10 Yoga Truths Beginners Might Not Believe (Yet)
By Yoga Sol student, Emily Henry:
I started doing yoga a few months ago and have been amazed at all the yoga myths I've dispelled in my short but enlightening journey. Yoga is immediately rewarding and invigorating and I fell in love with it at once. From the beginning, I've always left class feeling energized and inspired, no matter what demons I faced during the course of practice. But yoga can also be intimidating, especially if you're telling yourself untruths. One major myth beginners often buy into, myself included, is that you can't do a pose and will never be able to do it because your body just isn't made that way. I felt like this about Reclining Hero Pose, Supta Virasana. I didn't see how it was possible to get my backside anywhere near the floor, let alone start leaning back. My thighs were in the way, I told myself, and that's just the way I'm built. But guess what? I kept going to class and sitting in that knee-knocked, splayed leg position, and one day recently I touched the floor. I looked down at my legs and thought how strange and wonderful I looked. That's the amazing thing about yoga: every class holds some seemingly small triumph that has the power to change everything.
So, to all the other beginners out there, here's a few other "untruths" I've learned that I'd like to share:
1. Not everyone at yoga is skinny and really flexible. In fact, the people in yoga classes are usually very diverse, ranging from high school athletes to seniors, and everything in between. There are some people who can headstand in a couple of breaths, and others who can't even touch their toes. I'm in the latter category.
2. You’re going to sweat more in a hot yoga class than you would doing your regular cardio routine, or maybe even if you were running for your life away from a bear. You’re going to sweat in places you didn’t think you could even sweat, like your shins and elbows. You’re going to look like you went swimming with your clothes on. But it's worth it.
3. You’re not sweating because you’re unfit. You’re sweating because you’re working hard and your body is trying to cool you down. Look around in class. Everyone is sweating. And if they’re not sweating, they’re not doing it properly.
4. You’re going to feel high, and low. You might feel invincible and like the king of the world in one pose, and yet insignificant and pathetic in another. You might feel sad or happy, or switch back and forth. Certain poses might even bring up old memories or sore emotional points. It’s not just crazy-hippy-yoga talk. It really is an emotional roller coaster.
5. You might feel like puking or passing out, but you won’t. Tara, the owner Yoga Sol, says she's taught thousands of students in her yoga career and never once has anyone puked or fainted in class. More than half of the battle is mental, and some days will be better than others. Every class I know it's coming when we start moving into Camel Pose, Ustrasana, and I remember to tell myself that it's just a feeling and my mind is stronger than my body. Some days are better than others, but if you're really feeling it, here's a tip from Tara: sucking on a mint helps. I've tried it, and it's true.
6. You really do need to breathe the way they tell you to. No, really. At first I thought that maybe it was just for show or to ensure you didn't hold your breath, but I now know that practicing Ujjayi Breathing actually makes you more powerful and flexible in your poses. I don't fully have the hang of it yet, but that's why we call it "practice."
7. Your mat probably sucks. If you just started yoga and you picked up some $20 mat from Target, you're going to start experiencing problems pretty soon, like not being able to keep your feet in the proper position for your Warrior Poses because the mat is too slippy. It's all about quality, grip and padding when it comes to a good yoga mat, and they can cost up to hundreds of dollars for the real pro stuff. But you can get a very good mat starting at about $60. Ask your yoga instructors for recommendations.
8. The less clothing, the better, especially when it comes to taking a hot yoga class. Also, the more form fitting clothing, the better. Don't wear sweats or t-shirts. Feel free to strip down to your sports bra, for women, or a bare chest, for men. Couple with proper yoga bottoms or shorts.
9. Yoga isn’t just meditation and stretching. It’s an intense, hard workout. Yes, you can lose weight if you stick with it and eat healthily. Yes, you can gain muscle and tone your body. Yes, you can even do yoga for cardio: see if your yoga studio offers classes such as yoga TRiX or yoga boxing. Even flow class can be a cardio workout, as you constantly move from one posture to another.
10. Your favorite pose will be last Savasana, and not simply because you get to relax, but because if you’ve really earned it — you’ll feel euphoric. You may have amazing ideas (this blog post was thought up while in Savasana), memories or spiritual insights. You may even start to hallucinate a little, in a good way. The harder you work, the bigger the pay off.
Questions? Thoughts to share? Leave a comment below.