While yoga continues to gain popularity, it simultaneously continues to grow its falsehoods. These falsehoods are what keep people who might benefit from the yoga practice from even stepping foot on a mat. There isn’t a more complimentary match to surfing than yoga, and since we believe surfing is for everyone, we believe yoga is as well.
We asked yoga teachers we’ve met in various parts of the world if they could reveal the truth of some of the most common yoga myths. This is what they’ve heard, and this is what they have to say.
#1 You can be bad at yoga.
by Alexa Torontow, Naturopathic Medical Student, Yoga Teacher + Writer
Yoga doesn’t care if you can’t touch your toes. Yoga doesn’t care if you can balance on your head, your hands or just your pinky toe. Yoga doesn’t care if you’ve been practicing for 10 days or 10 years. All the shapes we make with our bodies are not the point. They’re simply tools for turning our attention inwards.
Although there is an array of physical and energetic benefits each posture offers, the postures themselves, are not the end goal. They’re more like a vehicle, bringing our sweet selves back to our core. It’s the lessons embedded within the process of all the twists, shapes and movements that we make. You see—it’s impossible to be bad at yoga. It’s just a tool, a mirror and a wise teacher. It’s a journey of the self to the self. May every twist, turn, shape and movement, bring us all a little bit closer home.
#2 You need to be flexible to do yoga.
by Natalie Snyder, Yoga Teacher
I’ve heard this statement more than I can count, and it’s always a relief to tell someone it’s simply not true. Yoga doesn’t come up with a list of requirements. You don’t need the trendy yoga pants or the most expensive mat. You don’t need to drink your cold-pressed green juice before a class, and you certainly don’t have to touch your toes on the first day (or even the 100th!). Yoga is mostly referred to as a “practice,” and like all practices, you work toward something while being conscious of where you are in the present moment.
It’s really rewarding to be a beginner in any practice; this is when you see the most growth and the greatest response to what you’re exposing to your body. To see progress in your flexibility is to see dedication, patience, hard work and mindfulness. Flexibility in the body and mind is not seen as a requirement, it’s simply a reward.
#3 You should only feel peaceful when doing yoga.
by Celia Koughan, Yoga With Celia
I always encourage students to feel EVERYTHING they’re feeling throughout their experience on the mat. This won’t always be peace. If you’re in down dog and feel annoyed, frustrated, sad, anxious…anything…feel it. That’s what we’re here for. Often times we create more tension trying to not be tense. Allowing any emotions or feelings to arise and exist is what it’s all about. Trusting in the process. Whatever you’re feeling is exactly what you need to feel for healing, growth, and expansion to happen.
#4 You have to be a woman.
by Alex Sloan, Yoga Instructor of Barefoot Surf Travel
Although yoga is becoming more popular for men, it’s clear when you go to any yoga class that the main demographic is females. As men, we are conditioned to stay away from the concept of vulnerability. I believe yoga is a direct access into our vulnerability and our truth. Yoga allows you to become more flexible in our heart and in our mind. This process can sometimes open spaces that we haven’t explored inside ourselves in a long time, or at all. As men, we are told to be tough, not to cry, not to be sensitive, to protect others, to be strong as opposed to lean and flexible, to bottle our emotions, and to stand tall.
In many ways, yoga is the action of healing. It’s the fire that helps us shed. Yoga is the action of diving into the depths of ourselves to explore who we truly are. This in itself scares away many men (and women). Looking in the mirror can be terrifying if you’re not ready to see yourself as you truly are. I don’t agree that to be a real man you must be hard, tough, uncrackable. We’re not here to offer the same things, but in my opinion, we’re all here for a good reason, and yoga is for everyone.
#5 You should be capable of accessing every pose.
by Genieve Burley, Health in Alignment Chiropractic + Yoga
One of the greatest yoga myths that persists today is the idea that all bodies fit into all postures.
There is no doubt, that consistent practice will change all of the soft tissues, allowing for a deepening and strengthening of all postures. It is the practice that brings us fancy arm balancing, inversions and deeper folds and backbends. The daily practice can improve all areas, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility and strength, but at the end of the day…not all bodies will get into all poses.
The limiting factor in how deep a backbend will go, or if the hips will make it to lotus pose is the structure of the bones. As my favourite radiography would say, “spines are like noses, everyone has got a different one.” Many people have very thick posterior elements (spinous processes) in their low back, which will limit the ability to do transitions such as dropbacks. Just as the shape of the hip socket and head of the femur bone will determine how much rotation will occur to get the legs into lotus pose and forward folds. The shoulder is also a common area of limitation, especially for postures that require large amounts of external rotation to grab a foot, such as full king pigeon.
Again, there is so much room to improve one’s physical practice through consistency and dedication, it’s life-changing. But at the end of the day, no one should feel any amount of failure or get injured in the process of trying to achieve full variations of all poses.