Seven Common Myths about Yoga
by Dada Vedaprajinananda, copyright,
Although the practice of yoga has become
widespread during the last 30 years, there are still quite a few
misconceptions about this ancient method of self-transformation. Here is a
brief survey of the most common myths about yoga, and a look at what yoga
is really all about.
1. Yoga is a sport: One of the important components of yoga is the
practice of physical postures, known as asanas in Sanskrit. Due to this
physical aspect of yoga, some people think of yoga as a sport or an
activity akin to body building. In this sense, yoga is seen as a casual
pastime which one can take up and practice now and then like any sport.
The fact is that yoga is the art and science of physical, mental and
spiritual development. Although the yoga postures may look like the
stretching exercises found in some sports. The exercises in yoga are one
part of an all-around program of personal development. The postures are
not an end in themselves, but are meant to help prepare one’s body for
mental and spiritual development.
2. The physical side of yoga is the most important part: Although
the practice of yoga postures is the most commonly known aspect of yoga,
it is not the most important part. In fact, the ancient system of yoga
begins with the understanding and practice of moral precepts and living a
life in harmony with self and society.
The foundation of yoga lies on the observance of principles such as not
harming others, acting in the spirit of welfare, non stealing, non
accumulation of excessive physical wealth, viewing all things as an
expression of Consciousness, purity of mind, contentment, and selfless
If you can learn how to live in harmony with those around you, and at the
same time work on your own inner development, then the other components of
yoga (postures, concentration and meditation) can be practiced with the
best possible effects.
3. Yoga is only for women: In some parts of the world the majority
of yoga students are women, and some men may have gotten the idea that
yoga is not for them. The fact is that all people are searching for inner
peace and all people wish to avoid disease and live a healthy life. Yoga
offers something for anyone who wishes an effective method of physical,
mental or spiritual development and should not be thought of as a
discipline reserved only for women or only for men.
4. Everybody must practice the same postures: In most yoga classes
around the world you will find that several people at a time are
practicing the same postures. Despite this widespread convention, the
needs of individuals vary according to their physical structures and it is
best to perform yoga postures that are individually suited to a particular
individual. For example, a young man suffering from asthma will need
postures that are quite different from an older woman with heart problems.
If you want to practice yoga postures correctly it is best to find a
teacher who is able to prescribe the postures that are best suited to your
5. You have to be extremely agile to practice yoga: It is true that
some yoga postures are a bit difficult to perform, and require an agile
body. However, just as postures should be selected according to the
ailments that a person suffers from, a good yoga instructor will be able
to show you postures that are within your reach. When performing yoga
postures, you should try to do them to the best of your capacity and you
shouldn’t worry whether you look like the picture in the book. Often, just
the effort that you make in trying to perform the posture is enough to
reap the benefits of that posture.
6. It is good to practice yoga postures out of doors: When you
perform yoga properly your body becomes very sensitive to shifts in
temperature. If you practice outside your house even a slight breeze may
be enough to make you uncomfortable or even catch cold. It is best to
practice indoors. The windows may be open but you should stay away from
drafts. In summer it is best to turn off fans while practicing yoga
7. Incense should be burned when practicing yoga: Although yoga
comes from India, and so does much of the world’s incense, it is not a
good idea to burn incense while performing yoga postures or doing
meditation. Yoga postures should be done in a smoke-free area: this
includes cigarette smoke and also the smoke of incense. During meditation
the smoke of burning incense will cause disturbance and hinder the process
of going within. Incense can be used before doing meditation or before
practicing postures in order to create a nice atmosphere, but there should
not be smoke in the air when the actual practice begins.
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