A California-based research firm last month listed yoga studios as the fourth-fastest-growing industry in the United States.
Yoga (and Pilates) studios, according to IBISWorld, are proving to be recession-proof with 12.1 percent growth per year.
The study attributes the growth to a recent rise in interest in fitness. (Reports that the increasing interest is a result of this column are unconfirmed.)
Clearly yoga is as popular as ever around the South Sound, with dozens of studios offering everything from yoga in 105-degree rooms (hot yoga) to yoga on floating stand-up paddleboards (SUP yoga).
Still, Holly Menzies, who runs Tacoma’s Ashtanga Yoga studio, says many people still have misconceptions about yoga. These concerns very well could be keeping some people from trying an activity that can help them get fit, increase strength and flexibility and perhaps even alleviate nagging pain.
So, I asked Menzies and a few others to bust some yoga myths.
MYTH: I have to be flexible to do yoga.
“I get this all the time,” Menzies said. “It’s just not true. People see these really flexible people doing pretty advanced (poses) and they think ‘I can’t do that.’
“The truth is you do yoga to become more flexible.”
MYTH: Yoga is easy.
Ha. Yoga can require more strength – both upper and lower body – than some people expect.
“A lot of people are really surprised,” Menzies said. “It can be so challenging. It really strengthens your legs and your core.”
MYTH: Yoga is for women only
I’ve attended several yoga classes around the South Sound and, true, women typically outnumber men by quite a bit. In fact, a 2005 study by Yoga Journal showed 77 percent of people doing yoga were female.
But yoga is for everybody, Menzies said, and men, who are often less flexible than women, can benefit significantly from the practice.
Odds are you’ll be outnumbered, guys, but it’s not likely you’re blazing a new trail when you unroll your mat. NBA star LeBron James and Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas are just a few pro athletes who use yoga as part of their training regimen.
Still scared? Take your wife or girlfriend. “She wanted me to go” is always a good excuse.
MYTH: Yoga on a floating stand-up paddleboard isn’t really yoga.
When I heard this one recently I relayed the notion to Chris Fry of Olympia’s West Bay Paddleboard. Fry’s response: “Seriously?”
Two days later Fry sent me this message from Trish Meyler, a yoga instructor and co-owner of California-based Boga Paddleboards: “Yoga, by all means, is many things to many people. Many people suggest ‘yoga’ isn’t even the asanas, or poses, that ... have been added by those of us in the West, but that yoga is meditation and devotion to the divine. For many, yoga is their spiritual practice, for others it is just for health and wellness, for many a mixture of both. How one goes about their practice of yoga is individual and yoga on water is absolutely another form of practicing yoga ... . With water you add the gentle motion of the water, adding to not only your balance and inner strength, but it is also a very peaceful way to practice yoga, surrounded by nature. So, like I said, yoga no longer has one definition, and truly it never did.”
MYTH: I can’t do yoga.
As is the case with any good instructor, Menzies says she can adjust a yoga class to the level of any student. All you need to reap the benefits of yoga, she said, is a willingness to try.
“Yoga is for any person young or old,” Menzies said. “The only person that can’t do it is a lazy person.”
Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via email@example.com and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.