Yogi Nadia Rihani dispels six common yoga myths
Yoga is easyI hear this one a lot! Yoga can actually be incredibly difficult and newcomers are more often than not surprised by how much of a challenge it is. Aside from the physical challenge of the yoga asana, there is the challenge of concentrating; actually listening to what someone is saying for a full 90 minutes and remembering to breathe a certain way.
Hotter yoga is better yogaWith the growing number of heated yoga schools in the west, the words ‘Bikram’ and ‘Hot Yoga’ get thrown around a lot. Since Bikram Yoga became so popular, a lot of other styles using heat quickly followed suit. I'm not criticising heated yoga studios but there is a misconception that heated styles are ‘harder’, ‘better’ and ‘more detoxing’.
For the record: all yoga is detoxing. It's the poses that make it detoxing, not the artificial heat. Although you might sweat more in a Bikram class doesn’t mean you have worked harder, done better yoga or cleansed yourself more thoroughly.
When asana (poses) are sequenced together in a certain way your body will create its own internal heat, just the right amount so that you will sweat out what you need to, while holding onto the good minerals which often leave the body when we sweat too much. If you are going to a yoga class to detox from a big night out, then you are better off staying home, drinking loads of water, eating healthy food and maybe going for a walk outside in the fresh air, as the heat of the studio will have the adverse effect and will dehydrate you further.
Only flexible people can do yogaThis is probably the most common misconception, the one where people claim that they can’t do yoga because they aren’t flexible enough. It is quite ironic: those who aren’t flexible aren’t doing something that could help them gain flexibility.
Interestingly yoga helps people gain flexibility and at the same time it helps them gain strength. Those who start yoga as a very flexible person are often less strong and they actually find the strength building aspect of yoga quite challenging. There really is something for everyone in the class, so don’t get scared if you can’t bend down and touch your toes!
Yoga is just stretching and breathingYes it is true, many yoga poses involve stretching, and yes, there is a big focus on breathing deeply in a controlled way at the same time. However, yoga involves so much more than stretching. Have you ever seen a yogi doing a headstand? It is pure strength! Ever been to an Ashtanga or Vinyasa class where you are repeatedly doing chaturanga (a yoga version of a push up)? This is not only strengthening (and incredibly challenging) but will also raise your heart rate.
The great thing is that by combining the stretching with strengthening we are supporting the new opening in the body so we don’t just overstretch. Stretching helps the muscles grown long and lean (so they don’t get tight and sore) and the breath allows you to stay calm all at the same time.
Yoga won’t make you tonedThis one comes from experience! Yoga managed to tone my body better than anything else ever has. In fact I regularly get asked if I rock climb or swim because my arms are have gotten so toned through yoga. So along with everything else, yoga tones your muscles without you looking bulky – it is the combination of muscle strengthening and stretching that allows the shape to stay long and lean.
All through your yoga session you are holding your body in different (and often very challenging) poses that can be difficult to hold and balance in. When we use our core and engage our muscles in these poses we are toning not only the external muscles those much deeper muscles which ensures that we are strong throughout the entire body.
All yogis are hippiesIt is true that a lot of yogis start to adopt some of the beliefs shared with our long-haired, hippie friends. It seems to be a natural progression that once you start practicing yoga regularly, you create a deeper connection and awareness of yourself, which in turn develops in to a deeper connection and awareness of everyone and everything around you. This opens you up to understanding your impact on others and the world around you. What it doesn’t do is turn you in to a cheesecloth-wearing hippie with flowers in your hair (even though that sounds quite fun to me!). Most people in my classes are successful professionals and are lucky enough to carry their yoga beliefs in to their business and personal dealings.
Nadia Rihani is a yoga instructor and the Director of Yoga Village in Potts Point, Sydney. She strongly believes that we are capable of doing a lot more than what we first think and that our main limitations are mental, not physical.Like Yoga Village on Facebook