I love breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions. After numerous years of studying and practicing yoga, I’ve compiled a list of misconceptions that I’ve struggled with myself or was told by someone else — and why they’re absolutely wrong.
You must be vegan or vegetarian
I’m a foodie. I love to eat and I’m not vegan or vegetarian. There are periods where I take a break and go days and weeks without meat but I just do what feels right for my body. There’s no formula that you have to follow in order to be a yogi. I do believe that once you start to develop a deeper practice and begin to learn more about your body and what you put in it, you eventually make better decisions.
You have to own every product on the market
It’s important that you don’t fall victim to purchasing every yoga product that was ever created. Almost nothing at all is required to do yoga — in fact, all you really need is a mat. For years, the only things I owned for my yoga practice was a mat and a Reebok yoga DVD for beginners that I bought back in my college days. After that, I didn’t buy anything up until a year or two ago when I purchased a yoga strap and my first set of yoga blocks. Don’t get suckered into the pressure of buying all of the cute gadgets and gizmos; all you need to get started is your will and yoga mat.
You are a white housewife
Yoga is for anyone who’s willing to give it a try. I’m definitely not your typical yogi. I’m a black female with natural hair and almost always the only person of color in my yoga class. I definitely want to change that and help to bring yoga to minority communities and make it accessible for everyone. I want to see more people who look like me in class and break this misconception. Yoga isn’t only for white, skinny, rich, fit people.
You have to be a member of a yoga studio
I took my first yoga class in college, after that all I had was my trusty old Reebok two-disc DVD to get me through. I didn’t have the money or the resources to even get to a regular yoga class. Besides, there weren’t any studios available in my area. So I made ends meet with home practice. I stayed that route for a few years before being able to try out a few different studios and workshops. Today, there are so many options available for you to utilize. You can look up video tutorials and classes on YouTube, find community classes or join a monthly online program. You don’t have to be rich or work a second (or third) job to afford yoga classes. If you open your mind and do a little research you will find that your options are limitless.
You have to own the most expensive yoga mat on the market
I’ve owned three mats in my whole life. I don’t know if that’s good or bad but I’m happy with my decisions. I purchased my first mat for around $10 in college and sadly still own it (I know, I know, I just can’t part ways). It’s actually still in great shape and now will be used only for outdoor yoga. It holds so much history of my yoga journey. I didn’t get my first professional mat until last year when my husband bought me a Jade mat for my birthday (I absolutely love it!). It took me years to even realize that I needed a better mat, but when the time came, I knew I was ready and that it was a need versus a want. Yoga mats can be very expensive and unless you have a regular practice, do hot yoga or sweat profusely, I suggest going with a low-to-mid-range priced mat. I definitely believe in crawling before you walk, and I’m all about saving money.
You have to own yoga pants from the most popular and trendy brands
There are so many yoga clothing brands popping up all over the place and it’s so hard to fight the urge to buy something all the time. Yoga clothes can be very expensive and that’s not just frugal me saying that. I’ve seen yoga pants range anywhere from $45 and up. Listen, I’m all about my bargains and coupons and I love a great deal. You can get great quality pants (and other clothing) from Target, Marshalls, JC Penney, and other large retail stores. The most I’ve ever spent on pants were from New Balance for $35 and they’re my favorite pair. You don’t have to break the bank to look cute or feel great. Don’t get caught up in the hype or the upsell.
I always like to think of the saying, “Every expert was once a beginner.” We all have to start somewhere. Yoga welcomes everyone whether you are skinny, plus-size, flexible or stiff. I always say, “Yoga is a one size fits all practice, meaning it’s for everyone.” You just come as you are and open yourself up to the possibilities.
Yoga is a religion
This is always a large debate and can be subjective. To keep things simple for this post, I am a Christian and, in my opinion, yoga is not strictly religious. It can be spiritual or have spiritual aspects depending on the practitioner and what they do in their own practice. I don’t do anything in a class if I don’t understand it or agree with it. For example, chanting. If I don’t know what is being said and I don’t feel comfortable singing, I simply remain silent and listen to the other beautiful voices.
Yoga is only for women
Yoga welcomes everyone with open arms regardless of race, social class, gender or disability. It’s for the young and old and even the unborn (prenatal yoga). With so many different styles of yoga there is something for everyone. It can be fun and rewarding to try different styles until you find one (or several) that you like.
You have to be in touch with your inner-self and meditate every day
Yoga is a great way to find yourself, even if you didn’t know you were lost. It brings balance and clarity to your life. The point of yoga is to practice. You don’t have to already be enlightened and meditate for long periods daily. Over time, you will learn how to be kind to your body and mind through proper breathing, asanas (postures) and meditation. But there are no prerequisites or preconceived notions of what or who you should be.
Yoga is simply exercise
To dispel this misconception, here is a quote from B.K.S Iyengar who was considered one of the world’s greatest living yoga masters:
Iyengar says yoga goes beyond the physical motions: “The practice of yogasana for the sake of health, to keep fit, or to maintain flexibility is the external practice of yoga,” he continues in Light on Life. “While this is a legitimate place to begin, it is not the end… Even in simple asanas, one is experiencing the three levels of quest: the external quest, which brings firmness of the body; the internal quest, which brings steadiness of intelligence; and the innermost quest, which brings benevolence of spirit.”