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10 Myths of Yoga Fractured – Last Myth Will Change the Way You Think

10 Myths of Yoga Fractured – Last Myth Will Change the Way You Think

Yoga, a practice originated in India, is derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means “to join.” Yoga unites mind, body, and spirit.

In 2014, June 21st was declared as the International Day of Yoga after getting approval from all 193 United Nations members.

Yoga gives importance to self-awareness. In today’s hectic scenario, people look out for external remedies. The teaching of yoga addresses the importance of inner strength. It not only improves the physical health and mental well-being of individuals, but it also prepares the same group in broadening their vision by building a sustainable and peaceful road map for the nation.

With the growing popularity of yoga, a number of myths are prevalent in the society. Let us fracture them to understand the essence of this 5000-year-old practice.

Here are 10 myths associated with yoga:

1. Your body must be flexible

How does it feel when you see your friends posting their handstands and single-arm balancing pictures on their social profiles? Though a mountain or picturesque beach background may spoil your mood and confidence, you must know it takes quality time to attain such balance.

Everyone comes with a different body shape. Most beginners back out because they fear what people will think about their body type. Their rigid bodies force them to accept their incapability.

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Beginners must start with light exercises. With time, the body allows different postures.

2. Yoga is only for young people

Yoga is one of the health practices where grandparents can reap the benefits along with their grandchildren. Jean Dawson, attended her first yoga class at 67. She recently enjoyed her 100th birthday this past February.

In an interview with Metro UK, Jean said, “I don’t know how I would be today if I hadn’t taken up Iyengar Yoga. It has given me good posture, balance, concentration, flexibility, and stamina,”

Jean also cured her slip disc problem. For those who consider age as a huge barrier, get ready to change this mindset. A few years back, Jean could do all the handstands. Period.

3. Yoga is too time-consuming when you have a busy schedule

Time is not an issue. Your willpower to include yoga in your daily schedule depends on whether you are choosing a “Waste” or “Utilize” mentality.

A person with the “Waste” mentality thinks about sacrificing their precious time with the yogic practice. Their short-sighted attitude drags them to the same unproductive regime. Meanwhile, a person with the “Utilize” mentality thinks about utilizing the time by incorporating this discipline in their daily routine. They suppress their inner resistance to reap the long-term benefits.

According to University of Illinois research, a 20-minute yogic session helped participants process informational quickly when compared to the participants who were told to walk or jog on a treadmill for 20 minutes instead.

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You don’t need to spend a lot of time. As you begin to get into the groove, you’ll find an inner desire to expand the practice.

4. I don’t want to change my lifestyle

Yoga doesn’t come with a “must” tagline. It is advisable to avoid junk food and adopt a vegan diet, but it doesn’t mean you “must” be vegan to follow yoga.

If you think you have to detach yourself from the material world to experience the joy of yoga, you are completely wrong. Yoga aims at improving your lifestyle. It might change the way you tackle your personal issues or how you frame opinions about others. The final decision to accept these changes remains in your hands.

5. I’ll follow my trainer religiously

There is no harm in following the guidelines provided by your instructor, but you must know your limitations.

Trainers look elegant while performing a pose. Students overstretch themselves to get the same charm.

As Rome wasn’t built in a single day, you can’t build a flexible body in a single day. When your body signals you to stop, respect it and get some rest. Don’t try to copy your trainer.

6. Yoga causes pain

Beginners feel pain during the initial stretch-outs. Don’t confuse this sweet pain with the pain caused by exertion.

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Sometimes, the problem is not the asana (yogic pose), but the people who are performing them. They experience pain because there is something wrong with the alignment of their body.

Some poses require hard work. Before quitting, discuss the issue with your mentor. They will help you in differentiating the pain type.

7. I already know it all from reading books 

Books can be a great source for understanding various goals and schools of yoga; however, practical skills always overshadow theoretical knowledge.

