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5 Myths About Yoga

May 6, 2011

Some 14.3 million people in the United States practiced yoga in 2010, up from 4.3 million in 2001, making it one of the fastest-growing activities out there. But despite yoga’s growing prevalence and popularity, there are still a lot of misconceptions about yoga: things like “I have to be super bendy to practice yoga” or “Yoga is mostly for women.”

Inspired by this article, here are five myths — and the truth — about yoga. To read more yoga myths, check out the full article over here.

1.  I have to be really flexible to practice yoga.

Yoga benefits all bodies, whether you can’t touch your toes or you have no problem turning yourself into a human pretzel. Postures can be modified for each body’s unique abilities and limitations. If you are carrying tension in an area, like your hips, yoga can help  you release that tension. If you aren’t carrying tension in an area, yoga can help you keep that area tension-free. Either way, you are stimulating and engaging your body, which increases circulation, flushes out toxins and breathes new life into cells. The goal is vitality, not flexibility.

2. Yoga is the same thing as stretching.

The goal of stretching is to become limber. The goal of yoga is to develop greater awareness. “Awareness” here is not some granola-crunchy new-age concept, but rather the ability to tune in more closely to our bodies. The more you practice yoga, the more mindful you become of how your body feels in the day to day. You might notice your breath becoming shallow during a stressful situation, or your shoulders tensing up at work, or your posture slumping throughout the day; noticing these things allows you to correct them, leading to better health and wellness overall.

3. Yoga is a sport.

Some forms of yoga are “sportier” than others, sure, and all forms of yoga involve some form of physical practice. But the postures, movements and stretches in yoga are not an end in themselves.  Rather, they can be a means to personal (and often spiritual) development, helping you connect with your body and quiet your mind.

4. Yoga is a religion.

Yoga is not a religion.  Some forms of yoga focus more on spiritual development, but most modern yoga classes are more about exercise, stress reduction, and developing a better connection between body and mind. A yoga class might involve candles, quiet meditation, and even chanting, or it might not have any of these things. If there’s an “om” at the end of class, feel free to join in, or not. Yoga is about doing what’s comfortable for you.

5. Yoga is mostly for women.

This myth probably has a lot to do with the notion that yoga demands flexibility (see No. 1 above), as women tend to be more flexible than men. Currently, the male-to-female ratio in most yoga classes is about three ladies for every one guy, but that’s changing as more men discover the great benefits of incorporating yoga into their workout routines. Yoga is for anyone seeking to live a healthier life, regardless of gender.

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