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Debunking Yoga Myths

Part of the Yoga For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Many myths and misconceptions surround Yoga and Yoga practice, scaring off many would-be practitioners. The following list debunks some of those myths and gives you the real story so you can confidently add Yoga to your day.

  • Yoga is only for double-jointed people. Yoga is for everyone, and you can tailor it to your individual needs. Yoga doesn't require you to turn into a pretzel.

  • Yoga is a religion. Yoga is a philosophy with a toolkit of various practices that, when implemented, can calm the fluctuations of the mind. Yoga philosophy stems from a system that predates Hinduism and also influenced Hinduism, thus the similarities. But whereas Hinduism is a religion, Yoga is not; it's practiced by people of many religions and others who are fully secular.

  • Yoga is only for South Asian people. Yoga originated in the East (India, to be precise), but it's universally applicable. Besides, many of its practices have been modified to suit contemporary Western needs and tastes. Yoga even comes recommended by knowledgeable physicians around the world because of its great restorative power.

  • Yoga is just a bunch of mindless exercises. The popular image of Yoga as gymnastics is wrong. The physical exercises form only a part of its comprehensive approach. And the exercises are far from mindless — they call for both focus and mindfulness.

  • Yoga is only for weaklings. Yoga favors a gentle approach, but its advanced postures call for considerable strength and stamina. Many athletes complement their other forms of exercise with Yoga.

  • You can't gain muscle strength through Yoga. Yoga has a whole range of postures that help strengthen your chest, back, stomach, arm, and leg muscles. Take a look at advanced practitioners; their muscular strength and development may surprise you. In addition to improving your strength, Yoga can help you combat stress and keep you generally fit.

  • You need a guru to do Yoga. If you couldn't try out some basic Yoga exercises by yourself, Yoga publishers wouldn't do the business they do. Consulting with a Yoga teacher or instructor can be helpful, but a guru is necessary only when you want to engage in Yoga as a full-fledged spiritual practice.

  • Yoga requires you to believe in all kinds of strange ideas. Yoga is based on universal principles shared by many other systems that have a holistic orientation to life. The fundamental approach of Yoga is for you to test those principles and find out for yourself whether they work for you. You either find them useful or you don't, but no belief in bizarre ideas is necessary.

  • People older than 50 can't learn Yoga. Yoga is for people of all ages. Some people start in their 70s and 80s. It's never too late — or early — to start practicing Yoga.

  • Yoga can offer only a handful of exercises. Yoga has a vast repertoire of postures, and Yoga teachers are constantly adding new variations to refine the system and make it suitable for the widest range of people possible.

  • You can practice Yoga once a month and achieve good results. As with any other exercise system, you get out of Yoga what you put into it. Regular daily Yoga practice gives the best results, but rest assured that a little effort does go a long way.

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