5 Yoga Myths you Need to Stop Believing Immediately
Here are five of the most common falsehoods about yoga you need to stop believing right now.
Myth 1: Yoga is for calm and relaxed people
This may be one of the greatest misconceptions about Yoga, and possibly one of the biggest reasons why people of a more dynamic nature often stay away from it. The phrase “I can’t practice yoga; I get too agitated being still. I need something more active and physical” is not uncommon. Becoming agitated during a yoga class, is a sign the mind is perturbed. The external world - and what we expect from it is only a reflection of our inner world, our mental state. If the mind is agitated, the first thing needed is to relax, to bring it into balance. Dynamic exercise such as weightlifting may seem to help us, but it is important to recognize the difference between a relaxed and stress free mind and a tired “post-gym” mind. Active exercise will tire our body and mind, but it won’t do much for our inherent restlessness, which is generally caused by some form of emotional anxiety.
Myth 2: Yoga is all about postures
Most people associate Yoga with postures, known as “asanas.” But these form a small fraction of Yoga. The true purpose of asanas is to allow the yogi to enter into deep meditation without feeling any physical disturbances. Sage Patanjali's Raja Yoga, enumerates asana as only one of the eight limbs necessary to experience “samadhi”, the state of Super-consciousness. The eight limbs are:
- Yamas or Practices of Self-restraint to discipline the senses and purify the mind
- Niyamas or Observances to increase our willpower and strengthen the mind.
- Asanas or Postures to Purify the body and make it steady for meditation
- Pranayama or Breath Control to Balance the Vital and Mental energies
- Pratyahara or Abstraction of the Senses to withdraw the mind from the senses
- Dharana or Unwavering concentration to attain the state of one-pointedness
- Dhyana or Meditation - This is not a practice, but a state achieved by the practice of the first six limbs.
- Samadhi or Super-Consciousness - This is not a practice but a state which arises when Dhyana is perfected.
Myth 3: If you practice yoga, you’re spiritual.
We become spiritual once we unleash the seeker, the inner explorer. We become spiritual, when the purpose of our practice is to awaken our true self, to explore our potential and to evolve as people. Practicing yoga solely for its superficial benefits such as appearance or physical wellness may make one a great asana practitioner, but it doesn’t make one a yogi. And certainly it does not make one spiritual.
Myth 4: Doing yoga for an hour or two every day makes you a yogi
A true yogi doesn’t just practice yoga, a true yogi expresses yoga at all times. How do we express yoga? By allowing our awareness to pervade our attitude at all times. Not by isolating ourselves from the world, but by partaking in it with joy; by cultivating values which promote the development of consciousness. Swami Sivananda’s 18 ITIES are the perfect example of expressive yoga, where eighteen such values are observed and cultivated: Serenity, regularity, absence of vanity, sincerity, simplicity, veracity, equanimity, fixity, non-irritability, adaptability, humility, tenacity, integrity, nobility, magnanimity, charity, generosity and purity.
Myth 5: Yoga comes from Hinduism
Yoga is not about worship; it is about exploration of the self. It was never about a belief system; it was founded on faith: a state of unknowing. Yoga may have grown and prospered in India, but it belongs to no system or faith. There are many types of Yoga: Raja Yoga which is for the mind, Jnana Yoga which is for the intellectually inclined, Bhakti Yoga which is devotional, Karma Yoga which is Selfless Action, Kriya Yoga which deals with the highest form of Action, etc. Bhakti yoga is particularly devotional, and even Bhakti yoga does not belong solely to Hinduism, Buddhism or any one organised religion or system of belief.