Many people in the west are deterred from giving yoga a try as a form of exercise or as an addition to their regular fitness routine because they hold false beliefs about yoga. Here are some of the most popular myths and benefits of yoga in any fitness program.
Myth 1: Yoga is Easy
Although yoga is extremely popular as a form of exercise in the US, many people still hold outdated stereotypes that may prevent them from engaging in this excellent type of workout. For example, individuals who participate in other forms of regular exercise or are adept at a sport such as basketball or distance running tend to think that yoga is easy.
The origins of this stereotype are easy enough to understand. First of all, many types of yoga involve holding poses for long periods of time, often using slow, controlled movements to switch between poses.
This lack of fast motion can look like laziness from the outside, particularly to those who are used to fast-paced physical activity. However, just because yoga looks easy, doesn't mean it is. Many of the poses that yogis hold for long periods of time actually require a tremendous amount of strength and concentration to maintain.
Additionally, using slow movements to switch between poses requires toned muscles and a high degree of control and precision. Another source of this stereotype is the fact that most types of yoga can be adapted for skill level.
In other words, yoga can be very easy, allowing beginners, older individuals, and those in need of physical therapy to engage in yoga practice without feeling overworked. For more advanced and fit people, though, yoga offers many intense challenges.
Myth 2: Yoga is for Women
Another stereotype that prevents some people from trying yoga is that it's a women's sport. Why has yoga developed this reputation? It may be due to the previously mentioned misconception that yoga is easy, and some people perceive women as less athletic, and therefore, more likely to engage in "easy" workouts.
Then again, it could have more to do with the fact that yoga is typically practiced in groups and in tight clothing, a combination that makes many men uncomfortable. Yoga by no means requires either of these elements. Loose sweatpants are great as yoga-wear, and with a basic level of understanding, solo yoga practice can be very beneficial.
A third factor influencing this stereotype could be marketing. Yoga has largely marketed to women, so the public perceptions followed. As any advanced yogi will attest, however, yoga is in no way emasculating. In fact, yoga is practiced primarily by men as a meditative practice that goes along with the religious lifestyle adopted by monks.
Combining Flexibility with Strength
It's no secret that regular yoga practice will increase both strength and flexibility. Yoga poses require a great degree of flexibility to master, since they involve contorting the body into unusual forms. This emphasis on flexibility may be seen as feminine because men typically do not value flexibility.
In order to safely develop flexible muscles, however, the muscles must also be strong. Flexibility without strength represents a huge risk of injury. Thus, self-awareness and control are necessary to ensure that strength and flexibility increase simultaneously.
Lean muscles typically result from this type of exercise, making it unappealing to men who are interested in building muscle mass. Even bodybuilders can benefit from yoga, however. Once per week yoga practice alongside regular bodybuilding can help reduce the risk of injury and build muscle endurance, allowing for faster improvement.
Yoga is for Everyone
Despite the prevailing stereotypes that yoga is feminine and easy, many types of yoga are physically and mentally intensive and can be practiced in such a way that more traditionally masculine values need not be sacrificed.
The flexibility of yoga is what makes it such a universally appropriate form of exercise. No matter who you are or what your fitness goals, integrating routine yoga practice into your regular training schedule can help you become a more well-rounded athlete.