People unintentionally spread their bookish expertise with their friends and relatives. They are always eager to share their piece of advice. They try to pose as an expert by listing out different techniques for overcoming a particular pain. Before spreading your knowledge, become an example first.

When people start seeing positive changes in you, they will automatically seek your advice. Instead of quoting information by referencing the book title and author, share your personal experiences.

8. I already go to the gym, so why should I practice yoga?

Preferring one practice over another is difficult, but you can’t achieve the benefits of yoga by only going to the gym.

Yoga keeps a strict check on your emotions. It calms down your fickle mind. The practitioner attains the body-mind balance to help unfold the limitless potential of the human mind.

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By minimizing the mental stress, yoga also blocks the path of several diseases.

Most importantly, yoga brings more clarity by aligning thoughts with actions.

9. Hot Yoga will help in weight loss

Bikram yoga, popularly known as Hot Yoga, claims to burn 1000 calories in a single 90-minute session conducted in a room heated to around 104 degrees.

Dr. Brian L. Tracy, an exercises scientist at Colorado State University, conducted two experiments with his team to find the correlation between Hot Yoga and weight loss. Increasing heart rate and rise in core temperature gave results equivalent to calories burned during brisk walking. The big claims didn’t even stand in front of an average burn rate of 460 calories for men, and 330 calories for women.

Ideally, yoga is not designed for profuse sweating. If you want to lose weight, perform cardio exercises.

10. The best time to practice yoga is either morning or night

If you have attended yoga classes, you must have heard this kind of statement from your trainer. They are not wrong because the best time to practice yoga is in the morning before the breakfast or in the early evening, around sunset.

Then, why is this a myth?

Real yoga goes beyond stretching and breathing exercises. In a yogic session, you train your body to attain a peace of mind; however, the true test comes when you apply that training in achieving work-life harmony.

You must practice the art of yoga for the whole day, be it in your workplace or at home.

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Yatin Khulbe

Positivity Advocate

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Published on January 17, 2020

How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)

How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)

If you think yoga can be learned on the mat, you’re wrong! To learn yoga is to learn yourself, your life and the world around you, which happens mostly off the mat.

Since 2000, I study, practice, teach and live yoga – I grow with it from year to year – hence life becomes more interesting and more meaningful from year to year, too. Through all these years, I observe the evolution of yoga in the western culture and see, how (mostly) wrongly, has been interpreted, taught and practiced. Little is known about how to learn yoga – about its practice, its effect and its application. Yoga is all about finding the simplicity and the meaning in the complexity of life.

But when we look around us, it doesn’t seem so simple, even for those who practice it, and for the most who teach it. Everything about yoga begins in its definition from the original yogic scripture Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[1]

And the value for how to learn yoga, is in this article – showing the value of the above definition and how to practice it in the simplest way, effectively and efficiently.

What is Yoga?

Yoga-Citta-Vrtti-Hirodhah — and its translation is: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations arising within consciousness.

The 195 Sutras, that the original yoga scripture consists of, are written in a strongly compressed manner with the idea to deliver a profound meaning and a lot of space for interpretation. However, the interpreter must be highly serious and competent, otherwise the interpretation will drastically deviate from what the message conveys.

When the definition about yoga is interpreted and applied the right way, it tells us how yoga is to be practiced and explored. To start the right way, we must know the right destination of yoga, which is Kaivalya:[2] The union between you, the other and the world.

Let’s see how to do that:

Beginning with the famous mainstream slogan “Union of Body, Mind and Soul”, brings up the question, “How to reunite the body, mind and soul?”

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Your feelings – created by outside stimuli result in the creation of thoughts, hence there’s connection between your body and mind. That’s easy to understand, right?

Now this connection and the thoughts must serve and improve the mind, making it capable to 1) understand the soul and 2) to unite it with the body and mind. That’s where our journey towards the goal of yoga (Samadhi) is interrupted – making the main part of the union not easy to understand, even less so to accomplish.

