The popularity of yoga has witnessed a continuous rise over the last decade. More and more westerners are seen joining Yoga practice groups, or are downloading information available on the Internet for practicing yoga at home.
The flip side of the story is that all kinds of myths and misconceptions are spreading about yoga. While some of the myths, if taken to be true, could prove to be quite harmful for the yoga practitioner, some others, which are less damaging, still have the potential of reducing or limiting the benefits that one could reap from it.
Let’s take a look at some of the common myths associated with yoga:
Yoga Cannot be Practiced if You have a Stiff Body
It’s ironical that such a myth should come to be perceived as truth. One of the top-ranking benefits of yoga is its ability to gradually improve the flexibility levels of the practitioner. As a beginner, you are bound to experience stiffness and an inability to correctly perform the yogic postures. So, if you have been falsely led to believe in this myth, let go of it right now. By slowly pushing your limits, little by little over time, you will surely notice your body loosening up and a wonderful improvement in your flexibility levels.
Sweating during Yoga Helps Detox your Body
While Yoga has many benefits for your body – digestive, cardiac and respiratory to name a few – detox is not one of them – at least not directly. Many people incorrectly assume that the sweating experienced during yogic kriya helps flush out toxins from the body. No, that’s not true. The sweat released during yoga is the same sweat that is released during gym exercises or while running.
Only Longer Yoga Sessions Yield Perceptible Benefits
Like any other form of exercise and fitness, longer sessions can make you feel that you had a more productive session as well. However, this should not be understood to imply that shorter sessions are not worth much. Much can be achieved in a well-planned, short session of Yoga, or for that matter, even the gym.
If you are not able to go for your desired hour-plus yoga session some day, you need not give up on the mat completely. Studies have shown that even a 20-minute yoga session has the ability to boost one’s brain function, including benefits for memory, concentration and information processing. What is probably more required and advised is consistency.
Yoga Practice at High Temperatures (Bikram Yoga) is more Beneficial
Bikram Yoga is a system of yoga developed from the traditional hatha yoga techniques. Participants practice the same series of 26 postures for a period of 90 minutes, in a room heated to 40 °C with a humidity of 40%. As expected, there’s a lot of sweat, which looks like an illusion of greater benefits.
For long, it was believed that this form of yoga yielded additional benefits in accelerating weight loss and increasing body strength and flexibility. However, new insights into this form have revealed that these perceptions could be plain myth. In fact, a study actually disclosed that the number of calories burnt through Bikram Yoga practice was far lower than that through some other more rigorous forms like Power Yoga.
Yoga is Free of Injury Risks
This would be a big blunder for any newbie. Just as every other form of physical and mental training requires the help of an informed and educated instructor, so does yoga. While the kind of muscle and ligament injuries that accompany cardio exercises and strength training are not commonly seen in Yoga, posture-based nerve damage is a very real risk. You will also need to get educated on what postures to avoid or alter, depending upon pre-existing conditions like chronic backache, glaucoma or sciatica, or even if you are pregnant.
Practicing Yoga is the Equivalent of Espousing a Particular Religion
It is true that Yoga has its origins in the faith of Hinduism but as a physical and mental fitness technique, it can be practiced by persons of any faith or ideology. In fact, most westerners follow a yoga regimen only for physical benefits like increased flexibility and body strength and mental benefits like lowering of stress levels and an improved brain function. To believe that practicing yoga makes you a believer in Hinduism is a myth.