Health and Wellness

3 Misconceptions Of Yoga

What do you think of when you hear the word “yoga”? A work out? Someone doing a handstand or a split? A religion? A cult? Meditation? Chanting? Maybe you have an idea of what it is or maybe you don’t really know at all. So what is yoga, really? Yoga is a spiritual discipline that includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of certain physical postures that is practiced for overall health and wellness. There are many misconceptions about yoga out there, so hopefully this will help distinguish the facts from the myths.
1 – You have to be flexible

When I tell people that I practice yoga, their response is usually, “Oh, I am not flexible enough for that.” Many people assume that to practice yoga, you need to be in perfect physical shape and extremely flexible. In reality, the only prerequisite for yoga is the ability to breathe. It’s that simple.

Yoga is a practice that is meant for your entire body. It is not just a physical practice like many believe. The physical aspect of yoga, otherwise known as the “asana,” is only one of the eight forms of yoga.

While the most popular type of yoga is the asana, as a certified yoga teacher, I would argue that proper breathing is the most crucial skill needed for yoga overall, even in the asana practice. When practicing any pose, you need to be able to breathe correctly in order to get into it, hold that pose and safely get out of it. There are always variations to each pose so if you are new to the practice, you can still take part and benefit from it, no matter how flexible or strong you are. 

2 – Yoga is a religious practice

People also commonly think that yoga is a religious practice or a cult ritual. Yoga instead is a spiritual practice.

Religion is an institutionalized system that consists of a set of texts, practices and beliefs by a shared community that involves a relationship with a god, gods or higher being that created the universe as we know it.

On the other hand, spirituality is your own personal connection with your soul, higher power, nature etc. It moves a person down a path that is a continuous cycle of departure, arrival and return. It is not something to achieve or attain but rather a lifestyle, something to be lived.

When we have a spiritual practice, we are constantly questioning the world, questioning ourselves and the decisions we make on a daily basis. We are trying to be a better version of ourselves. Your spiritual practice could be as simple as taking a walk everyday and contemplating your life. It could be meditating, journaling every night before bed, creating music, going to the gym, asana etc. – it could be anything you want it to be.

Yoga is associated with India and Hinduism in particular because that is where yoga was created, but it is not a part of Hinduism and does not require you to be Hindu in order to practice it. You can practice any religion and still practice yoga. 

3 – Yoga will make you perfect

Another common misconception is that people who practice yoga or who teach yoga are perfect, are always calm, never get angry and sit on top of a mountain all day meditating and practicing asana. This couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Most yogis are regular people who use yoga to manage the craziness in their lives. They have come to yoga to help ease their stress, anxiety, mental health, and physical health. 

Yoga is a spiritual practice that involves the entire body as a whole.

Anyone, anywhere from any background can benefit physically and mentally from this practice. If you have never done yoga before, try a gentle flow class or beginner class.

Submerge yourself into this practice and see for yourself the magic that yoga can bring into your life. 

{Featured image, courtesy of ‘Chelsea Loves Yoga’}

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