De-myth-ifying Yoga


 

I’m not flexible enough for yoga.

Yoga is to help you get more flexible.  It’s not like soccer, baseball, football, gymnastics, dance, field hockey or curling – there’s no “you should try yoga – you’d be good at it.”  There’s no “good at it.”  There’s what yoga does for you.  If you’re tight, it’ll make you more flexible.  If you’re weak, it’ll make you stronger.  If you’re mean, it’ll make you nicer.  The entire practice of yoga is based on balance.  The practice is meant to and does create balance in each individual.  So your flexibility is just right for your yoga.

I’m not graceful enough to do yoga in front of people.

It’s not a performance.  Yoga is a non-competitive practice where everyone in the room is rooting for you.  And by the way, they’re not watching you – they’re trying to do the same pose as ungracefully as you.

Yoga is for girls.

Nope.  Unless you’ve never heard of a man needing hip or knee surgery or stress reduction, then yoga must be for men, too.  Man up and get your Self to the studio.

I have an impediment so I can’t do yoga.

Yoga is an individual practice.  Even though you may be in a class, you are welcome and expected to modify according to your needs.  If you have knee replacements, then kneeling may not be for you.  But lucky for you, yoga isn’t about kneeling.  So every time the teacher asks the class to kneel, sit.  And it’s not about your left arm that you can’t raise above your head since that ice skating injury in 6th grade.  So every time the class is asked to raise the arms overhead, raise your left arm as high as it goes and no further.  Please don’t let your impediments stop you from receiving the benefits of yoga.  We aim for balance, especially with our impediments.  But without an exploration, how will we ever find it?

Yoga is a religion.

Yoga is not a religion.  It has ancient roots – more ancient than Christianity – and since we’re so used to those roots being religious, it’s easy to make the mistake.  Since yoga comes from areas within India, some Hindu philosophies have come into the practice.  But the connection is only geographical – yoga does not come from Hinduism.  As a matter of fact, it was rejected by Hinduism according to foremost yoga teacher T.K.V. Desikachar (Yoga Journal).  There is an ancient text The Yoga Sutras by the sage Patanjali which includes philosophies such as “do no harm to others.”  But you are not required to follow or believe in any of the principles put forth in The Yoga Sutras.  An explanation from the article “Is Yoga a Religion?” by Paul Catalfo in Yoga Journal:

Yoga has no singular creed, nor does it have any ritual by which adherents profess their faith or allegiance, such as baptism or confirmation. There are no religious obligations, such as attending weekly worship services, receiving sacraments, fasting on certain days, or performing a devotional pilgrimage.

You are not required to believe in or attend or take part in anything.

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