By Darren Main • Summer 1999
In the all the years that I have been teaching, I have heard just about every rumor there is about yoga. I suspect that some of this is generated by a fear of the unknown, and I guess I can’t blame anyone. A lot of times when I look through various yoga books, I get a little freaked out myself. Let’s face it, there are few things more unsettling than seeing someone with their legs twisted behind their heads.
In this article, I would like to put some of those basic myths about yoga to rest so that you or the friends you are attempting to drag to their first yoga class will feel a little less threatened.
Myth #1: “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.”
This is my personal favorite. It is the same as saying, “I am too sick to see a doctor,” or “I am not strong enough to do weight training.” Yoga is a tool to become limber; it is not a private club for circus freaks who can stuff themselves into a lunch box. If you can’t touch your toes and stretching feels like punishment, then yoga is calling your name. Sure, it will be challenging at first, but certainly not impossible and the rewards are many.
Myth # 2 “Yoga is some sort of religious cult.”
Yoga is a science, not a religion. What this means is that you can believe in yoga or you can think yoga is a load of crap, but if you do the practice, you will feel its benefits. Yoga has nothing to do with any one belief system or dogma. While it was developed by Hindu mystics over 4,000 years ago, it is a practice unto itself, and people of all faiths as well as atheists and agnostics have experienced its benefits. Some yogis follow the teachings of a guru or teacher, but that is by no means a pre-requisite for developing a successful yoga practice.
Myth # 3 “Yoga hurts.”
If it hurts, it isn’t yoga. It is just that simple. Yoga is about honoring your body and treating it with respect. It is about listening to the wisdom of the body and doing what it asks in order to find healing. Some people will approach yoga with the “no pain, no gain” attitude that seems to rear its ugly head in almost any exercise program, but I assure you that that attitude has no place in yoga. Really all it can do is hold you back. If you really want to experience all the benefits yoga has to offer, make a commitment to yourself that you will never do anything that feels inappropriate for your body. The rest will take care of itself.
Myth #4 “Yoga is not a real workout.”
Anyone who has taken a moderate to vigorous yoga class would laugh at that statement. Yoga is a full and complete workout. It can be used to complement other exercise programs, or it can stand-alone. Most of the press yoga gets is about stretching. Yoga is excellent for flexibility, but it is also a wonderful way to build strength, and to refine balance and agility.