Top 10 Yoga & Fitness Myths Debunked

We dispel some of the pesky myths around yoga and fitness to help you stay on track with your health goals.

As a teacher of yoga for over nine years and a life-long fitness fanatic, I’ve heard it all when it comes to excuses and myths. Many of which are stories told in our heads of limiting beliefs. You know, why we “can’t do something” or why “it’s simply not for us.”

I’m not immune to such stories. However, it is a long list of excuses more than they are reasons with rationale. On the flip side, there is also a slew of information out there.

Yoga and fitness information that inundate us now more than ever with multiple streams of content and social feeds at every turn. Meaning, on top of our personal stories and limitations as to why not, it’s increasingly difficult to decipher what is truth, useful or just plain click-bait and marketing hullabaloo.

Ten Biggest Yoga & Fitness Myths 

Below, we’re determining some truths behind the top 10 yoga and fitness myths. No excuses anymore!

1. You have to be flexible to do yoga

I’m jumping in here to put the kibosh on this one. The intention of practicing yoga is to connect your mind and body creating inner balance and perhaps a spiritual connection with oneself.  Yoga, in essence,  has more to do with breathing than it does with your ability to put your foot behind your head. 

Aside from the fact, one starts yoga to become more flexible in their body, gradually building up to a healthy limber. Not start from the skillset of an acrobat.

To debunk this yoga myth, stay focused on your breath, each footstep and movement as it builds. Allow each practice to be gradual, find breath in your postures and transitions and sync your movement with your inhales and exhales. Make time on your mat for even 20-30 minutes and you’ll notice the difference in both your mind and your physical flexibility.

woman in child's pose yoga myth

2. Workout at least five days a week for results

Ever heard the phrase or hashtag “No Days Off” and thought, well that’s too time-consuming and exhausting for me? Working out daily doesn’t have to be the case in order to see benefits.

In fact, your body can benefit from a rest day or restorative practice instead of hitting the hard muscle grind on the daily—overusing some of the muscles and groups of muscles in the body.

To debunk this fitness myth, trainer Melissa Kendter suggests adding yoga to the mix. “Yoga, stretching… an important part of progressing in your workout is keeping your hard days hard and your easy days easy, so that your body isn’t being taxed.” Believe it or not, working out is technically a stressor on the body. Hence, recovering from the stress requires a pause, break or “easy day” to build itself back up to become stronger. 

3. Exercise to burn off food

The idea that you workout to burn off calories alone is one of the most strangled mindsets more around food and self love than anything. That you earn food by burning it off simply isn’t the way calories and your body composition work alone. There are so many factors that go into your weight, structure and build, including genetics.

Kendter shares, “There are so many things going on today that state ‘you should do this, you should do that.’ Nutrition is huge and it’s so individualized…eat what the Earth gives you: water, hydration, foods. I try not to do any processed foods and avoid foods that are inflammatory.”

Here’s a mindful tip: focus on the feeling of exercising during and after your workouts and adapt a mindful eating approach. Meaning, you’re present in the moment nourishing your body rather than punishing or looking to earn food as a reward. It’s healthier for the long-term. 

no pain no gain weight training fitness myth

4. No pain, no gain

Feel like you have to put yourself into torture mode to gain a benefit? Not so fast. While there are benefits to going slightly past your comfort zone to increase your physical and mental strength, feeling pain to any extreme doesn’t equal success. For example, a strain on a muscle, tendon or ligament can set you back months or even years if a part of the body is overworked or not given proper recovery.

Think of the long-term effects and approach to this mindset as well. A sustainable workout that creates balance and works as a lifestyle habit is far more likely to maintain a routine over time, let alone your safety and being far less prone to injury. 

5. Lifting weights will bulk you up

“Absolutely not! Strength training should be the base of a well built plan. What you eat and how you plan your strength sessions will determine the progress of your body,” confirms Los Angeles-based Diego Calvo, creator of Nucleus Core Pro. Muscle does weigh more than fat. Yet muscle burns calories quite differently than fat in the body, or the lack of muscle.

