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5 Myths about daily yoga practice

Updated: Jan 19

Senior yoga practitioner smiling as she sets up her computer to see a yoga class
Yoga practitioner enjoying a class at home

Do you find that you don’t start something because you think you can’t do it? Sometimes this comes down to myths, or assumptions, that you have picked up along the way. Like talking to your neighbour who mentions they went to yoga once and they didn’t like it because they had to invest in special gear, an expensive mat and crazy leggings. Or you were flicking through a magazine when you last had your hair done, it showed a model with one leg behind their ear and the title of the article was ‘Easy poses to destress your inner you’. In this article we look at 5 myths about daily yoga practice.

When you see posts on social media about a yoga class nearby you immediately think back to these myths and say to yourself ‘I can’t do that’, so you flick onto something else and never give it a further thought. But wait a minute, yoga is like tea. Yes, you saw it, I am comparing yoga to tea. Tea is one word that describes a whole myriad of different sensations. You can have Tetley tea, or Yorkshire tea, or Sainsbury’s home brand of tea. They are all called tea but they are all different from one another. You may have tried a couple before you settled on your favourite and then you buy mostly that. But you might also go off piste from time to time and shell out on peppermint tea, or camomile tea, or even blueberry tea. If you go to the tea aisle in any supermarket you will find an array of different types and brands and grades of tea.

It’s a bit like that with yoga, you might go to a class in your local gym and come out sweating and feeling like every muscle has been stretched. Alternatively, you might try a class in a studio and drive home feeling completely relaxed and chilled. There are so many different styles of yoga and each teacher will put their own interpretation on the style that they teach. This piece that I am writing is about the 5 myths that people have about doing yoga every day. That’s when you see the changes, that’s when you really feel it, but we are up against myths again. So here goes on busting 5 of them.

Myth 1 You must do at least 90 minutes a day

There are very few people who regularly do 90 minutes or even 60 minutes of yoga a day. I did a challenge this year and every day we had a seasoned yoga teacher take us through their morning routine. They often had a simple, regular practice of less than 20 minutes, it might be a few simple yoga poses. When there is time, I like to pick an online class and, as so many of these are taped nowadays, you can dip in and out whenever you want to. There is no need to attend at a particular time each week. However, lots of people do like a regular class and it’s nice to attend online ones so that you can chat to other students and ask questions. One of the nice things about a class is being curious about the different poses and whether they resonate with you. Some will, some won’t. Those that feel good can then be tried in your own time. “Oh, that felt good, I wonder if I held it a little longer or if I did it a little slower, how would that feel?”

Myth 2 You must have special designer expensive gear

Nope!!! You can keep your pyjamas on if they are warm and comfy, you can put on those awful ‘seen a better day’ joggers as no one is looking. All you need is something that moves with you and doesn’t restrict you in any way. The less you feel what you are wearing the more you can focus on how your body feels as it moves.

Myth 3 You must have a special mat

Heck no!! that is marketing talking. You need something that is safe so that when you are holding a pose your feet don’t slip. Those clever socks with little plastic circles on the underside are perfect, they offer just the right amount of grip when you use a towel. Bare feet are of course the most obvious but can be chilly in the winter. A mat allows you to consider the space that you need to practice, you need somewhere that you can lie down with both feet outstretched. However, for years I did my yoga in a very small bathroom because that was the only place I could get some privacy. I didn’t lie down and relax after I had finished to allow the practice to percolate through my body. I simply didn’t have the time and back then I didn’t realise that the relaxation was the most important bit. Alternative items to use if you don’t have a mat are towels, you can use carpet to practice on directly too, but just watch out for the stickiness of your feet in some poses. When selecting an area to practice simply chose somewhere that you are happy to return to time after time and feel cosy and comfortable.

Myth 4 You must be extremely bendy

Those people who do social media posts in very tricky positions are not doing us any favours. They are most likely to be hypermobile and can do that kind of movement without any practice of yoga at all. It’s just the way they are made. They make up about 14% of the population and they can make the rest of us feel like failures. Nowadays yoga teachers are taught to teach within a person’s range of motion. This means that if you feel any pain or discomfort then you gently come out of the pose. We no longer do the Jane Fonda ‘feel the burn’ type of movement. Nowadays it is what makes you feel good, what feels right and then you get more out of the practice.

Myth 5 You must do all that complicated breathing stuff

When you are practicing in the luxury and comfort of your own space you don’t need to do complicated breathing circuits. All that is important is that you continue to breath whilst you practice. This sounds so obvious when its written down in black and white but I for one always used to hold my breath when I did yoga. Simply remembering to breath whilst you are practicing is enough. It is lovely to listen to a teacher when they take you through a breathing practice, but this is done after a great deal of training. Focussing in on the rate of your breathing allows you to understand when you are pushing a bit too hard. It is reasonable to aim for a smooth inhale and exhale and if possible that the exhale be a little longer than the inhale.

Do you see where we are going with this? Yoga is simply a movement based principle that you can change and adapt to your own body when you practice on your own. If you make it a lovely experience with soft clothing, a nice place to practice, maybe a little music, maybe a fragrance that you like, you will want to keep coming back to it. You can take as long as you like or make it brief. It’s like making that first drink in the morning, switching on the kettle, putting the tea bag in the cup or the leaves in the pot, smelling the tea as the hot water hits the leaves and waiting as it brews. You get used to the daily routine and slow it down or speed it up in alignment to what you need.

First thing in the morning, gently easing yourself into your new day, lying down on your mat and simply circling your wrists and your ankles. Maybe bringing your knees to your chest and whilst you gently hug them, rocking from side to side. Is this a day when you will stretch a little more or will you take it easy and keep the movements slow and easeful? Or perhaps you prefer to use yoga to settle you into your evening routine, some restorative poses like placing your legs up the wall or up on the sofa. ‘Motion is lotion’ as the saying goes, there are so many styles of yoga that help you bring that movement into your day, every day, keeping you supple and strong, both in your body and your mind.

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