Although the exact origins of Yoga are still up for debate, its roots can be traced back to the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, then located in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. The word “Yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root word ‘yuj’, meaning ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’.
According to the Yogic scriptures, the practice of Yoga leads to a perfect harmony between the mind and the body. One who experiences this perfect state of existence is said to be in Yoga. The person, now called a “Yogi”, has attained a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self – referred to as Mukti, Moksha, or Nirvana. This is the ultimate aim of Yoga.
Yoga has risen in popularity over the last few years and has notably gone global. However, there are many myths and stereotypes stemming among the youth today about the practice of Yoga.1
Let’s rectify some of the most common misconceptions and separate fact from fiction.
Myth #1: Yoga is all about impossible postures
When you search for the term “Yoga”, you’ll come across images of people performing headstands and all kinds of complex, weird postures.
However, the fact of the matter is, the yogic system gives very little significance to asanas – the physical practice of Yoga. Specifically, out of the 200 sutras (scriptures) in Yoga, only one is dedicated to asanas. The irony is most people think of yoga as a practice only involving asanas.
“This is a very Western idea. If you look at the history of yoga, only a very small part of the yogic tradition has anything to do with the physical poses themselves,” says E. Ce Miller, a Chicago-based Yoga instructor.
Yoga is meant to help people achieve their higher self, and it’s not just about twisted postures.
Myth #2: Yoga helps you gain six pack abs
Granted, Yoga has a fitness side attached to it and you will get better health out of it. But don’t go overboard with the thought that it will get you a chiseled upper body and half a dozen abs.
If that’s what your goal is, it would be better to hit the gym or play some sport instead of striking poses at home.
Yoga boosts your mental health; the physical health is complementary when you perform Yoga. But if you still want to gain abs doing yoga, you can pursue the “Angmardana” practice.
Myth #3: Yoga goes well with calm music
Modern Yoga “studios” are probably what prompted this absurd misconception. Yoga instructors in these studios also speak constantly while practicing, which is seriously not advisable.
While doing asanas, it is important to have a stability of energy, focus, and breath. Speaking destroys all of that. Moreover, doing improper Yoga is dangerous and can cause a mental imbalance, so it is very important to do it right.
Myth #4: Yoga can be learned from a book
Nowadays, you can find plenty of books on Yoga that promise to make you a true Yogi within a week or a month. Just stay away from such books. You’ll probably do yourself more harm than good.
While theoretical knowledge from a book is fine, the actual practice of Yoga has very subtle aspects to it and requires proper guidance from a credible guru.
Myth #5: Yoga is only for women
This one does not make any sense whatsoever. Yes, there are usually more women than men in Yoga classes. But it does not mean that Yoga is a gender-specific activity.
On the contrary, Yoga was practiced almost exclusively by men in ancient India. As it became more popular in the west, however, it began to draw a largely female following. Regardless, both men and women can benefit from Yoga.
Myth #6: Yoga is only for the flexible
Saying you have to be flexible to do Yoga is like saying you have to be fit before you hit the gym. Sure, there is a relation between Yoga and flexibility. But being flexible is not a precondition to doing Yoga.
Rather, the converse of this is true. Yoga is your path to increased flexibility.
“Whether or not you’re flexible should not dictate whether you practice. Over time, Yoga can help you become more flexible—that’s why we call it practice—but you don’t have to be Gumby-like to start. Flexibility is a result of Yoga, not a prerequisite.” says Kelly DiNardo, a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), owner of the Past Tense Yoga studio in Washington, DC, and the co-author of Living the Sutras.
Myth #7: Yoga is a time-consuming activity
The amount of time you spend on practicing Yoga is totally up to you. There is no hard and fast rule that you have to spend exactly 60 or 90 minutes each day to benefit from the practice. Even a 10-minute routine done at home every day can strengthen your mind and body.
Whether or not you benefit from Yoga is not about the amount of time you put in, but your level of dedication to do it regularly and with full focus.
Myth #8: Yoga needs expensive accessories
There is absolutely no reason to spend a dime on Yoga before you actually experience it for the first time. Sure, you could head to Lululemon and purchase a ton of yoga gear, apparel, and accessories, by spending hundreds of dollars.
But the beauty of Yoga is in its simplicity. It is one of those minimalistic pleasures of life which you can do while wearing your comfy pajamas. Moreover, most Yoga teaching institutes will have mats and props you can borrow or rent, so there really isn’t any need for you to worry about spending money on Yoga before you get started.
Take some time to reflect on these myths. Clear all your doubts and embrace the truth before you hop on to that Yoga mat and reap all the benefits this age-old practice.
Joy Smith is an activist, grandmother of six and founder of Joy Organics. Based in Fort Collins, CO, Joy Organics is a family owned and operated CBD oil company that was founded to help improve people’s health and quality of life by creating the purest, organic and bioavailable full-spectrum cannabinoid products on the market at an affordable price.