There are different kinds of toning as well, including creating a lean muscle mass and build. This would differ in each body based on your current fitness regime, food consumption and genetic disposition. On the whole, lifting weights will not make you bulk up, especially if you’re combining restarting stretch and proper rest and nutrition. 

two yogi women doing dancer's post in tandem

6. Yoga doesn’t burn calories

Honestly, this was my mindset when I first started practicing yoga. I was bored and thought that it didn’t burn calories like cardio and weights did so what was the point. Over time, I had proven my own self wrong for having this rigid judgment and approach toward yoga. 

Slowly, I noticed my body had more tone than ever before doing yoga alone for five days a week than when I was doing cardio and weights just about daily.

Another shift I know aided in debunking my personal yoga myths: mindfulness. Yoga helped me become more mindful in the exercises I was doing, paying attention to form and flow. I was more intuitive with the food I was eating, from true hunger and intuition compared to emotional eating and boredom. 

7. Always eat before a workout

This is a doozy of a fitness myth. Get your energy in before you workout! Or, not so fast.  Poignantly stated by Miami-based Business Coach and Marketing Agency Owner, Anthony Mendez, “This really depends. Number 1 is to always listen to your body. Is it hungry or not hungry?” 

Going back to that concept of mindful eating, checking in with yourself prior to eating on auto-pilot is crucial here. I prefer to always have something small in my stomach before working out. My choice picks are banana, peanut butter, yogurt or other fruit. 

Timing is another big factor with this, too. Are you working out in the morning, afternoon or night time? There’s also consideration for food consumption and timing from a caloric level. 

“As long as you ingest as many calories as you need within 24 hours, you will be fine,” adds Calvo. He goes on to say, “The way you structure the plan may change from individual to individual. A 2,500 calories split into four meals may have the same effect as a 2,500 calories split into three meals.”

fitness myth man doing pushups streets of LA

8. You can target certain areas of the body

Contrary to fitness myth belief, you cannot single out one area of the body to tone and nix the rest. For example, doing abs every day and forgetting any kind of cardio, glute exercises or upper back won’t get rid of any love handles. 

Instead, try a total body approach working various areas of the body at once. And, switching up your days of doing upper body one day (say, arms and upper back), abdominals and cardio another, or lower body (glutes and legs) another—switching off in the week to create an overall balance of the areas you’re working to keep the entire system optimized and strong.

9. You have to change up your workout routine

My number one recommendation for changing up your workout routine has little to do with efficiency. It has everything to do with keeping consistent. When you enjoy what you’re doing for fitness, you’re more likely to stick with it. 

Compare this to getting bored with exercise, where you’re more prone to give up the habit after day 21 into the new year. Mendez wholeheartedly agrees, “Keep in mind your muscles need a new stimulus, challenge and adaptation in order to grow. You’ll want to change your program up after 4-6 weeks. This will allow your body to grow efficiently.”

Try a new class, incorporate a new machine, join a group or enroll with a partner. Actually, why don’t you sign up for an app that lets you take fitness routines with you no matter where you are in the world. This is ideal especially if you’re a frequent traveler and would like to  stick with your healthy lifestyle habit of a daily yoga or fitness routine. 

male athlete battle rope training

10. Running is terrible for your knees

What’s worse for your knees than running? Improper form. “If you know how to run properly, it won’t affect your knees at all,” says High Performance Master Life Coach and Former Professional Running Athlete, Chad Weller. “I’ve been running 26 years and I’ve never had anything happen to my knees.”

Form is everything when it comes to exercise—including yoga, weights, classes and especially running. Weller shares a helpful hint to adopt a healthy running form: increase your cadence, which refers to the number of steps per minute.

Weller says, “The ideal cadence per minute is 180 steps. This means landing on your mid foot, striking underneath you. Not landing on your heel first.”

Rather than limit yourself because of a fitness myth, start gradually with your running routine, scaling from 10 minutes or one mile per day to 30 minutes or 20 miles and beyond. 

Bonus tip: you need absolutely nothing to run, and it happens to be one of my favorite activities when visiting cities, hitting the pavement, getting lost and exploring while doing my body some serious cardiovascular good.

Overcome These Yoga & Fitness Myths

Now that we’ve debunked these yoga and fitness myths and offered proper tips to develop a long-term success habit for healthy movement—which one of these myths have you heard before? And which ones can you now thrive past with this clarification? Pass the knowledge along. It’s powerful. 

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