Myths about Yoga
Although hundreds of millions of people practice yoga around the world, there are still many misconceptions about this ancient tradition, practice, and philosophy. Yoga is a way of living and a path leading to self-realization. Sadly, it has little to do with what mainstream and social media are presenting to us. This is unfortunate because, on the one hand, the misconceptions about yoga lead to practicing in a way that is not beneficial (and maybe even harmful). For example, you have probably met someone who practices yoga but is still chronically stressed, overwhelmed, or self-absorbed?
On the other hand, false beliefs about yoga stop people from practicing it. As a result, they don’t gain the potential benefits! For example, someone who is very stiff and has back pain does not want to try yoga because of thinking that yoga is only for flexible people. Or someone who does not want to try yoga because they believe it is against their religion. It seems like we are missing the point here!
Yoga became very popular in the western world in the second half of the last century. The number of practitioners is growing. At the same time, according to various statistics, around one-third of the world’s population experiences stress, worry, and anxiety regularly! While these negative emotions are a natural part of being human, when experienced repeatedly for long periods can become chronic and damaging to mental and physical health, negatively affecting our wellbeing. This leaves us with a question – how many people practice yoga in a way that benefits them?
Yoga is one of the most powerful practices for personal and spiritual growth.Honoring and respecting this tradition contributes to our health, well-being, and happiness.
After years of studying, practicing, and teaching Traditional Hatha Yoga, I learned and realized that yoga is not what most people assume it is. Let’s dissolve some of the common myths about yoga so that you can gain a greater understanding and start practicing in a way that is genuinely beneficial for you.
Yoga is NOT about flexibility. It is about stability! If we practice yoga, we naturally become more flexible, and of course, we need a good level of healthy flexibility. Indeed, you do not need to be flexible to practice yoga. Actually, yoga is more about mental and physical stability! Asana, which stands for yoga posture, means to take a seat, to be established in a pose.
Why stability? Hatha Yoga is a practice of working with energy. Only when we are stable (both physically and mentally) can we hold the energy that builds as we practice and transform it skillfully. When we are stable enough to hold a pose for much longer than comfortable, we begin to build endurance and transform the mind.
2. Fancy Postures
Fancy postures look great in pictures, and some can be beneficial. However, putting yourself in an “advanced” or complicated pose like a wheel or handstand without proper preparation may damage your body! Practicing difficult postures without thinking about sustainability can result in chronic injuries. Practicing this way does not contribute to overall well-being but feeds our ego (which is the opposite of what yoga and other spiritual traditions aim to achieve).
Yoga is a lineage-based tradition, and its power lies in simplicity. Actually, the most simple-looking poses are usually the most effective ones! If you practice yoga at home regularly, you will notice that you mostly feel drawn to the simple, basic hatha yoga sequences – because they work!
Yoga is not fitness! It is a spiritual practice. You can choose not to embrace the spiritual aspect and practice yoga postures to become more fit. However, if this is your only goal, you miss getting the real benefits from a holistic, complete yoga practice. Yoga is much more than just postures! Unfortunately, social media is trying to sell us the opposite. Practicing asana without paying attention to breathing, emotions, and thought patterns is simply stretching or exercising. Yoga is a science and practice of self-realization. It is a holistic practice. Complete yoga practice on the mat consists of asana, pranayama, and meditation (to keep it simple). Meditation is, in fact, the most important part of the practice because this is where the real transformation happens. Asana is a preparation for meditation because a good asana sequence helps purify the body’s energy and make your mind internalized, calm and stable.
4. Yoga requires you to change your religion
While on the one hand, yoga is mostly falsely associated with fitness, on the other hand, some people still associate yoga with religious dogma. Religion is a system that requires you to have certain beliefs and take on a particular worldview. It asks you to perform rituals, celebrate certain holidays, and join a specific culture. Yoga does not require you to do any of that. And you can absolutely practice yoga while belonging to any religion. If you feel ready to embrace the spiritual aspect of yoga, it may bring you closer to your religion’s true core and teachings. Yoga is a journey inwards that leads to self-discovery and the unfolding of your true potential.
5. You will have to become vegetarian or vegan
Some people wonder: I start practicing yoga, do I need to become vegan or vegetarian? While yoga promotes a healthy lifestyle with respect for all beings on the planet, it does not require you to change your diet. However, as you progress in your practice, you will be more likely to eliminate foods that do not serve you. You may start drinking less alcohol and feel less need to consume animal products. You will intuitively feel what food and drink make your body and mind healthier. As a result, your diet becomes more balanced.
I hope that by helping you resolve these common misconceptions, you will feel motivated to practice yoga authentically and in the most beneficial way. What are other common misconceptions about yoga that you know? Has recognizing them helped you to advance your practice and benefit your life? Please let me know in the comments below!