Yoga is an ancient practice that in pictures is often depicted as all about stretches and physical poses. This is only part of the story, yoga also includes a wide range of contemplative self-disciplinary practices including meditation, chanting, prayer, breath work, ritual and selfless action. It has documented physical and mental health benefits that have seen it embraced widely in modern society. However, as with all other phenomena that take the world by storm, misinformation about it abounds. Let’s debunk some of the most common yoga myths.
But first… the benefits of yoga
- Some of the key benefits of the practice of yoga include:
- Improved flexibility, balance and posture
- Stress relief
- Improves mental health by decreasing depressive symptoms and reduce anxiety
- May reduce inflammation which is linked to a variety of illnesses including arthritis and heart disease
- Boost cardiovascular function
- May boost immunity
- Helps build strength and bone health
- Can improve brain function
- Improve sleep
- Improve overall quality of life
Myth 1: Yoga is not a “real workout” or it’s just stretches
Anyone who says this has never done yoga. Yoga is not just a series of stretches. It was created to exhaust the body and mind so that it can be free and clear for meditation. It is as real a workout as any other exercise that exhausts your body. The rise of many self-proclaimed teachers has been accompanied by a watered-down version that is not a workout. That reflects more on the teachers and less on the practice itself. Yoga is a holistic practice that is not just limited to the physical body.
Myth 2: You have to be flexible to do yoga
All those acrobatic positions can lead you to believe you need to be flexible going in. You don’t. Yoga is about being mindful and present. Breathing and meditation are critical and the poses are only one small part of a larger whole. Take heart and start, flexibility improves with time. This myth is also accompanied by the belief that flexibility is the goal. It isn’t. The goal is to develop the discipline of meditative practice.
Myth 3: Yoga is for women
This myth cropped up because in the Western world it was first marketed to and wholly embraced by women. In patriarchal society when something is associated with women it’s also viewed as soft and exclusive to them. The 5,000-year history of yoga however shows that it has been extensively practiced by both men and women.
Myth 4: Only for young, slim people and not for those with a “bad back”
As long as one’s body is healthy enough to allow it, anyone can practice yoga. People of every size and shape can practice it. All you need to do is adapt the poses so that they work for your body. For people with back pain, yoga can actually provide a cheap and effective alternative to a chiropractor which can be expensive. Studies show that yoga helps ease lower back pain and has been found to be an effective remedy.
Myth 5: Yoga is a religion
Yoga’s Hindu origin often leads to the misconception that it is a religion and that the practice is a form of worship. It isn’t. It is just drawn from Hindu society. This erroneous conclusion is similar to assuming one becomes French or engages in some form of worship simply by dancing ballet.
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