Yoga Myths and Truths
There are many myths and pre-conceptions about Yoga. But, I would like to start by saying how wonderful it is to see more and more people going to a Yoga class. It’s also wonderful to see people embracing and feeling the benefits of mindfulness and meditation techniques. This is GREAT news! We want Yoga and Meditation to be accessible for EVERYBODY!
Yet, I find it frustrating when I see HOW Yoga is regularly represented. There’s so much more to this ancient practice than want you see scrolling through Instagram. The way Yoga is portrayed often becomes a barrier for those who would really benefit.
It’s the reason why I wanted to write this blog. To share with you our views (and some frustrations!) On the many common Yoga myths, and also truths, that are out there.
Here’s our view on 7 common myths about this wonderful ancient practice.
1. I’m not flexible enough to practise Yoga
Yes, that old chestnut! It’s probably the biggest myth or misconception, that sadly stops many people taking up the practice of Yoga. Often people who need it the most.
But let me tell you…the truth is you really don’t need to be flexible to practise Yoga.
Yoga is for all bodies, no matter your age or physical ability.
Let me give you an example…
The Pawanmuktasana series of practices originate from the Satyananda Yoga tradition and are categorised as a group of preparatory yoga practices for more advanced asana. Yet, practised on their own, they have a very deep effect on the physical body and on the mind, especially when practised with awareness.
Physically, they work on the joints and relax the muscles of the body, yet at the same time building strength. They are simple, gentle and can be practised by anyone: young, elderly, recovering from illness, those who are new too Yoga, through to experienced practitioners.
The Pawanmuktasana series develops awareness of the body’s movements and the subtle effects they have on the different layers of the body. They release blockages of Prana (energy) from the body to allow the energy to flow more freely.
We prepared a short asana practice which you can access, along with a blog that Ram wrote in which he talks in more depth about this subject. Both the practice and the blog can be accessed clicking here… YOU DON’T NEED TO BE FLEXIBLE TO PRACTISE YOGA.
2. I don’t have a yoga body. Yoga is just for young people.
This myth gets me so frustrated! Sadly, a lot of this misinterpretation has been created by what we see on social media. Instagram particularly has become the equivalent of the glossy magazine, the majority of what we see being portrayed as Yoga is unattainable.
Let me be clear…
There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing a dedicated Yogi, fully present in their asana practice. It’s really beautiful to watch. But there is a difference from this and what we often see scrolling through Instagram.
I have two concerns…
I see more and more pictures on Instagram with a hashtag “yoga” or “yoga posture,” of what I can only catagorise as soft pornography. BOTS using Instagram to promote and share these kinds of posts. What message is this sending out to young women and men about how you should look? Come on Instagram you really need to control this.
Secondly, Yoga is often portrayed on these platforms by what can only be described as acrobatics! For 99% of the population, these acrobatic postures are impossible to perform. What a lot of people don’t realise is many of these ‘Yogis’ are in fact models or have a dance or gymnastic background, or they are hyper-flexible.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what ‘size’ or shape you are. There are numerous variations or modifications that are available to the practitioner. Yoga really is for every body and thankfully there’s plenty of ‘normal bodies,’ also sharing their message.
But please, also remember, Yoga is about developing awareness. About being present. Yoga has many different layers and branches. There’s more to this ancient practice than asana, which brings me to the next point…
3. Isn’t Yoga just about the physical postures?
Ask anyone, “what is Yoga?” It’s likely they will think about the asana (postures). Of course asana is an important part of Yoga. It brings so many benefits. For some people practising asana is their practice, it’s what they do. For others it becomes a gateway to explore different aspects of Yoga.
When the approach is purely on the physical without developing awareness, you are exercising. Which is missing the whole point of what Yoga is about.
The goal of Yoga is to develop awareness, to harmonise your body and mind. This occurs by moving or transcending from gross too subtle. Using the physical body as a vehicle through the practise of asana. Together with pranayama, we use the breath to influence the flow of energy (Prana) in the body in preparation for meditation, the subtle body.
But let’s not forget all the other branches of Yoga. Some people would consider themselves Bhakti Yogis, others Jnana, or Karma Yogis, the important thing is to find the right Yoga for you.
4. My mind is too busy to meditate.
“I’d like to learn meditation, but my mind is too busy.” When we share with people that we teach meditation, this is the number one response we get.
