There are a lot of misconceptions about yoga out there, some are a bit on the wild side but at least understandable while others are completely unfounded. Whether you’ve just started yoga or you already practice steadily, you’ve probably heard at least a few of the most common misconceptions that people have about yoga. What’s more, you might even believe a few of them!
Well, it’s time to debunk those myths surrounding this ancient tradition. Let’s face the truth about yoga and dispel any rumors you may have heard about it.
To start, let’s go back to the beginning. Yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition that originated in India. It’s a practice where the followers focus on a range of spiritual practices, including philosophy, meditation, breathing, lifestyle and exercise. Many believe that it began as far back as the Stone Age.
1. Yoga requires flexibility
Flexibility is not a must if you want to start practicing yoga. In fact, it’s the other way around, yoga helps you get flexible. In the beginning, you may not be able to touch your toes while standing or bend your torso, but yoga will help you achieve all those milestones. With time your range of motion will continue to get better and you will find yourselves doing your asanas perfectly and easily.
2. Yoga is a religion
Every human has a body, mind, and soul irrespective of religion. Yoga is a practice that brings these aspects together in an individual and does not concern itself with any unnecessary labels, whether it is religion or any other superficial difference in human beings. All yoga demands from an individual is practice with true dedication and consistency and not a membership to a particular belief system.
3. Yoga = Asanas
When people hear the word “yoga”, a mental image of a yogi performing an asana automatically pops into their head. But yoga is so much more than just a collection of asanas. It is a way of living. The science of yoga explores a variety of things – just about every aspect of life – and yet most associate yoga with only the physical aspect. In the yogic system, asanas have only a little significance. There are over two hundred Yoga Sutras, only one of which is dedicated to asanas. Yet still, in modern times, this one sutra has gained prominence above everything else. Yoga is an effort to make human beings start their journey with the body but move towards their inner nature.
4. You will not benefit from short sessions
It doesn’t matter how long your yoga sessions are. You just have to make a start. You don’t have to dive straight into doing hour-long yoga sessions. You will have great benefits even from just a 10-minute session of Surya Namaskar on the mat every morning. The goal is to get just a little bit better each day. According to research, just 20 minutes of yoga significantly increases brain function by improving focus & memory and speeding up information processing capability.
5. Yoga is not for asthmatics
This is completely wrong. If you are asthmatic, you should definitely practice Yoga involving asanas, pranayama, and meditation. Pranayam’s breathing exercises are particularly beneficial as they give the required oxygen in sufficient quantity helping you reduce the effect of the disease to a significant extent. It also helps you rely less on medicine. There is thus a very therapeutic effect of yoga for curing asthma.
6. Women should not do yoga while menstruating
Some people believe, incorrectly, that a woman should skip yoga while she is menstruating. This is based on the very wrong belief that this will cause a backflow of menstruated blood when doing inverted postures (such as downward-facing dog and headstand), which may lead to endometriosis. This is not true at all. There is no anatomical reasoning behind this kind of backflow; physically inverting does not increase the possibility of retrograde flow. All current research says, quite conclusively, that there is no correlation between endometriosis and retrograde flow. So, menstruation or not, practice all the yoga you want.
7. The global popularity of Yoga is a recent phenomenon
Today, yoga is practiced in all its manifestations and distortions all around the globe. There is no particular organized body responsible for propagating this, but it has still survived and lived on. Millions of people practice yoga, but where did it come from? The origin of yoga is a very long story and its antiquity is lost in the passage of time. In yogic culture, Shiva was not referred to as a God, but as the Adiyogi or the first yogi – the originator of yoga. He was the one who first introduced this practice to the human world.
Shiva’s first teaching was to Parvati, his beloved wife. Then, his teachings were expounded to the first seven disciples or Sapta Rishis. When this teaching was completed, it produced seven fully enlightened beings – the seven celebrated sages who are worshipped and admired even today. Shiva put different aspects of yoga into each of these seven people, and these aspects manifested into the seven basic forms of yoga. Yoga has maintained these seven distinct forms, even today.
The Sapta Rishis were then sent in seven different directions to different parts of the world to propagate this dimension through which a human being could evolve beyond his humanly limitations and compulsions.
Stay healthy, stay safe :)