It is not surprising to those of us who are long time yoga practitioners that the popularity of this profound spiritual science is now exploding on a world wide scale. Unfortunately though some of the authenticity and truths about yoga are being lost and some myths are creeping in with regard to what yoga is and how it is to be practiced. In this article I will look to clear up what I find to be the top 5 myths about yoga.
1. Yoga is a Form of Physical Exercise:
This is perhaps the most common view of yoga. That it is a form of physical exercise. This certainly needs to be clarified and I am going to provide some details about true yoga practice in order to do this.
Yoga is actually has 8 parts to it, with the physical aspect being just 1. These 8 parts, include yoga dos, yoga don’ts, physical exercises (asana), breathing exercises, sense control, concentration, meditation and divine union.
So you can see from above that although the physical aspect of yoga, which is called asana, is an important part of yoga, yoga as a whole is certainly more that just a series of postures and movements. Yoga is essentially a spiritual science whose objective is to still the mind of thoughts, so that the truth of Oneness hidden behind the waves of the mind can be clearly seen and embraced.
2. Yoga is a Religion:
The other extreme and incorrect view on yoga is that is it a religion. Commonly yoga is considered part of Hindu religion, but yoga is not a religion. It is a time tested spiritual science with the goal of revealing the true nature of reality. As indicated above, yoga practice is astep by step process with the end goal of calming down the thought waves in our mind and thus prevent them from distorting the truth.
3. To Practice Yoga You Must be Vegetarian:
There is a notion floating around that in order to practice yoga you must not eat meat and be a vegetarian. This is not true. Although there are tremendous benefits to being vegetarian and this is being more and more validated by the mainstream medical community, there is no requirement of vegetarianism in order to practice yoga.
One point I would like to add here is that, vegetarianism is consistent with the non-violence which yoga advocates and it certainly would be to your benefit to reduce meat intake, nevertheless, you don’t have to be vegetarian in order to be a great yogi.
4. You Need to be Initiated by a Guru:
I have also come across this notion that many believe you need to be initiated and have a guru in order to learn and practice yoga. This is not true. According to yoga, the true guru is within and although it would be to your benefit to learn yoga from an accomplished teacher, this is not a requirement.
5. You Have to be Flexible to do Yoga:
Not so. No doubt yoga will improve your flexibility, along with your strength, balance and overall health, but in order to practice yoga you do not have to be flexible. Yoga is designed to be practiced by all.
Different bodies have different degrees of flexibility and in this case one size does not fit all. For most of the complex yoga posture which require great flexibility to do, there are plenty of modifications which allow you to get the same benefits for those who are less flexible. In fact one of the original reasons I took up yoga because I was not flexible and wanted to improve this aspect of my physical dimension.
So there you have the top 5 myths about yoga. Essentially, what these myths do is prevent people from taking up this wonderful science. So if you feel you will have to change faiths, find gurus, stop eating meat or are too inflexible to take up yoga practice, you are wrong. Don’t pass up the wonderful opportunity to learn and practice this amazing science, which helps you discover your true divine and eternal nature.
By Anmol Mehta