International Yoga Day 2017: Common yoga myths and misconceptions, busted

With yoga — and information about it — being so ubiquitous, myths and misconceptions about what really constitutes the practice, are also equally all-pervasive. Today, we're busting a few commonly held myths about yoga — no, it's not just about stretching, and it certainly isn't just for super-flexible 20 year olds. Read on:

Yoga is just about stretching.

It’s unfortunate that people perceive yoga to be (just) stretching. While it does give the practitioner a great stretch, the idea of yoga is to connect with the breath — whether you are stretching, walking, eating or doing any other action. Yoga teaches us to be in constant awareness of the breath and ourselves. We live a life of multitasking and it’s hard to be immersed in each breath at each moment of your life. But even if you do so for the few moments of your asana and meditation practice, it helps create a connection to one's highest self. Yoga can be whatever you like it to be — it can be your daily workout if that’s what your intention. It can be a time of looking inward, a time of prayer or a time of offering — to yourself and others. It can be your time to heal, nurture and love yourself and your body.

 International Yoga Day 2017: Common yoga myths and misconceptions, busted

Yoga isn't just about stretching. Images featuring (and courtesy) Lamya Arsiwala/The Yoga House

Does yoga involve only breathing in and out?

Yes! It is believed that the ‘in breath’ is the nourishing one and the ‘out breath’ is the releasing one. When you’re teaching yourself to connect to your breath, even if you can’t take a deep enough breath in, if you can consciously breathe out — whether through your nose or mouth — there is a positive impact on the entire body.

Is yoga only for women?

Why would it be so? Yes, the new-age practices of yoga tend to attract more women in comparison to men but that’s because they tend to emphasise greatly on the physical (asana) aspects of the practice.

Does yoga help in losing weight?

The goal of yoga is not weight loss. The goal of yoga is to create a connection so deep with oneself that you don’t overeat in stress and you release any negative body image held in the mind. If one practices asana earnestly with discipline, one can certainly lose weight from yoga as it not only works on our muscles and joints, but also balances our nervous system, our glands and our lymphatic system — all of which, when out of balance, contribute to weight gain.

Yoga is just for 20-somethings.

Yoga is for everyone! At different stages of life, we are met with different challenges. A younger person may prefer asanas as they may want to feel more active. However, as one ages, it is the mind and emotions that need to balanced for optimum functioning of the body. For old people, yoga can help deal with joint issues and back pain and for people with injuries, it can provide a great transition while their body heals.

Yoga isn't just for '20-somethings'. Images featuring (and courtesy) Lamya Arsiwala/The Yoga House

Yoga isn't just for '20-somethings'. Images featuring (and courtesy) Lamya Arsiwala/The Yoga House

There is only one type of yoga. 

No there are four types of yoga: Raj yoga, Nyana yoga, Bhakti yoga and Karma yoga. They are all but means to the same goal. A way to connect with inner selves, a way to know our divinity and a way to be more compassionate towards ourselves and all other beings

Yoga is not for people with injuries or chronic pain.

Of course it is! In fact, the subtler practices of pranayama and meditation are great for people with injuries and chronic pain. Our breath keeps us alive and maintains the proper functioning of all our organs. Such practices can help us be at peace and in turn, have the body heal faster.

Being flexible is a prerequisite to practice yoga.

Not at all! Yoga helps one get more flexible. But what I have learned over the years, is that yoga helps one find flexibility in the mind. This makes us more loving, more tolerant and more flexible towards life situations.

Is it true all yogis are vegetarians?

No! Some yogis try to practice ahimsa of the yamas from eight-limbed path of Yoga written by sage Patanjali (Ashtanga Yoga). The ones who practice ahmisa earnestly, do not wish to cause harm to other living beings and hence adopt a vegetarian diet.

Lamya Arsiwala is the founder of The Yoga House and has been teaching dynamic vinyasa flow yoga and soft hatha yoga for the past six years

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2017 07:38:22 IST