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TOP 5: Yoga myths BUSTED!

Last updated on: July 19, 2012 15:51 IST

TOP 5: Yoga myths BUSTED!

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Shameem Akthar, yogacharya, trained with Sivananda Yoga Vedanta center, takes the veil off five myths that seek to dent yoga's halo.

The popularity of yoga means a lot of media ink is invested in it. Some of this attention also spawns myths. Then, the myth passes around till it mutates into a 'fact'. All of which adds to the confusion even further.

Myth 1: Yoga causes injuries

This has recently become a label of sorts, bandied about as if yoga is the one causing the injuries.

Guess what? Bad teachers, cheap classes and bad students lead to injuries as does casual teaching or teaching without practicing oneself.

Remember you deserve the teacher you get. If you are looking for a bargain teacher, you get a bad bargain in injuries.

Some students also can be overenthusiastic -- they will do a 'walk-in' and feel they have a right to attempt an advanced pose without investing in the preparatory poses.

All this however does not mean yoga causes injuries! It is the commercial twist some teachers and some students who make yoga work against them.

For more of Shameem's yoga writings visit http://jaisivananda.blogspot.com. Shameem's second book Yoga in the workplace, with photographs by ace photographer Fawzan Husain, is now available at online shops and bookshops across the country. It is also available as e-book, with Kindle, Amazon.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh


Image: One of the most common myths is that yoga causes injuries


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Myth 2: If you stop practicing you become fat

This is a ridiculous myth that has been around for ages. In fact, that used to often the excuse of the lazy ones from even attempting yoga!

Actually, if you stop practicing yoga and become fat, it simply means correspondingly you have also stopped being disciplined -- that could include eating more, not doing any physical activity and that you just have become lazier!

It is not that yoga is some mythical thing that punishes your lack of interest by fattening you, but that you have let yourself go.

If you do not brush your teeth would your mouth smell. So, before you buy a brush will you ask the shopkeeper, if I stop brushing my teeth I will get halitosis, so maybe I should not start at all!


Image: Yoga is not some mythical thing that punishes your lack of interest by fattening you

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Myth 3: You must sacrifice all fun things for yoga:

On the contrary, what it means is that yoga practice makes you moderate. It means you do not have to deny many things (including and mainly addictive stuff like smoking, drinking, drugs, binge eating) but these things lose their former allure.

It also means that you may continue enjoying your food, but will yourself find that you are tasting it better and therefore eating less. That is the sort of biological self-control yoga provides. To see yoga as some form of horrible self-denial ritual is obviously totally wrong.


Image: You don't have to sacrifice fun things for yoga

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Myth 4: You have to eat give up salt and spice for yoga:

This is part of the earlier myth we discussed. Ayurveda and yoga are strongly linked.

Spices and salts all have their relevant and appropriate part in the menu in both yogic and ayurvedic foods.

In fact, ayurveda recommends specific types of spices for the three ayurvedic personalities.

So the belief that its sister science yoga will insist on denial of these is just part of the bad press this science has been getting.

However, when you do very intense sadhana, as for several hours a day, meant for spiritual growth, the salt and spices have to be denied because that is required to protect the body from the heat that is generated.

Any case such intense practice may only be done in an ashram environ, under expert guidance and may not be attempted on one's own. But somehow this has become part of the list of things that people wrongly believe should be denied if one practiced yoga.


Image: Eating right is part of healthy yoga practice but giving up salt and spices is not. Not unless you are at an extremely advanced stage

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Myth 5: Yoga is just a tough physical workout

The asana/poses form only one of the eight limbs of yoga.  Yoga is a way of life. It is purity and clarity of thinking. Its first two limbs are specific rules as to personal and social behaviour.

Apart from asana and pranayama (breathing practices), there are other limbs in yoga which deal specifically with mind control. It also a way one conducts oneself in life.

The problem is that some schools which focus on the other limbs also look down on the physical aspect of yoga.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika makes it very clear that there is no raja (mind control) yoga without hatha (physical) and vice versa. Yoga is more than bodywork, for sure!


Image: Yoga isn't just about the body, it is also about the mind

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