Yoga Myths and Misconceptions
There are a lot of yoga misconceptions out there, ranging from the wild to the completely unfounded!
Whether you’re a new yogi or you already have a steady practice, you’ve likely heard many of the most common misconceptions that have followed yoga around for years. Maybe you even believe a few of them to be true!
Well, it’s time to put those rumors to bed and clear up the myths that surround this ancient tradition.
We’re tackling the truth about yoga to dispel any rumors you may have heard about this centuries-old practice. Let’s start at the beginning…. with a look into the past.
Yoga: the beginning
The practice of yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition originating in India. It’s a practice where students focus on a range of spiritual practices, including: philosophy, meditation, breathing, lifestyle and exercise. Its beginnings are believed by some to date as far back as the Stone Age.
Following its introduction to the west in the late 1800’s, yoga has seen a constant rise in popularity. Today, we have an estimated 70 million yoga teachers across North America!
So, why do we have so many yoga misconceptions and how did they start? There are several theories about how they began, but as is true with many misunderstood practices, speculation and stereotypes are at the root of these rumors.
Never fear, we’re here to de-mystify the most common yoga myths and misconceptions and to shed some light on what yoga looks like in today’s practice. Read on as we debunk seven of the most common myths about yoga!
1. Yoga is Only for Women
One of the most long-standing yoga misconceptions is that it’s a practice solely for women. This is far from accurate.
In fact, in the early 1800’s, yoga was common practice for the ruling Prince of India, and it was taught to young boys as a “workout”, making this falsehood especially puzzling!
Teaching a yoga class or own a studio? Expect to see all shapes and sizes. Today’s yoga focuses on finding strength in balance, and there’s nothing gender-specific about that
2. Yoga is Only for Flexible People
Have you ever heard that you need to be flexible to practice yoga? That’s another myth! Yoga is for everyBODY. We’re not all super flexible and that’s okay, but that’s something yoga is great at: increasing strength and flexibility.
Like anything else in life, improvement comes with practice. Keep at it, and little by little you’ll see a drastic improvement in your strength and flexibility. Even if you don’t start out very bendy at the beginning, remember it’s called a practice because it’s a work in progress. Flexibility is certainly not a requirement to start practicing yoga, but it is sure to improve the more you work at it.
Another important note: if you assume that everyone in the class will be flexible and that you won’t measure up, you might miss out on something you were meant for. Don’t let yoga misconceptions like this one keep you from giving it a try.
If you’re a teacher or studio owner, it’s important to keep in mind the variety of different students you might see in your class. It’s a good idea to start slow, feeling out your class’s starting point and building your program around that. Also, be very clear in your class descriptions about the level of expertise required. You want to encourage beginners to try it out and experienced yogis to push their limits.
The more comfortable your students get, the more classes they’ll try!
3. Yoga is Just Stretching, Not a “Real” Workout
This one is a rumor clearly started by someone who hasn’t attended a yoga class themselves. Modern yoga, having evolved in the past 200 years, combines physical strength and core engagement. If that isn’t a workout, we don’t know what is!
While it’s true that there is no weight lifting or traditional cardio involved in modern yoga, it’s a test in coordination, strength and balance. There’s also the fact that you may very well be using muscles you haven’t trained before – that definitely adds an additional challenge to the workout!
And we haven’t even covered the part of the workout that exercises your mind and spirit! Yoga is the practice of patience, peace and fortitude. It’s definitely not just stretching, it’s a focus on strength – both of the mental and the physical varieties.
Also, can we talk about the classes themselves? Most classes are 60 to 90 minutes, and they are quite an endeavor. If you think you won’t be sore, tired and sweating all over your mat, think again.
This is one of those yoga misconceptions you can debunk yourself – just sign up for a class and see!
4. Yoga is Just Another Health Trend
Yoga misconceptions like this one that claims yoga is just a health trend that stayed around too long, has got to go! Yes, it has steadily gained popularity over the last century, but it is certainly no fad. Many yogis have adopted it as a lifelong pursuit, practicing regularly to improve, grow and remain balanced.
Why has yoga been around so long? Because it works! When you consider yoga’s longevity, trendy does not describe its rise. In fact, more and more yoga instructors are emerging and the classes sizes are growing steadily.
Part of yoga’s interesting history highlights its popularity during the aerobics craze in the 1980’s. With a rise in fitness-related injuries, yoga became a way for people to continue to work out, while healing from injury – and its popularity has only grown from there!
In today’s fast-paced world, many people are seeking stress relief in a physical workout. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating yoga and its power to relax the mind as well. Achieving a deeper awareness of the mind and body connection is a powerful tool to combat stress and to find some relief in the modern hectic lifestyle.
Looking to be engaged and present in the moment? Focusing on inner peace means a calming of the mind, along with the body. That doesn’t sound all that trendy, now does it?
5. Yoga is a Religious Practice
This is one of those myths surrounding yoga that’s rooted in misunderstanding. From its early beginnings in India, yoga has always been tied to Hinduism, however the practice itself is not a religion. While it is certainly a spiritual practice, it does not emphasize worshiping deities.
So what is yoga all about? The word “yoga” translates to the “union,” as in the union or connection between the body and the mind. As most yoga instructors will tell you, at its most fundamental level, it’s the practice of self-realization and of awakening your awareness within.
These yoga misconceptions show how much debunking myth and legend is important! If you were resistant to trying yoga because of its religious ties, there’s nothing stopping you now…
6. The More Difficult the Pose, the Better
Some beginners are hesitant to try yoga because they are afraid they aren’t flexible or strong enough to do certain poses. This stems from the belief that you be good at yoga; you have to be able to do the Insta-worthy poses. And that the harder the pose, the better you must be at yoga.
This is a perfect example of how yoga misconceptions can play on your insecurities, discouraging you from trying something you might grow to love! We know that some poses can be intimidating, but they don’t need to be. Although yoga is usually practiced in a class setting, it is a personal habit. The importance of introspection and awareness is paramount, with patience and physical strength coming in second.
The concepts of competition, comparison and levels of greatness are largely missing from this unique pastime. It’s not like any traditional sport you might be used to. There are no teams, there are no winners and losers, and each participant is concentrating on their spiritual, mental or physical strength.
Looking to give yoga a try? Focus on your own progress and go for it! If you’re a yoga instructor, we suggest you keep this myth in mind! Tailor your classes to cater to all levels of skill, offer correction and modify your poses to suit your class. Be gentle and encouraging and your classes will grow!
7. All Yoga is the Same
This is one of the many yoga misconceptions that is easy to dispel. It’s often believed that all yoga is the same.
In actuality, yoga is not a single practice. From Hatha yoga, to Bikram yoga, to Kundalini yoga, and so much more, you got a lot of options to choose from. Not only that, but you can try a yoga class anywhere from gyms to dedicated yoga studios these days. Different atmospheres, class sizes and class types can make a world of difference to your experience.
Have you tried yoga and decided that it’s just not for you? Gone to a class and come away disappointed? Don’t stop after one – or even two attempts – keep trying, chances are you’ll find your type!
Have we convinced you yet? The myths and legends about yoga are common, but now you know better. All seven yoga misconceptions: debunked!
To be clear…
Yoga is an ancient practice, often shrouded in mystery. But mysterious doesn’t mean bad. If you’re interested in core strength, balance and a greater mind/body connection, then head to the mat!
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