Yoga: Common myths exposed

In Columns on January 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm

By: Morgan Deal

The idea that you have to be flexible to do yoga is most likely dreamed up due to the fact that most pictures of yoga poses show advanced yogis twisted into “pretzel poses.” Photo courtesy of Google images

           Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise, and along with the popularity comes rumors and misconceptions about the practice.

            Myth number one: you have to be flexible to do yoga. This myth is most likely dreamed up because of the fact that most pictures of yoga poses show advanced yogis twisted into “pretzel poses.” However, this myth is far from being true. When a lot of people start practicing yoga, they are often not very flexible. Take the simple act of touching your toes. When I first started yoga classes, I couldn’t even touch my toes! After practicing yoga for over a year, I am able to not only touch the floor, but am working on getting my palms to the floor.

            Myth number two: yoga will help me lose weight. This is a very complex topic, as weight loss is the result of many factors: a healthy diet, one’s lifestyle, etc. The most obvious benefits of yoga are improved flexibility and stress relief/relaxation. Yoga also tones and strengthens muscles, and can be used as a tool to lose weight, if used in the right way. There are a wide variety of different styles of yoga. A more gentle class focusing on holding poses for a few minutes at a time is not likely to help weight loss. Conversely, a different style of yoga that is more active, such as astanga or vinyasa, increases the heart rate and results in burning more calories. Depending on yoga as your only form of exercise will not help you lose weight in the long run, however. In order to effectively lose weight with yoga, pair your practices with a cardio workout like biking or running.

            A big part of weight gain is your mental state. When we feel negative about ourselves, some people tend to develop bad eating habits that can cause an unhealthy weight. Practicing yoga can improve self confidence and lead you to make healthier decisions all around.

            Myth number three: yoga is a religion. A lot of the time, yoga is associated with spiritual practices such as meditation, the religions Buddhism and Hinduism, and some have even thought that it is a religion in itself. While followers of these religions once made yoga a part of their practices, yoga is not strictly theirs. Anyone from any religion is free to practice yoga, and make it their own. However spirituality, meaning self awareness, discovery and realization, is an important part of yoga. In today’s word, people can become perfectionists, and worry themselves with petty things. It is through the spiritual aspects of yoga that we can fully relax and find peace. “In essence, spirituality deals with our relationship with that which is beyond us as individuals. This is a relationship with something greater than we are with a creator, or a source of being that we have come from before our birth, and where we will go after death,” Dr. Swami Shankardev Saraswati, medical doctor and psychotherapist, says.

            Common myths and falsehoods about yoga can make people wary of starting a yoga practice, but yoga can be a great tool to improve one’s physical and mental well being, if they are willing to let it be.


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