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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Fitness: Debunking common yoga myths

With the popularity of yoga having reached its peak around the world, this practice is fast finding its place in Kenya.

However, many are yet to take it up because of the common myths surrounding yoga, despite its physical and mental benefits.

No, you do not have to be rich to practise — there are various affordable and even free classes around Nairobi that you will find if you search online.

You can even start with teachers on YouTube. Yes, you can benefit from it spiritually but don’t have to be Hindu or denounce your own religion.

Herein are more myths that shouldn’t keep you from reaping the rewards of this ancient practice.

You have to be flexible to do yoga

The common excuse I hear from people is that “I’m too stiff to try it” or “I can’t even touch my feet without pulling a muscle”. Well, that’s exactly why you should give it a shot.

All those beautiful pictures that pop up on your social media timelines of people contorting themselves into seemingly unnatural shapes take years of practice. When you are starting out, focusing on where your body is at the moment and alignment are far more important than how far back you can bend.

State your intention and show up to your mat ready to work on your strength and flexibility, and watch your body respond in ways that will pleasantly surprise you.

Yoga is only for the young and lean women

Thanks to magazines and social media, we are living in an age where the female body (for instance) is only glorified in its youth and at a certain weight, and this notion has unfortunately trickled down to yoga.

Forget what you have seen online; when you actually walk into a studio in Nairobi, you will find men and women of all ages, sizes and fitness levels taking classes.

Matter of fact, if you are older, you will notice the tremendous physical benefits of committed practice on your muscles and joints. Do some research on the type of yoga you would like to try, find a class and give it a shot!

Yoga is not really exercise (and can’t help you lose weight)

I love intense sessions at the gym and remember showing up to my first yoga class two years ago thinking we were just going to be stretching and cracking jokes, and then I would go home and not feel any effects. Boy was I wrong!

While there are types of yoga like restorative yoga and certain hatha practices which are gentler, classes can be quite challenging.

I was sweating profusely within only five minutes, and I recall feeling sore in muscles I had never even knew I had even after previous full body gym training sessions.

There are no weights in yoga- you use your entire body. To master a headstand, for instance, you use your core muscles to raise your body weight into a controlled movement and eventually your body is upside down. Then, you hold yourself steady for 10 yoga breaths.

During classes, you are taught breathing techniques as you hold poses or flow from one stance into the next.

Unless you want it to be, yoga is not just stretching but can be a cardiovascular workout that helps you lose weight.

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