Happy Labor Day! I thought it would be appropriate to post this article today that I wrote for the La Canada Flintridge Neighbors Magazine. This story about myths that hold people back from trying yoga and meditation ran in the August 2016 edition of the magazine. Enjoy!

Picture me at a summer backyard barbecue, chatting with some new acquaintances. As we dive into the usual small talk topics, I find that, as a yoga teacher, describing my job tends to take the conversation in a certain direction.

LaCanadaNeighborsImageWhen people hear that I not only practice yoga and meditation, but I teach these forms for a living, I get a few common responses. One is: “Oh, I’ve heard yoga is great for you, but I’m not flexible enough to do it.” And the other one is: “I admire people who can meditate, but I just can’t clear my thoughts like that.”

When I hear such comments, I wonder how to let the person I’m talking to know – in the politest way possible – that they have fallen for a myth! And, furthermore, they’ve confused the results of these practices with the pre-requisites for trying them out.

The fact is, if you are unflexible, unathletic, and unbalanced, you are exactly the person who can benefit from practicing yoga! Yoga has a long history and a diverse span of practices to offer. There are many different types of classes for different people in various stages of life, and they don’t all look like the glamorous and acrobatic images we see in the media. You don’t really need to be flexible, because yoga itself is flexible. With a skilled teacher, yoga can adapt to you.

Rather than being requirements for those beginning a yoga practice, strength, flexibility, balance, decreased aches and pains, and reduced stress come as benefits over time. And, they’re all the sweeter because we know that’s not how we started out in our first class.

Now let’s tackle that second myth that you need a peaceful and clear mind to meditate. In my own experience, I got into meditation because I wanted to learn methods for working more constructively with my very active mind. I was so relieved to find that these practices were specifically designed to help me channel my mental energy, rather than be carried off in a million directions. So, if you’ve noticed your mind is quite full, you’ve taken the first step toward being more mindful! You are already using your awareness to notice the state of your mind, and that opens the door to plenty of transformative insights. The benefits of meditation are many – from reducing stress and improving memory, to boosting your immune system – but the most motivating to me is that it makes me more available to savor life and be present with those I love.

So, now that you know about these myths, I hope you’ll feel empowered to give yoga and meditation a try with some guidance from good instructors. Then we can have a different conversation about how great you feel at that next backyard barbecue!

Addie deHilster, E-RYT 500, is an experienced yoga teacher and Co-Owner of Spiral Path Yoga Center. She teaches several yoga and meditation classes a week here, and leads the studio’s Teacher Training and Certification program, as well as Yin Yoga Teacher Trainings.