Even if you’ve never practiced yourself, you’ve probably encountered yoga in gossip magazines, occasional studio visits or in the movies. But have you tried yoga?
Yoga’s potential health benefits can include stress reduction, increased fitness, weight loss and management of chronic health conditions. Yet the practice still holds the perception of being too New Age-y; a recent survey by the international professional organization Yoga Alliance found three particular misconceptions kept people from enjoying the mind-body connection yoga provides.
Misconception No. 1: Yoga is not a workout
Island resident Warren Flick, 44, admitted that he once thought yoga was a female-oriented blend of stretching, chanting and meditation. “I thought it could never add value to my exercise regimen,” he said.
But six months after starting yoga, Flick says he’s in the best shape of his life. “I cut four inches off my waist,” he says. “I have almost zero percent body fat and I’ve put on 14 pounds of muscle.”
According to the Yoga Alliance, half of men who’ve practiced yoga believe it isn’t a workout, while 73 percent of people who do practice it believe it to be as effective as running, swimming or weightlifting.
Jean Rioux, owner and instructor at the Jiva Yoga Center, is one of them. “One hour of hot Vinyasa yoga can burn 500 calories,” she said.
Misconception No. 2: Yoga is based in religion
The Yoga Alliance survey reported that 57 percent of respondents believed yoga was religion-based, but according to Rioux, it’s more accurate to say yoga is adaptive. “Yoga is not in competition with religion,” she says. “It is a philosophy and a lifestyle. It enhances one’s belief system because it encourages mindfulness.”
For islander Joy Lauerer, mindfulness has helped not only with her own spiritual well-being, but with her 16-year-old daughter Kelsey’s as well. Joy and Kelsey, a junior at Hilton Head Prep, said that yoga has strengthened their faith in themselves, their relationship with each other and their relationships with others. “When you practice yoga, you find something more than yourself to celebrate,” says Joy.
Misconception No. 3: Yoga requires a certain body type
The Yoga Alliance concluded “three in five Americans (who do not practice yoga) think that yoga requires a person to be flexible or in ‘decent’ shape.”
Indeed, when 64-year-old islander Cyndi Tall discovered yoga last fall she was in less-than-optimal shape. Her cholesterol had peaked at 300, and her primary care physician had prescribed numerous medications. Resisting the pills, Tall said she decided to enroll in Jiva’s “40 Days to Personal Revolution” yearly challenge.
“Yoga taught me to listen to a body that I had ignored for over 10 years,” she says.
WHERE TO GO
Jiva Yoga Center a variety of classes from Prenatal Yoga to Yoga for Parkinson’s to Yoga for Dudes and a new favorite, Paddle Board Yoga. There are also standard classes like Vinyasa and Yin yoga.
But if you can’t make it to a studio, you can still kick “asana” — Sanskrit for “yoga pose.” Every morning, instructor Vicky Rickard delivers a 30-minute workout on WHHI (whhitv.com/HY/HipYoga.html). And Marty Crocker (770-880-8505) — sometimes better known as the Wandering Yogi — teaches yoga in a great location: the beach. “I have no set fee,” said Crocker. “I don’t want $10 to get in the way of someone experiencing yoga. Yoga lifts the cloud of negativity and makes life clearer, easier, better.”