The people who have not tried yoga seem to have some misconceptions about it that keep them from accessing one of the most healthful forms of exercise there is. When yoga is not capitalized, it refers to the exercises used for control of the mind, body and breathing resulting in well-being.
According to Merriam-Webster, when yoga is capitalized, it refers to a Hindu monotheistic belief that teaches the suppression of mind, body and will so that the higher self may realize it is distinct from them and thus achieve liberation. Thus, the confusion and ambivalence some people feel about yoga may stem from their not knowing whether the practitioners are practicing yoga or Yoga.
Common misconceptions about yoga
- Misconception: The people within the yoga community are all peace-loving, friendly, loving, agreeable folks who support each other in all respects. The reality is that are not as sainted as that suggests; they are merely human, with all the flaws that entails. Some are striving to achieve a higher consciousness, and have embraced love as a way of life, while others are content to meet life as it comes and do not want to change.
Reality: Taking up the practice of yoga does not require you to become anything other than who you are.
- Misconception: Taking up yoga means having to change your beliefs or religion. Yoga is only practiced by Hindus or Buddhists or whatever, and is a religion.
Reality: Yoga with a small ‘y’ is ot a religion. It is taught in classes all over, including schools, churches, and even in corporate America. Religious beliefs of yoga practitioners are as varied as the people themselves are. There are even non-Hindu names for all of the poses.
- Misconception: Beginning yoga means giving up meat as all yogis are vegetarians.
Reality: In yoga, one of the niyamas (recommended habits for healthy living, spiritual growth, and liberation) is ahimsa, defined as non-harming. Some Yoga schools feel that eating meat is harming another living being. Yet, eating pants is also harming another living being, so where does one draw the line? When one practices yoga as opposed to Yoga, the point becomes moot because merely doing exercises does not require one to ascribe to any set of beliefs.
- Misconception: Yoga is just for women. Men need more rugged exercise.
Reality: Before yoga was introduced in America, women were not even allowed to practice it as it was solely a man’s exercise regimen. Men derive many benefits from yoga asanas:
- Pain relief
- Increased flexibility
- Improved stamina
- Better sleep
- Enhanced performance
- Stress relief.
- Misconception: Yoga needs to be practiced in a serene setting in order to be effective.
Reality: Yoga can be practiced anywhere, in a gym, in your home, in an office, or in the park. Distractions only serve to teach one to focus more intently on clearing the mind so that concentration can be focused on practicing the asanas.
The practice of Yoga or yoga benefits the mind, body and spirit. It does not matter what philosophy the practitioner belongs to; what matters are the healthful benefits from yoga.