By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
What are the best five Yoga secrets and myths? While teaching classes over the past 40 years, I’ve compiled five myths that also have related secrets attached to them. Let’s take a deep look into myths that are more complicated than a one-line explanation.
1: Yoga is All About Physical Flexibility
This statement is partially true in some classes. For example, an Ashtanga class is going to require flexibility and strength. However, a Bhakti Yoga class will not require any flexibility. There are many teachers and diversified styles. As a result, there are a variety of classes to choose from. Some classes are very physical and some are not. Today, many popular classes contain moderate movement.
The Accessibility Secret
From the outside looking in, many people think our classes are an “Instagram Yoga Stunt Show.” The public sees Yoga photos on Instagram and thinks, “Is that all there is?” The court of public opinion assumes that our classes are too difficult and risky. What many people don’t know is Yoga can be made accessible to anyone who can breathe. In fact, you could practice a sequence in bed before going to sleep.
2: Yoga Will Create a Calming Personality
Once again, this statement is partially true. On the other hand, to be calm all the time requires constant practice and ideal circumstances. Most people have a hard time maintaining a steady pranayama practice. Now, compare that to daily meditation. These are not difficult practices, yet many people have difficulty practicing consistently. If you have an honest talk with a monk, you will learn they are just as human as the rest of us. Many of them point out the fact that life in a monastery is a sanctuary.
As mentioned above, calming the mind takes practice. There are many ways to train the mind. Yoga Nidra and mindfulness meditation are popular, but they are just two of the many choices. Sometimes, people begin and stay with breath awareness meditation. Results are the reason why people continue on the same path. Although some practitioners jump around from style to style, you will get the best results with consistent practice.
3: I Must Change My Religion to Practice Yoga
Among Yoga secrets and myths, this is absolute nonsense. However, there are predators who preach this way of thinking. If you watch the news, you can see people who like to polarize groups into a mob. Sadly, they exist everywhere. When a person who leads a group, preaches hate and intolerance, the group that follows has lost its direction. However, Yoga practitioners come in all shapes, sizes, and religions. These days, most classes barely touch spiritual health at all.
Religious Yoga Secrets
What is the big deal with people regarding religion and Yoga? Religious extremists will point to Yoga’s origin, Sanskrit, and mantras. Students who attend fitness Yoga classes will never understand because they can barely sit still for a “cool down.” The religious issue is all about controlling the religious group. If you don’t understand something outside the religion, you call it evil, nasty, unholy, or something else. The key is to put the fear of Hell’s fire into the minds of religious followers in order to separate the group from the mainstream. With all that said, Yoga can be a deeply rewarding experience, when the agenda is for the public good.
4: Yoga is Just for Women
These words are uttered by those who don’t know anything about the history of Yoga. For the most part, Yoga practitioners were men until the late 19th century. We also know that Yoga has been around for thousands of years before that. So, women have been on the Yoga scene recently and they now have full access. This whole issue was created by a few flustered men who realized women are fairly flexible in the hips by anatomical design. Some women also have great natural flexibility in the spine.
Venus and Mars Secret
Women and men can learn a lot from each other if they attend classes without judgment. If we can’t control our eyes, mouth, and mind, it’s best to practice Yoga at home. You could also find a class that is segregated based on gender. On the other hand, attending and teaching classes with large numbers of women has not been a bad experience. It helps women and men listen to different viewpoints. For some of us, it teaches us how to behave. A Yoga class is a great place to practice mindfulness. When attending a class as a student, I have found it is a great time to listen in silence and be present for practice.
5: I Practice the Only True Yoga
This is the last of the five Yoga secrets and myths. The statement above is proof of a lack of knowledge about Yoga in general. There is no single path or method for practicing Yoga. Sometimes, people like mantras, pranayama, and meditation. Other times, people only want to learn Yoga poses. However, some students want a complete experience. Is this bad that they disagree and who is right?
Secret – Who is Right?
The truth is there is really no right or wrong – With the exception of the teacher who says his way is the only way. In general, Yoga is an evolving system. If one chooses to ignore medical science and safety guidelines, we could try to make time stop. We can put our hands over our ears and shout to avoid learning anything new. Most of all, we would want to outlaw creativity and the right to think. Yes, those are ridiculous ideas, but some of today’s world leaders want you to stop thinking and creating. My final advice is to do your research and think for yourself. As a result, you will become an innovator and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, there are people who practice complete intolerance as a way of life. Consequently, most people avoid them due to the amount of negative energy they spread around.
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