Yoga Alliance did a survey to determine what might be preventing people from doing yoga. The three most common misconceptions were:
- Is religion-based. 57% of those who do not currently practice yoga believe that it requires mantras or chanting related to a form of worship.
- Requires flexibility in order to practice. Nearly 3 in 5 Americans – 59% of respondents – who do not practice yoga think that it requires a person to be in at least “decent” shape. In truth, however, anyone – of any size, shape or physical state – can benefit.
- Is not really exercise. Half of men who have never practiced yoga believe it “isn’t a workout.” In contrast, 73% of people who do practice believe it is just as effective as running, swimming or weight lifting.
Yoga has its roots in Hinduism but many of the yogic philosophies are quite universal. I’ve found that there has been a spiritual aspect to my practice. The chants and the mantras touch on the spiritual and there are references to the divine but what constitutes the divine is left up to the individual. I’m inclined to believe that practicing yoga can be complimentary to your faith and enrich it.
When I began practicing yoga about 6 months ago, I was 55, out of shape, and about as flexible as a broomstick. The teachers I’ve had have been great in offering alternative poses, modifications, suggestions, and encouragement. They’ve emphasized that I was getting the benefits as long as I took my practice to my personal edge. I’ve seen remarkable improvement in my practice since then. I’m more flexible though not quite supple yet and I’ve gained in core and upper body strength.
Yes, yoga is a workout. Quite often, I’ll feel the “burn” during a class but after svasana, I always feel refreshed without the stiffness and soreness I’ve felt after other forms of exercise. I think that the reason some men don’t feel that yoga isn’t really exercise is the ego thing.
Most sports and training regimes are about ego and competition — run faster, lift more weight, score more points, burn more calories. There’s always pressure to do something better than the other guy, the other team, or yourself. Yoga is non-competitive. Your body and your breath let you know how far you should go instead of your ego.
It’s a shame that people will dismiss something because of such misconceptions rather than seek the facts, especially when it is so easy to find the information.