Biggest Yoga Myths

I’ve been practicing yoga for several years, quite a long time actually. But I could have started much earlier if I hadn’t listened to all the ridiculous myths about yoga that scared me away from the practice.

These misconceptions have nothing to do with the modern yoga world, but they are still prevalent in some cases and discourage many people from trying yoga. In my first blog post, I want to debunk some of these myths and turn them into benefits of a regular yoga practice.  And there are so many of them!

Myth # 1 - Yoga is a cult.

This is probably one of the biggest myths about yoga. I come from a devout Russian Orthodox family, and Christian values were and are very important to me. However, in my church, yoga is labeled a cult and therefore condemned, denigrated and banned. There are countless articles, interviews, and blog posts that portray yoga as some sort of devil’s temptation. Meditation, asana (physical practice) and pranayama (breathing exercises) are mentioned as devil’s instruments with which he tempts us and defiles our souls. This may sound silly, but it is a common belief in many Christian communities, not only in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Fact #1 - Yoga is neither a religion nor a cult.

Yoga is not a religion and not a cult! Any person regardless of religious affiliation can do yoga. In yoga classes, no gods are worshipped, no prayers are said, and no religious rituals are performed. Yoga originated as philosophy (not a religion!) thousands of years ago and has changed drastically over time. Yoga as we know it today is a modern practice that only took shape in the 20th century.  Since it became popular in the Western world, it has undergone yet another major change, being adapted to Western bodies and lifestyles. Today’s yoga is a unique blend between traditional elements and modern fitness exercises, supported by the latest findings from the movement science, neuroscience, kinesiology, biomechanics, sports medicine, etc.

Myth #2 - You have to be flexible to practice yoga.

I hear this sentence all the time. It’s probably the most common reason why many people are reluctant to do yoga. I think social media is mostly to blame for this. Facebook, Instagram & Co. are flooded with pictures and videos of very advanced yogis doing incredible asanas. Handstand with a strong backbend, lotus on forearms, splits in all possible variations – such a yoga practice is not for everyone. When average people who have families, work an eight-hour office job, and don’t have time to torture themselves with very strong physical practice for most of the day see pictures like this, they panic: “Yoga is not for everyone, it is a practice for selected people flexible by nature. I will never be able to do the splits in my life, so yoga makes no sense to me.” 

Fact #2 – You don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga.

Not only extremely flexible superhumans can practice yoga – not at all! Famous and not-so-famous yogis we see on social media often have a dance or gymnastics background and learned the fancy stuff in their childhood in different circumstances that have nothing to do with yoga.

Of course there are also talented practitioners who have learned all these things only through yoga. But let’s not forget that these people are often quite privileged: They are indeed flexible by nature due to their physiology and can usually afford to spend several hours a day practicing yoga,  And yes, we might envy them (just a little of course!) when we see gorgeous photos of their amazing bodies performing all those unbelievable asanas at breathtaking beaches.

I also post pictures and videos of difficult and aesthetically beautiful asanas. Yes, I was born flexible and yes, I’ve been practicing yoga for quite some time. For me and for many other yoga teachers and yoga practitioners, it is not only a sign of great ego but rather of joy that we have learned something new about ourselves through abhyasa  -“the regular practice”. It’s like a milestone on our yogic path that we celebrate.In spite of this social media trend we should  remember that yoga is an introspective practice so we definitely don’t have to be able to do a wheel pose or the splits.  It is not a prerequisite or a goal of yoga.

Come as you are, be present in the now and enjoy the experience. If you become more flexible in the process, think of it as a positive side effect of your practice. 

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Picture of a Yoga Practitioner (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Myth # 3 – Only slim, athletic people can do yoga.

This myth is related to the previous one.  Those highly edited images of yogis looking like models or Cirque du Soleil performers make us think that yoga is an elitist practice and “normal” people with average bodies don’t belong in a yoga class.

Fact #3 – Yoga is perfect for people of all body types.

Too fat? Too thin? Too tall? Too short? There’s no such thing! The simplest tools, such as blocks or straps can make a lot of yoga asanas accessible to everyone. Plus, yoga isn’t just asana, it’s so much more: meditation, breathing techniques, and relaxation exercises are all part of it. Even better, there are a lot of different styles: from Restorative or therapeutic yoga to the physically demanding Ashtanga Vinyasa.

Everyone can find exactly what they need. Yoga helps us feel comfortable in our own bodies because it’s all about ourselves, our self-study and self-inquiry. There are no competitions and contests, so we don’t have to compare ourselves to others or prove anything to anyone. Not even to ourselves.

Yoga addresses the body and the mind, cultivates mindfulness and enables self-awareness at the deepest level. We just feel better. That’s why the effect of yoga is so long-lasting and profound.

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Yoga Is Perfect For All Bodies (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Myth #4 – Yoga is only for women.

Oh yes, quite a few men actually think that and thus stay away from yoga (unless they want to meet a woman in a yoga class, of course). My husband was like that too, until he once watched me during an online class. My yoga instructor was a hot man with a very pronounced six-pack and an even more pronounced charisma. Suddenly, it became very clear to my husband that yoga is definitely not just a “women’s thing.” 

Fact #4 – Men practice yoga too.

Oh yes! In fact, they love practicing it because yoga is good for women, men and non-binary individuals alike. Actually, yoga used to be available only to men and it wasn’t until the 20th century that women were allowed to join in. On my yoga journey, I’ve been mostly accompanied by amazing male yoga teacher: Tomas Tealdi, Javier Castro, Jason Crandell, David Kyle – if you’re reading my blog post, you should know that I am forever grateful to have had an opportunity to learn from you!

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A Mail Yogi (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

These were some most popular myths about yoga. Of course, there are many more out there but I’ve described and put down only those of them I’ve often had to deal with  myself. Should I (or you!) discover more nonsensical pseudo-facts about yoga, I might write a second part of this blog post one day.