Whether you’re new to yoga or have raved about it to others who don’t know much about it, there certainly are some big stereotypes that society has seemed to associate with yoga and those who practice it. Even those who’ve been practicing for years probably catch themselves really falling for some of those stereotypes in certain situations.
In reality, yoga is just as personal and just as versatile as anything else. It’s truly your own practice, which means you can make it anything you want it to be.
So next time you find yourself wanting roll your eyes at the overly spiritual vibe that you sense in class or trying to convince a skeptical friend about why yoga is so awesome, notice what you’re assuming about the practice, and focus on opening your mind. Here are a few common misinterpretations to get more clear about.
1. Yoga isn’t as good of a workout as cardio or weight training.
There is no form of physical activity that’s better than another because they’re all different and they all suit people depending on the different fitness goals they have. Cardio is great for endurance and heart health while weight training is obviously good for building strength. Yoga is best known for improving strength, flexibility, and balance, but there’s no reason why any yogi can’t tailor their practice by picking up the pace for more of a cardio effect, or holding certain poses that use their body weight to build strength.
2. Yoga is too difficult or painful for people who just aren’t very flexible.
The good news about flexibility is that it can be improved drastically over months or years when practiced correctly. All yoga poses and practices can be modified to suit beginners, people are suffering from chronic pain, people who are recovering from injuries, and people who just weren’t blessed with the best flexibility genes. After all, it’s not about how bendy and flowy you make it look — it’s about getting deeply in touch with your mind, body, and spirit.
3. Yoga is too religious.
There’s no denying that spirituality and components of Buddhism are indeed worked into modern day yoga practices. But at the very core, yoga is really about building awareness of the self, building awareness of the spirit, and realizing the connection we have to all other people and things. If you attend any classes where the teacher seems to focus heavily on Buddhist stories and traditions throughout the practice, try asking if there are other classes you can take that have more of a neutral take on the spiritual stuff.
4. Yoga is only for very lean, young women.
While it may seem like young women who are already quite fit make up the majority of the yoga practicing population, the truth is that yoga is for everybody. Yoga is practiced by men, children, seniors, people who are overweight, and people of all different religions and spiritual paths. Whoever you are and wherever you come from, yoga is for you.
5. You have to be vegan / a tree hugger / a hippie to be a real yogi.
There are some yogis who take their practice seriously enough to eat 100% organic, have zero toxic chemical products in their homes, and meditate for one hour every day outdoors. Most yogis, however, are real people who don’t do everything perfectly. They eat meat, and they live in urban areas without very many trees, and they purchase products that aren’t super eco-friendly, and they watch Netflix instead of meditating, and yet they still love to do yoga. That doesn’t make them any less good or any less worthy of practicing yoga than the super serious vegan, tree-hugging hippies.
The further along you go in your journey, the more truth you’ll discover behind those stereotypes that society loves to mock. Don’t take them too seriously. Instead, work on accepting them, even laughing at them a little, and know that yoga is much more than what some people tend to interpret it to be.