There are many myths surrounding yoga. In this article, we debunk six of the most common to help set the record straight.
The world of yoga seems to attract myths and false claims more than most activities. This is partly due to the connection with spirituality, but also due to its popularity. With so many people taking part in yoga (which is great) and trying to make money from it (not always so great) it’s natural that myths evolve.
To help you sort fact from fiction, here are six of the most common myths that we think really need to disappear!
Myth #1: Yoga is Only for Flexible People
This is probably the most pervasive myth about yoga – but it’s completely untrue.
When people want to get in shape, they don’t say “I can’t lift heavy weights to there is no point going to the gym.” This is a backwards way of thinking that would mean no-one would train for something they couldn’t already do.
The same goes for yoga. While a regular yoga practice has many more benefits than just flexibility, being flexible is something you develop – not a pre-requisite.
It’s true that you won’t be able to do some of the more advanced poses until you improve your flexibility. This happens over time, however, and there are modified poses you can use until you’re ready.
Myth #2: Yoga is Based on Religion
Yoga has always been associated with religion – at least in the Western world. This is partly because of yoga’s link to Hinduism, but also because we tend to think of anything spiritual as religious.
Spirituality doesn’t need to be related to religion though. You can improve your self-awareness and focus using yoga techniques without “converting” to a religion or betraying your religious beliefs.
There are some forms of yoga that use chanting and mantras to provide additional points of focus. Many Western classes don’t use these though – and they are certainly not required.
Myth #3: Yoga Isn’t for Men
The stereotypical “yogi” in the Western world is a young, slim female with prodigious flexibility. While there’s a certain truth to this – yoga classes nearly always have more women – men can gain the same benefits. In fact, many popular male athletes now use yoga as part of their training schedule, including Tom Brady and LeBron James.
It’s worth remembering that yoga was traditionally a male-dominated activity in India. There’s no reason why yoga needs to be gender-specific. Most classes don’t specify “female only” participation, so everyone can benefit from a regular practice.
So guys, what are you waiting for?
Myth #4: Yoga is Just Glorified Stretching
Many people think yoga is just a combination of stretches that help to improve flexibility. There’s some truth to this, but yoga is much more than just stretching.
The average yoga class involves going through a sequence of poses (also known as asanas). These look like stretches, but the goal of asanas is to connect the movement of the body with the breath in the current moment. Unlike regular stretching, yoga is actually a form of meditation that teaches mindfulness and self-awareness.
This is why it doesn’t make sense to call yoga a type of “exercise.” During a workout, you might aim to improve your PB or lift more weights than last time, but once the workout ends it’s over until the next session. With yoga, the mindfulness you learn should be applied throughout the day.
Of course, there’s the added benefit of improving your flexibility – but it’s not the only goal!
Myth #5: Yoga is “Easy”
When you compare a hot and sweaty aerobics class to a serene yoga session, it’s clear why many people think yoga is “too easy” to provide real benefits. And it’s true that yoga isn’t as aerobically challenging as a HIIT workout.
This doesn’t mean it’s easy though. In fact, yoga is much more challenging than it looks. Difficult poses require you to hold muscles in a static position that quickly becomes tiring. There’s also the flexibility element which forces muscles to adapt to new positions.
It’s important to have the right mindset about yoga though. It’s not meant to be cardiovascular workout, but it can be as challenging as you want (try learning the Scorpion or complete Yoga Burn if you want a challenge!) It also offers benefits that other forms of exercise don’t, including isometric strength training, improved focus, relaxation and balance.
If you think yoga is too easy, I urge you to try a session. Even athletic people often struggle as a yoga class forces the body to work in new and unusual ways.
On a related note, there are also many people who think that they aren’t capable of yoga. This is understandable – especially if you’ve never tried anything like it before.
You shouldn’t be scared to try yoga though. A professional instructor can guide you through the various poses and help you with modifications if you can’t complete them. Many people have started yoga without any prior experience, so you can too.
Myth #6: Yoga is “Too Time-Consuming”
Finding spare time in your busy schedule to practice yoga isn’t easy. Most classes are at least 45-minutes long, plus you need to consider travel and setup time. Practicing once a week also isn’t enough to make consistent progress.
Even if you can’t fit in a full class, you can gain some of the benefits of yoga by creating a regular home practice schedule. There are plenty of online courses and classes you can take, so it’s easy to complete an instructor-led session during a spare 10-minutes.
So, if you’re struggling to find the time to take part in classes, YouTube could be your best friend.
Yoga is a wonderful activity that provides a range of benefits. Millions of people practice yoga and its popularity is continuing to grow, which is encouraging for anyone who loves it.
The downside of this popularity is that there are many myths surrounding yoga. Just because you hear something about yoga online or from a friend doesn’t mean it’s true, so make sure you do your own research.
We hope this article has debunked some of the most common myths about yoga. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments section.