Yoga is More Spiritual than Physical

This is what makes yoga more spiritual than physical. To put it in numbers, yoga is 97% of psychological, philosophical and spiritual nature and only some 3% of physiological, considering that there are only seven out of 195 Sutras referring physiologically to sitting and breathing, of which I talked in my earlier post on Yoga For men.

But before experiencing any spirituality from yoga, there is the mental (emotional) part that needs to be mastered and that part is to establish a connection between the body and mind. How?

The simple thought and realization that you are conscious of how you feel within your body (cold, warm, relaxed, depressed, anxious, happy and so on), means that you have made the union between your body and mind. (below the step by step exercise for that).

But to establish a connection to your soul – to the finest part of yourself – the Self:

You must find out (through thinking) what is the subtlest thing that drives your body and mind – yourself as an individual and use that driver to go pass beyond your physicality and mentality.

It is right here that you use the definition about yoga and the realization – the moment, where you are not analyzing any thoughts or feelings. This is a state of Yoga – a state of union between body, mind and soul, in which your consciousness has ceased to identify with its fluctuations.

Yoga as Creativity and Expertise of the Individual

In such a case, there is no specific (like beginners, intermediate or advanced) technique for learning yoga. The moment of the state of yoga arises for everyone of us in an individual way as everybody’s physique and mental content are different. You might be very well advanced in performing the most difficult asanas for decades but still unable and incompetent to be in a state of union with your body, mind and soul. Whereas, if you are a beginner and possess the grace and other virtues, than it’s easier and quicker to establish that connection.

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As yoga is an inherent part of the human being, firstly, in order to pave the yoga path successfully and effectively, you must understand that yoga is not a technique for performance, but rather a creativity and expertise of yourself.

Your learning process cannot be focused on, nor conditioned by a certain handbook, someone’s instructions or some specific school.

Learning yoga requires your creativity to look within yourself and learn from yourself, become the expert of your feelings, emotions and desires. You, as a beginner might already possess many qualities and prerequisites for creating the union between your body, mind and soul, but your knowledge requires creativity for your growth to reach the state of union and then reap the fruits of that union. Once this happens there is no turning back – you’ll be pulled by the beauty and energy of your on being.

Be Fast Mentally and Slow Physically

As already mentioned, you don’t need to do physical performances like the split or the headstand to be able to immerse in a deep meditation or Samadhi. But you do need enough creativity for your self-inquiry.

Many of my students start working directly with meditation – attending the complexities of the mind, because that’s where the hindrances lie. There, the meditator is able to work on the cessation of identifying with the fluctuations of the consciousness – where intelligence expands, adversity ends and the individual is ready to pass through its physicality and mentality in order to reach the union with the soul.

But if you’re really a beginner and cannot start with that, then you can start enhancing your creativity on the body-mind level. The exercise follows in the next paragraph.

The greater your creativity, the better your expertise about yourself – the deeper your competence to inquire further into the union with your soul. Sure enough that a more pliable and healthy physical body has some advantages and better preconditions for that, but don’t get discouraged because your body-mind union will open up the way.

So here we are, you are at the moment to enhance your creativity upon that union. Please, take this as a very serious part of the practice as it is crucial for learning yoga – for learning yourself.

The Beginner’s Exercise – Creativity upon Body-Mind Union

The first and most important element to learn and practice yoga is of physiological and psychological nature: Stillness:

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  1. Make sure your body is still and comfortable.
  2. Focus on breathing to initiate observing.
  3. Observe your body and identify the first feeling that occurs to you.
  4. Keep identifying feelings and emotions, but without getting involved with them.
  5. Now create feelings and emotions as you please and let them go.

That’s it! That’s the creativity upon the body-mind union. The validity of this creativity lies in the stillness and observance of that union. In this practice you can learn to understand and catch the moment – the main ingredient of life.

Life is a sequence of moments and knowing that you’re able to manage that sequence is a new level of living life, called dharma – the practical and skillful way of living. An essential character develops as a result of practicing this discipline.

