Swellness Blog


The Top 10 Yoga Myths Debunked

wellness yoga Jun 24, 2024
The Top 10 Yoga Myths Debunked

Photo by Elina Fairytale

Yoga has oodles of benefits for your body, mind and spirit. It’s free and requires no equipment, so why aren’t more people taking advantage? It’s often because they’ve fallen prey to one of the many yoga myths.

What misconceptions keep you from starting your practice? What you think of as a roadblock might not be after all — yoga is one class that typically requires no prerequisites. Kick these nine myths to the curb to discover the magic of mindful movement and find a yoga home that fits you like Baby Bear’s chair.

1. There’s One “Right” Way to Strike a Pose

You went on YouTube, looked up Laruga Glaser’s “Impossible” yoga demo and promptly said, “Yeah, forget this” before ever stepping foot on the mat. While yes, lifelong Ashtangis can often perform incredibly acrobatic moves, you don’t have to master getting into padmasana while holding a handstand to reap the benefits of this ancient practice.

In fact, your poses might not look exactly the same as anyone else’s in the yoga studio — and that’s okay. Everyone’s bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons have tiny variations in length, thickness and flexibility, which translates into the same position looking slightly different on the mat. While your guide can assist you in mastering binds, for example, you should never strain your way into a position simply to look like someone else or feel bad if you can’t. 

2. You Need to Push Through Discomfort 

What’s a huge red flag that tells you a yoga class might not be the best fit? A guide who demands that you push through discomfort. While yoga often entails a physical and mental challenge, you should never feel pain, nausea or dizziness. Part of the journey is learning how to tune into your body’s natural interoceptive cues, pushing yourself just enough to test your limits without taking unnecessary risks. 

Conversely, a green flag is a guide who suggests exiting out of poses that cause physical pain or even emotional distress. For example, many people use yoga as part of their healing therapy to reclaim a sense of agency over their bodies after a traumatic event. However, such memories exist not only in the brain but in neurons all over the body. Yoga can help you release them — when you are ready. It doesn’t, however, force the matter. It simply creates a healing space. 

Yoga can teach you to sit with discomfort, a vital emotional regulation skill. However, it keeps you in the driver’s seat. Furthermore, pushing through physical distress can result in injuries that discourage you from your practice. An equally vital skill is learning how to set boundaries, and declaring a pose not right for you gives you practice at doing so. 

3. You Can’t Do Yoga If…

A look at various yoga subreddits reveals questions like, “Am I too heavy to do yoga?” Please debunk that yoga myth immediately. Yoga is for anybody of any age, physical condition or size. In fact, only one of its eight limbs encompasses physical postures. While it’s true that your practice might look slightly different than a yogi with different physiological attributes, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it — please refer back to item one on this list. 

4. Yoga Is Serious Business 

Many gyms place signs reading “quiet, yoga session in progress” on their group fitness studio doors. You shouldn’t disrupt a class that’s in session, nor should you don a grim, determined facial expression that doesn’t dare crack a smile once inside those hallowed walls. In fact, much of yoga’s tension-busting power comes from its ability to release your allostatic load or the cumulative burden of life stress and events.

It’s okay to laugh when you fall out of dancer pose — everyone does sometimes. Learning how to chuckle at yourself on the mat gradually rewires the neural circuits in your brain that otherwise lead to feeling down on yourself when you make a mistake. That results in less depression and self-doubt in daily life, not just in the studio.

5. Everybody Is Watching You 

Even though yoga often takes place in a group setting, it’s a highly individualized practice. It invites practitioners to turn their awareness inward — which means they can’t pay attention to anyone else. Some of your classmates might never even open their eyes. 

Try this experiment if you’re too shy to step into a studio. Find a free yoga workout on YouTube and pay attention to how often you need to pause the video to figure out what the instructor is doing. You’ll soon see that the effort it takes to follow the guide precludes judging what anyone else is up to. 

Another trick? Visualize yourself having a chat with your future self 12 months from now. Said imaginary self has practiced yoga several times a week for the past year. What would they say about how their practice has transformed their lives? To get to that place, you must take the first step. 

Finally, choose a slow-paced, accessible form of yoga to help you overcome inhibitions. For example, some restorative classes involve holding gentle, passive poses like bananasana for up to 20 minutes instead of flowing through multiple asanas in rapid succession. 

6. Yoga Is Just Another Fad 

Although the earliest history of yoga remains somewhat shrouded in mystery, this ancient practice originated thousands of years ago in India. It has since spread all over the world, including the West. Yoga has existed considerably longer than many nations, including the U.S., and its continued growth in popularity belies it as “just another fad.”  

7. Yoga is Only for Flexible People 

While some people are naturally more flexible than others, thanks to their genes, maintaining your stretchiness takes practice. Furthermore, you don’t increase your flexibility by sitting on the couch. Everyone might have a different starting point, but the only way to reap the benefits of yoga is to get on your mat — your muscles and other tissues will get looser the longer you practice.

8. You Have to Be Hindu or Buddhist to Practice Yoga 

Yoga is a highly spiritual discipline. That said, many Western classes focus solely on the physical asanas, especially those held in gyms that conduct other types of group fitness. 

Your best bet for finding the right class fit is to go early and talk to your guide. They’re usually happy to share how much spiritual material they do — or do not — include. For example, some will read passages from various Hindu or Buddhist texts during savasana, but there are plenty who do not if such behavior makes you uncomfortable or clashes with your faith system. Many yoga classes today are completely secular. 

9. Some Forms of Yoga Are Better Than Others 

There’s a style of yoga for you, regardless of whether you prefer a tough, athletic challenge or simply want to relax after a long day. For example, Ashtanga, vinyasa and power yoga classes entail plenty of physical challenges that leave you dripping with sweat, even if they don’t crank up the classroom heat. Conversely, you can do slower practices like restorative and Yin right on your mattress in your pajamas and leave both smelling fresh. 

No one form is “better” or superior to the others. The question to ask yourself is what kind of experience you like — there’s a style of yoga to suit your mood. 

10. You Lack Time in Your Life for Yoga 

While the full Ashtanga primary series takes up to two hours to complete, most mat sessions are nowhere near as lengthy. You can reap many of the benefits of yoga with a brief session in the morning upon awakening or before turning in at night. Better yet, do both, add a 10-minute flow at lunch and get 30 minutes of daily movement nearly effortlessly.

Yogis strapped for time may find online flows better than in-person classes. YouTube abounds with free videos lasting from ten to twenty minutes. Some are specifically designed to wake you up or ease you into sleep, so get creative. Replace ten minutes of your evening doom-scrolling time with yoga and see if you rest better at night. 

Yoga Myths Debunked

What’s holding you back from starting your practice? If it’s one of the yoga myths listed above, you now know the truth

Debunking yoga myths eliminates one factor standing between you and your practice. This ancient practice is for everyone — don’t let misinformation rob you of the benefits.