We all have thoughts.
Some days my mind is really active, other days I can sit and be in such a beautiful place of stillness and don’t want to move!
Through practice you learn to become more familiar with your thoughts and thought patterns. You become aware that your mind is busy.
You do this by developing what is known as “witnessing,” which means observing without attachment, and without getting involved in your thoughts.
The best way to explain this is to imagine that you are standing in the doorway of your living room, and there is a whole conversation going on in the room. You are standing watching everything that is happening in the room without getting involved. As the observer, the witness.
You learn a lot about yourself through meditation. it’s best to start with just 5-10 minutes a day and develop regularity with your practice. If you’d like to give it a go, CLICK ON THIS LINK TO ACCESS A FREE MEDITATION. (it’s in English and Spanish).
5. All yoga is the same.
For anyone beginning a yoga practice, the best advice is to go and try as many different Yoga classes. Do so until you find a teacher and a system of Yoga that resonates with you. We are all different, and there is so much out there to try.
At the very beginning, my practice was at home with a DVD. I attended a Iyengar Yoga class one night a week in a cold church hall. When I moved to Australia, a couple of times I went along to a Bikram Yoga class. But seeing sweat drip off my nose and down my leg was not enjoyable. So, I crossed that off the list!
After further searching, I found an amazing teacher, who taught Yoga Synergy. I enjoyed the system of Yoga, and I loved Alex’s teaching style. I practised a couple of times a week with her for a few years (and still go to her class when I’m in Australia).
A few years later, my personal life was going through some changes and wanted to increase my practice. It was my teacher who directed me to this little place called Manly Yoga, where they taught Satyananda Yoga (a holistic approach to Yoga). I started to go there once a week, after a few weeks, something just clicked.
I don’t know whether it was the Yoga, the teachers, or the community (the sangha), but I had found my Yoga. For most people one or two classes per week is enough. For me it became five or six!! My perception of Yoga changed. This system introduced me to the different aspects and branches of Yoga, and I could feel a shift in me as a result. After a couple of years practising, I went on to study a two year diploma in Satyananda Yoga. I did this so that I could share this gift of Yoga with others… ( that’s another story!).
6. All yogis are vegetarian and live a ‘saintly’ life!
Such a myth! I have to put my hands up and say, in my innocence I used to think that all serious Yogis and Yoga teachers where vegetarian and didn’t drink. That little myth changed when I started to socialise with them!
However, it is also true that a lot of Yogis are incredibly conscious about their lifestyle and diet. This is often a natural progression that develops as you follow this path. Your awareness increases and that develops to include how you take care of your body (Annamaya Kosha). Your energy body, (Pranamaya kosha) and your mental body (Manomaya kosha).
To put this simply, it’s about keeping your balance. Through the management of diet, exercise, regularity of sleep and maintaining a routine.
When you are balanced, there is more clarity, your decision making comes from a higher place, (Vijnanamaya kosha) and you live in your spiritual bliss! (Anandamaya kosha).
7. Isn’t Yoga a religion?
It’s not too hard to believe that people would see Yoga as a religion. The ancient tradition of Yoga has its roots in the Vedic text along with Hinduism and Buddhism. For many traditional Yogis like Ram and I, and particularly those who follow the path of Bhakti Yoga there is a strong connection with Hindu mythology.
When we teach, we may reference ancient texts like the Mahabharata or the Bhagavad Gita. Through mantra, kirtan and meditation, you will often hear reference to Hindu gods like Shiva, Ganesha, and various other deities. These Gods and Goddesses offer symbolic reference to aspects of life. We also honour auspicious dates like Shivaratri, Guru Poornima and Diwali for their spiritual significance.
However, the truth is, Yoga is not a religion. It is a spiritual practice. It is a lifestyle. And it is a science. There are numerous scientific studies out there that now confirm what the ancient Sages and Rishis have been saying for thousands of years. The practices of Yoga and Meditation are PROVEN to support body and mind management. Today, these practices are used as part of the treatment to manage the symptoms and effects of many chronic diseases.
For Ram and I, Yoga is all of these things. Yoga is a way of life. It’s about living in harmony alongside nature. It’s about finding our deep inner connection with our Self. Yoga is that what brings you to reality. Yoga is Union.