However, be aware that we are still talking about outward elements of yoga – the gross levels (from Yama to Pratyahara) whereas the subtle, inward elements (Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) are yet to be approached, learned and implemented. It is on these subtle levels that you can realize the depth of spirituality and the essence of yoga.

It is remarkable how the science of yoga can take you in such heights and depths of exploring life and being. Little is known about the essence and the right practice of yoga in the west. There is a huge knowledge gap between how yoga should be learned and how it is practiced today in the west. You can bridge this gap by practicing the above exercise.

Know that yoga is of a very subtle nature – operating on a subtle energetic level – the level of your mental energies, your thoughts. That means that it is to be learned at that level and not on any other. A body posture alone cannot take you to that level if you don’t apply your creativity and self-inquiry.

Prerequisite for Yogic Success – Union between You and the Other

Yoga is nothing, if our relationships with others are not managed harmonically.

Learning yoga is also learning connecting with the other – with the stranger who’s not you but carries the same “core”, the same heart as you. We as individuals, possess the inborn feature of Ego – the “I-consciousness” that makes us feel separate from the rest of what makes the wholeness.

This separation is the second of the the five “klesah” afflictions[3] – that stand as major hindrance against the union (Yoga) – called “asmita” or I-am-ness / Egoism (Y.S. II.6.), and has to be cultivated and brought to a level of discernment that will lessen our disturbance that comes out the fragmentation between the “I-am-ness” and the “Other-ness”.

This is a crucial concept in Yoga and it is inevitable to be worked upon this hindrance in order to reach the inner “psychological” freedom or the ultimate liberation “Kaivalya” for which Yoga stands for. But, again, if you are beginner in this part, you want to know how to start dealing with all this. Here is the exercise:

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  1. Practice observance from the first exercise.
  2. Realize that the structure of your feelings, emotions, etc. is identical with the one of the other individuals.
  3. Practice witnessing, tolerating and gradually accepting the diversity between yourself and the other individuals.
  4. Observe for so long with equanimity, until you see the uniformity in that diversity.

This is one of the greatest accomplishments a human being can achieve. To be, means, to be in relationship – internally, as well as externally.

Yogic Lifestyle – Union Between You, The Other and The World

Here comes the last piece of the puzzle – the union – on the highest level of worldly existence – between you, the other and the world. This means that Yoga is also worthless if practiced only on the mat. So when learning yoga, especially when practicing the body-mind union, consider if:

You speak the language of nature and how you’re connected to nature and its basic elements? Do you complicate your existence by thinking that you are in the center of the world and require extra attention and acknowledgement?

Thinking this way interferes with the practice of yoga. And surely, you might wonder, what should be done here in order to create that harmony in union? You’d be amazed to know that there is one important yogic movement that needs to be done. That is:

The action of not doing anything but contemplating! Then yoga happens.

Yes, this goes beyond the physicality and mentality of your being. As our bodies play just a tiny part of the evolution of existence, we must not attach to the world in that sense – clinging to worldly life with that insatiable urge that generates worries and anxiety – but rather grow through life with detachment and the attitude that life has been gifted to us with the purpose to realize that gift and attain the wisdom of life.

Go Beyond Your Physicality and Mentality

Attaining greatness like connecting to the world and to your soul, we must pass beyond the thoughts, feelings and emotions, and the influence they have on us. Hence we want to make the mental fluctuations to cease and let yoga shine its light through this yogic movement:

The stillness and the watching within.

Can yoga be understood and achieved in one single session and then practiced continuously, productively and effectively? Of course it can. Your union within yourself, the other and the world is lot simpler and easier than you think. Practice these simple yogic movements diligently, seriously but also effortlessly and your yoga will be flourishing and fruitful. I salute the spirit in you!

More About Yoga

Featured photo credit: Avrielle Suleiman via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
[2] Wikipedia: Kaivalya
[3] Plato Stanford: Klesah

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