Yoga 101: Debunking Myths And Understanding The Process
Barely having any idea what Yoga was except for the fact that my neighborhood gym offers classes every once in a while, I honestly thought it was just one facet of meditation or well, merely a stretching exercise. I feel embarrassed just by thinking how innocent I was. Enlightenment only came recently when I got to talk to singer and actress, Alex Godinez who is also a certified Ashtanga Vinyasa teacher.
Sunsets are proof that endings can be beautiful too ?? as we enter the last week of the yoga teacher training intensive, I can't help but feel heaviness in my heart to leave the friends that I've made; friends that feel more like family.. We were all catapulted into another dimension; leaving our old lives behind, like soldiers alongside each other, marching through the same ups and downs and struggles. We shared every waking hour with one another in this journey of discipline and self-discovery. It's hard to let go. But here lies another lesson. ?? we are stronger together, and holding on to you every day and watching you grow has inspired me and given me the strength and courage to stand alone. ??
Curious about a couple of myths that cloud Yoga, Alex obliged to demystify impressions about it that I’m sure anyone will find encouraging.
1. Can Yoga really help you lose weight?
Yes, absolutely. It really depends on the person’s drive to go deeper. I have tried countless work out programs and the Ashtanga primary series is the workout that really transformed my body. Ever since I started doing the primary series my body has never been the same. If you breathe correctly and hold your bandhas (locks) during your practice, there is no doubt that you will create enough heat in your core to eliminate inches of fat. I’ve tried Crossfit and Plyometrics but nothing has toned, strengthened and trimmed my body like Yoga has. It stretches you and gives you flexibility and mental clarity; wider breathing and peace. You can’t do Yoga and think about other things at the same time - it won’t work. You’ll lose your balance, your breathing will be off, your gaze won’t be focused. Yoga gives you no room to think, and so you let go of listening to your mental noise. The constant noise in our head is what stresses us out and pulls us out of the present moment, whether we’re depressed about the past or anxious about the future. It’s madness, and Yoga doesn’t allow it. It forces you into the present and it’ll kick your butt every time until you learn.
2. Yoga is only for flexible people. Yes or no?
Not at all. Yoga allows you to become more flexible, so the less flexible you are, the more Yoga should be prescribed. Yoga is also for the unfocused, the depressed, the undisciplined… A Yoga schedule will cure all of these ailments.
Medically, Yoga positively affects you so much that it’s a robbery for the pharmaceutical industry. It improves flexibility, builds muscle strength, perfects your posture, prevents cartilage and joint breakdown, reinforces your spine, increases your blood flow, drains your lymphs and boosts immunity. Yoga lowers cortisol levels, lowers blood sugar, builds focus, relaxes your system, improves your balance, maintains your nervous system, releases tension in your limbs, helps you sleep deeper, boosts your immune system functionality, gives your lungs room to breathe, prevents IBS and other digestive problems, gives you peace of mind, increases your self-esteem, eases your pain, gives you inner strength, connects you with guidance, uses sounds to soothe your sinuses, guides your body's healing in your mind's eye, encourages self-care, supports your connective tissue and uses the placebo effect, to affect change.
3. It's not suitable for older people. Agree, disagree?
I disagree. There are modifications for every pose to cater to each person’s abilities. I believe that older people can highly benefit from practicing Yoga because it helps strengthen muscles without much strain and it helps improve balance and flexibility, something that geriatric people need. They do not need to take a fast-paced class like Ashtanga or power Yoga. They can try less strenuous forms of restorative Yoga such as Yin or Lyengar.
4. Yoga is often linked with meditation. What sets both apart?
Meditation is one of the 8 limbs of Yoga that add up into a complete system that can be used to achieve enlightenment or self-realization. Meditation is a component of Yoga that deals with mental relaxation and concentration. Here, attention is focused and concentrated on thoughts and breath. Like I said earlier, while doing poses, you are bringing your awareness to your breath, your locks and your gaze, which is a meditation.
5. Yoga is just all about stretching. Yes or no?
That is the biggest misconception there is. From a physical standpoint alone, Yoga strengthens, stretches, quiets the mind, slows your breath, and aligns. It is way more than stretching. With the illusion of just stretching, you are tackling many things at once, which is unlike other exercises.
More than just a fitness regime, Yoga has helped Alex find her balance – physically, mentally and spiritually. “For me, it is also the best opportunity to be present and inside your body (your shell). If we look at it this way, we are all spirits or energy. It’s like a video game. We can move and control what our life force does under this skin. It’s amazing to stop and breathe and use our bodies for what they are and be mobile and aware of each step,” she shares. To her, Yoga doesn’t feel like a class or a task to be done at all. “It’s a peaceful grateful feeling you start to feel for your life. But we have so many responsibilities and so much of our time is spent thinking about so many random things and we are also advertised to so much that we forget about this wonderful truth. That we are more than just people. We are energy. Doing yoga helps me feel that, feel the presence of my essence.”