Yoga has grown increasingly popular over time, and for good reason: its practice provides strength training benefits as well as overall wellness benefits. But its rising popularity has created some misconceptions about it that must be dispelled in order to ensure safe practice.
One of the more persistent yoga misconceptions is that only young, thin people capable of performing pretzel poses should practice yoga. But in reality, anyone can participate as long as they commit themselves and dedicate themselves to practicing regularly.
It’s Only for Women
Many men avoid yoga because it seems too feminine for their tastes, yet this is unfortunate given that yoga can help men with injuries, sports performance issues and stress relief as well as women suffering depression, lower back pain or any number of ailments. Fortunately, more and more men are seen in the best yoga studios from around the world.
Yoga did not begin as a fitness movement designed for thin young white women in the West; however, this misconception created within yoga can make people who do not fit this mold feel excluded from classes. This misconception creates barriers between individuals who would otherwise benefit from taking up yoga and those who feel intimidated to try the practice themselves.
Yoga classes welcome practitioners of all ages and body types. Although female students generally outnumber male students in most yoga classes, that doesn’t dissuade male students from exploring this practice – all it takes is some awareness to see that yoga can be beneficial to everyone and someone teaching who’s willing to challenge expectations while encouraging men to be flexible!
It’s a Sport
Yoga does not fall under the realm of sports as it doesn’t involve physical contact; classifying it as such would make it appear as more of a competitive activity with which body and mind compete directly against one another.
Flexibility isn’t required for yoga practice – that myth can stop experienced yogis from developing deeper and more mindful practice as well as discouraging people from even beginning.
As is often the case with myths about yoga, this one can easily be disproved quickly. When attending classes, instructors present poses in a step-by-step fashion to allow you to ease into them gradually – especially helpful if you suffer from back or balance problems, limited flexibility or sore muscles. Yoga instructors are specially trained to accommodate students of all skill levels. In addition, they may offer alternatives on how to perform poses if there are specific concerns you wish to address in each pose.
It’s a Religion
No doubt yoga can be an immensely spiritual practice, but it should not be confused with religion. This misconception often stems from misinterpreting its Hindu roots, and may even be amplified by images found online that show flexible people performing acrobatic poses with legs interlaced behind their back or handstands on one arm.
Yoga draws influence from many religions, such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Yet its practice integrates traditions from multiple religious traditions into an inclusive practice that can fit seamlessly alongside any religious belief system.
Though Walsh’s reaction may have been outlandish, he’s not entirely wrong in his assessment of yoga as fitness activity. Like Crossfit and other fitness pursuits, yoga can become part of daily life for participants who adopt it into their lives and define themselves by the activities they engage in regularly; consequently, these individuals may develop a religious-like devotion for yoga; something Walsh and Shreena Gandhi take issue with.
It’s a Form of Exercise
People often have misconceptions about yoga that involve flexible individuals holding awkward poses in crazy positions while posting pictures on social media. Although that type of yoga does exist, there’s so much more to its practice than meets the eye.
Yoga can be used to build strength. Many poses require you to hold onto your own bodyweight as resistance; researchers have discovered that participating in a 12-week yoga program can increase flexibility as well as muscular strength and endurance.
Yoga can also help you manage your emotions. People suffering from trauma often turn to substances as a coping mechanism, yet studies have demonstrated that practicing yoga can increase physiological awareness of feelings while decreasing rumination and self-criticism – one study even concluded that 10 weeks of yoga reduced PTSD symptoms among trauma survivors!