“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition,” said India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the UN General Assembly in 2014, in his call for adoption of June 21st as the International Day of Yoga. As we approach the second International Yoga Day, the importance of yoga cannot be overemphasised.
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not a lot of things that people think it is. Here are some myths busted:
Myth 1: Yoga hails from Hinduism
As Sadguru says, “Yoga is Hindu just the way gravity is Christian. Just because the law of gravity was propounded by Isaac Newton, who lived in a Christian culture, does it make gravity Christian? Yoga is a technology. Anybody who is willing to make use of it can make use of it.”
Myth 2: Yoga is only for women
It was a man, Patanjali, who first practiced yoga thousands of years ago. Yoga is designed to work for every single muscle of the body as opposed to the gym that targets only one muscle at a time, without improving mobility. It increases strength, flexibility, ensures better sleep, and makes for healthy living. Yoga is for all.
Myth 3: You have to be a human pretzel to do yoga
Although strength and flexibility are a prerequisite to much of the asana (pose) practice, there are modifications and props that can be used until that flexibility comes. This misconception arises mainly because of the common view that yoga is simply of the body, but it is a much larger process of breathing life into the human system through a holistic approach that works with the body and the mind. You do not need to be able to touch your toes to do yoga. Yoga helps you do that!
Myth 4: Pregnant women should refrain from practicing yoga
Yoga optimises reproductive health and helps a woman’s body cope with pregnancy and labour. Asanas can be tailored keeping in mind the condition of women. It is always advisable to check with a physician before taking on any form of yoga during pregnancy.
Myth 5: You will not benefit from short sessions
You will benefit greatly even from just a 10 minute session of Surya Namaskar on the mat each morning. The aim is to get better each day. Research has shown that just 20 minutes of yoga significantly increases brain function by improving focus, speeding up information processing, and improving memory.
Myth 6: Yoga is an early morning activity
Yoga is about living your life a certain way with a certain amount of discipline to bring your mind and body in sync and that cannot be restricted to the working of a clock. According to Sadguru, “Yoga is not something that you do morning-evening. It is a certain way of being. One must become yoga. If it's morning-evening yoga, the rest of the time entanglement -- this is not yoga, this is only yoga practice.”
Myth 7: Yoga is bad for injuries or chronic body aches
Studies have shown that carefully designed and specifically tailored yoga poses help reduce pain, for example, chronic low back pain, improve mobility, and other functions. Practicing yoga has other health benefits. By helping individuals slow down amidst the chaos in life, it reduces heart rate and blood pressure, improves lung function and also helps relieve anxiety and depression.
Myth 8: Yoga works best when practiced outdoors
Yoga in the outdoors by a beach, or in a forest, looks wonderful but may do more harm than good sometimes. Practicing yoga outdoors can cause you to catch a cold or interfere with your peace if there is even a slight breeze.
Myth 9: Yoga helps get the junk out of your body
Sweat helps keep the body cool and not eliminate waste from our bodies (that’s left to the kidneys, liver, and digestive tract). Because you eliminate water, salt, and electrolytes from your body when you sweat, it makes you feel lighter but does not reduce the junk in your body. The best way to rid your body of toxins is to put lesser of them in.
Myth 10: Yoga does not have any risks
Yoga is usually safe for most people when practiced in proper form, by paying close attention to your body, staying hydrated and modifying poses according to your skill level. According to National Institute of Health, yoga when practiced incorrectly can, in rare cases, cause some types of stroke or pain from nerve damage.