10 Yoga Myths Dispelled
Yoga is popular these days. Very popular. According to a recent Yoga Journal survey, over 20 million Americans practice yoga on a regular basis, up from 15.8 million in 2004. Yoga practice has clearly found its stride and is attracting more followers every day. Yet, while many people are reaping the benefits of yoga, there are countless others who are unfortunately scared off due to ill-founded myths and misconceptions about what yoga is. Like any other popular activity, yoga can fall victim to stereotyping and sweeping generalizations if you’re unwilling to look below the surface to really experience the essence of the practice. Once you dig a little deeper, however, you soon discover a simple and profound truth: yoga is for everyone.
The following are some of the most popular myths and misconceptions surrounding yoga and its practice. If you are a yogi, perhaps you once held one or more of these mistaken beliefs before experience changed your mind. If you’re new to yoga or sitting on the fence and unsure about taking the plunge, explore these myths and see if they may be holding you back from finding your place on the mat.
Myth 1: Yoga Is Just About Stretching
While on the surface, yoga may appear to be a simple stretching or calisthenics routine, it is far, far more. The yoga poses or asanas that most people associate with stretching only make up a small portion of a very thoroughgoing philosophy, science, and way of life. The word yoga means union—the union of body, mind, spirit, breath, and environment. It forms an all-inclusive and comprehensive worldview.
The vast storehouse of Vedic and yogic thought comprises a body of knowledge that espouses yoga as a complete and total path of liberation. The classical eight limbs of yoga enumerated by the great yogic sage Patanjali include rules for:
- Social behavior
- Personal observances
- Mind-body integration exercises
- Breathing techniques
- Focusing of the senses
- Mastery of attention and intention
- Experience of pure awareness
Myth 2: Yoga Is Only for Women
There’s no doubt that yoga is more popular with women than men. Most yoga classes have far more female than male participants. However, this wasn’t always the case. In the records of time, yoga was traditionally practiced almost exclusively by men in ancient India. With its arrival in the West however, yoga began to draw a large female following. Regardless, yoga is not a gender-specific activity. Men and women alike can practice and benefit from a regular yoga practice.
Myth 3: You Have to Be Flexible and in Shape to Practice Yoga
Many potential yogis get scared off from yoga practice by images of very flexible or fit yogis gracing the covers of magazines or website articles. They see someone in an asana and mistakenly assume that flexibility and strength are prerequisites for the practice. In actuality, flexibility and fitness come as byproducts of yoga, not as requirements.