3 Common Misconceptions About Yoga

“Whether you are sick or weak, young, old or very old, you can succeed in yoga if you practice diligently.” – Svatmarama (Hatha Yoga Pradipika)

According to a study conducted by Yoga Journal, 9.4 million Americans don’t practice yoga but say that they will.  Another 18.3 million say they are “very interested” in practicing someday.

The health and wellness benefits of yoga are proven and enormous.  So, what is the blockage?  For every individual it may be different, but here are three common misconceptions about yoga:

1.  Yoga is only for the flexible and fit.

Some people avoid yoga because they think it’s only for people who can bend like Gumby.  It’s easy to believe this impression when we see photos in magazines or attend a yoga class with experienced students.

Interestingly enough, if you feel that you couldn’t possibly do yoga then yoga might be especially helpful for you.  Over time, you will become more flexible and fit. 

Remember that every person who practices yoga had to start somewhere.  And chances are most of them were not especially flexible and fit in the beginning.  It’s a goal to work toward and comes from practice.

2.  Yoga is only for those in good health.

Yoga has helped people with all kinds of physical, mental and emotional problems: old people, sick people, people with years of chronic disease, people in pain, people who were too depressed to get out of bed.  Yoga has helped cancer patients and people with heart disease.  It’s been used successfully on schizophrenics, on children with Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism.  Those who are bound to bed or wheelchairs can do modified yoga fit to their needs and abilities.  Anyone can practice yoga, despite their level of health.

3.  Yoga is a religion.

Although yoga originated in ancient India, it is not a form of Hinduism.  In fact, yoga is practiced by people from all types of religions, including agnostics and atheists.  There certainly is a spiritual side to yoga, but you don’t have to subscribe to any particular beliefs to benefit from it.  Take what you can use from yoga and ignore the rest. 

For example, if chanting “om” bothers you, simply elect to not do it.  No one is going to care.  That is the beauty of yoga.  There are so many practices and so many ways of modifying those practices that virtually anyone’s needs can be met.

Can you think of any other common misconceptions about yoga?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Source:  Yoga as Medicine: the Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing by Dr. Timothy McCall, M.D.