Yoga has long had a dark cloud hanging over its reputation. Many people have heard about the benefits, but they still think of it as just holding strange poses for hours with no purpose or, even worse, as some pseudo-cult that has people brainwashed. For almost anyone who actually tries it, the rays of truth shine through these clouds and dispel the silly myths quickly.
Every day, many people discover the dynamic range of benefits that practicing a yogic lifestyle provides. Everything from improved flexibility and overall fitness to stress reduction and better digestion are just a few ways that yoga can help make life better.
To help clear up a few of the more common misconceptions people have, let’s break through them one-by-one and reveal the truth.
Myth: Yoga is all about tying yourself up like a pretzel for hours in a very hot room.
Truth: Yoga is a process of discovering your spiritual center and extending that focus to improve both your mental and physical self. You learn to understand just what the ego is and how to overcome it and all of the obstacles that it places in your way, while redirecting your energy towards functioning better. A calmer and sharper mind, a more toned body and total self-awareness are just some of the many benefits.
Myth: Yoga is a religious practice similar to Hinduism or Buddhism
Truth: Yoga is not tied to any religion, and also doesn’t contradict any religion. Whether or not you are religious, yoga helps you experience a deeper spiritual connection. You gain a heightened awareness of yourself and your connection to all things. Yoga leads to a truly fulfilling life. It’s an ancient science and art of discovering and living out your life’s mission and finding a new and greater fulfilment.
Myth: I am too stiff to do Yoga
Truth: Saying “I’m too stiff to do yoga” is like saying “I’m too poor to be rich.” Wherever you are in terms of flexibility and health when you start, yoga is there for you. You’ll need to start slowly, but part of yoga is improving flexibility, as well as all of the processes of your body. It allows you to be more aware of what is not functioning properly and to improve that condition.
Myth: Doing yoga will make me prone to injury
Truth: People are injured not because of yoga, but because of incorrect asana (practice and positions) and ignorant teachers. Many people don’t understand what yoga actually is and try to imitate something they’ve seen in a movie, or try to jump immediately into an advanced position. Don’t do that. Work your way into it and start slowly. The best way to avoid injuries is to work with a highly trained yoga teacher, preferably somebody who has more than 2,000 hours of education and who can see your body and knows when you are doing something incorrectly.
Myth: All yoga studios and instructors are the same.
Truth: It’s important to find a yoga instructor and studio that are right for you. Be open minded, but if you walk in and you don’t like the environment, find another studio that will be a better fit for you. There are some studios where the teacher isn’t trained properly, or the focus is on competition instead of a conscious, supportive team who improve together. It’s important that your instructor works with you and guides you along. Yoga is different than football and you shouldn’t be shouted at or pushed past where you should be naturally.Myth: Yoga will brainwash me or change who I am Truth: Yoga will help you gain heightened self-awareness, as well as an awareness of your connection to all things, but it will not fundamentally change who you are as a person. When people talk of finding enlightenment, that does not mean that you will shed your entire identity. It is an improvement, but not a replacement.
Myth: I’ll be the only guy in the yoga class
Truth: For men, the thought of being the only guy in a class of women may be frightening (or totally exciting), but the reality is that most of my classes are made up equally of men and women. This is true of most yoga classes anywhere and you shouldn’t worry about being singled out. Good yoga classes are supportive and accepting of people of any age and sex. There are classes out there for only women, only men or only seniors, or even family classes that are designed to have parents and children of any age, including infants, participate together.
Yoga can become a journey of self-awareness and improvement that you can carry with you for the rest of your life. While it may seem different from what you’re used to, don’t let myths discourage you from giving it a shot. You can start at any age or stage in your life and the benefits only grow with time.
Aadil Palkhivala was a student of the famous B.K.S. Iyengar, is the founder of Purna Yoga and is known as ‘the Godfather of yoga in the west.’ He is author of Fire of Love and founder of the Alive and Shine Center. http://www.aadil.com/ and http://www.aliveandshinecenter.com/