG HAIR.
That’s a double loser right there, folks. Nope. And nope. And one more nope for good measure. The idea that yoga is for women is hysterical: the (fairly misogynist) traditional forms of yoga were ONLY for men. And not just any men — tough men who were down to wake up early and give up the comforts of society for solo retreats in caves. Men who were pioneers of anatomy and self-healing.
Women came into the fold only fairly recently, around the same time that Krishnamacharya brought yoga to the west. The benefits of yoga were so clear, and the largely solo practice could be done anywhere, away from the patriarchal environments of big gyms, so it’s unsurprising that it caught on with women.
Many of the most influential teachers in the modern and western tradition are men! Baron Baptiste, Richard Freeman, John Friend, Rodney Yee, that list goes on and on. And no, they don’t all have long hair, they’re not all skinny -- they’re regular men. Some of the worlds toughest athletes in the NFL -- including the entire NY Giants franchise -- and NHL have adopted yoga as part of their regular training regimen. So, man, woman, or gender-nonconforming; long hair, short hair, don’t care, there’s a place for you in this practice. All you have to do is roll out a mat.
MYTH 2: I HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE TO DO YOGA
Hey, news flash, Instagram is not reality. Despite everything your feed will tell you, yoga is not contortionism. It’s not a competition to see how many handstands you can do in front of a sunset. It’s not about balancing on one hand on the side of a mountain. And it has nothing to do with flexibility. Yoga, if it is to be reduced to any physical principle (rather than, say, philosophical or spiritual) is about creating functional movement patterns in the body, about creating a body that is more comfortable to sit in, and improving energy consumption in the musculoskeletal system.
As part of that, yes, yoga will develop your flexibility over time, but it will also develop strength, mental acuity, and the ability to not snap every time your barista puts the wrong milk in your double pump latte.
MYTH 3: YOGA IS JUST THEORY AND SPIRITUALITY
Alright, so us Crowers are pretty old school when it comes to yoga. We’re traditionalists. For sure. So, honestly, we’re a bit skeptical of the teachers and studios that blast pop music while they teach and rush through postures like it’s some new workout. That’s what CrossFit and SoulCycle are for. For us, yoga is about commitment, determination, and self-control. But that doesn’t mean we just want vegetables all the time. We like the sweet stuff, too.
One of the oldest and most widespread traditions in yoga is ashtanga — or 8-limbs. The fiery, flowy ashtanga practice (from which most western “vinyasa classes” can trace their lineage) is about practice, practice and more practice. Either you practice or you don’t. It’s up to you, but for heaven’s sake stop talking about it. The father of this practice, Pattabhi Jois, famously wrote: “yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.” To be a successful yogi or yogini you don’t need to know Sanskrit, you don’t have to study theology, and, believe it or not, you don’t even need an Instagram account! You just have to practice.
Long story short, if it’s mental wellbeing, physical health, or spiritual fitness you seek, then cut through the misinformation; stop believing your Instagram feed; put down your phone, and just practice.