You have heard of Yoga. A lot lately.
What is so special about it?
As you start searching to learn more, you are baffled by looking at pictures of perfect bodies striking astounding postures.
‘I could never reach there! How is that even possible!’
Either that or the mysterious energy talk.
Yet another fancy oriental exercise form maybe.
You would rather stick to your gym and Pilates routine because Yoga seems complicated and you don’t know where to start.
A good place will be to understand ‘What is Yoga.’
Because with a sound understanding of any discipline, you can decide whether or not to make it a part of your life.
So here is Yoga made easy for you – FAQs and Myths
What is Yoga? Frequently asked questions
What does Yoga mean
Out of the several definitions of Yoga, my favorite one comes from the Gita – ‘Samatvam Yoga Uchyate’, meaning ‘Equanimity is Yoga’.
To maintain equanimity of mind, whatever maybe the situation in life, is Yoga.
You must have seen Kung-Fu heroes fighting with a peaceful face even while doing crazy movements. Yeah, something like that.
What is the goal of Yoga
To understand a discipline, you should have a basic understanding of its goal. The goal of Yoga simply put, is to ‘know yourself’.
For example, Yoga Asanas are done slowly with awareness of the breath and in the process you start knowing and listening to your body, like you never have before.
Similarly, as a practitioner keeps evolving towards higher practices in Yoga, the experiences and the understanding of your ‘self’, grows to higher, more subtle levels.
Ultimately you come to a place where you ‘experience’ yourself to be one with the creation as well as the creator (if there is any). To reach that state is Yoga.
What is Yoga good for
Since Yoga is a discipline of knowing yourself, it encompasses your body, mind, soul and beyond. Therefore, it can be easily derived that this is the most holistic wellness approach you can ever take.
Because you have to sequentially connect with the whole of yourself – it takes care of all aspects of your life.
It keeps you physically healthy, mentally sharp, emotionally agile and doesn’t just stop there. Yoga has the potential to transform your life inside out.
What are the different types of Yoga
Yoga comes from India and therefore we shall only talk about the real and original types of Yoga mentioned in the traditional texts. Everything else you see out there, is just a derivative of these.
- Yoga of Action – Karma Yoga
- Yoga of Knowledge – Gyana Yoga
- Yoga of Devotion – Bhakti Yoga
- Yoga of conquering the Mind – Raja Yoga
What is Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga is a 8 limbed system of Yoga designed to reach Raja Yoga, as it is too complicated to be approached directly. Asanas are a part of Hatha Yoga.
In Hatha Yoga, we work with balancing the opposing energies of the Universe present in our bodies. We commonly know these energies as Shiva Shakti, Yin Yang etc.
It is also called ‘Ashtanga’ as ‘Asht’ is Sanskrit for 8. Do not confuse it with Ashtanga style of Mysore which is a derivative of it.
How to start Yoga
The first step? Love and accept who you are.
Second step – Commit yourself to a daily practice – be it for 15 minutes or 1 hour. One place, one time and complete focus. Swami Krishnananda said ‘In Yoga quality matters not quantity’.
If it is hard for you to imagine being in one place for an hour, start with 15 minutes – Asanas or breath awareness.
Can Yoga treat diseases
Yoga says that most of our physical diseases are caused by mind only.
As you work with all the aspects of your being in Yoga, many physical ailments that doesn’t even have a cure in modern medicine, disappear. This is not theory, but personal experience.
Patanjali clearly says in the Yoga Sutras – ‘Heyam Dukham Anagatam’. The pain that is yet to come can be avoided. Surely a dedicated Yoga practice can be your best immunity booster too.
How often should you do Yoga
The simple answer is once a day in accordance with the time at your disposal, as explained in point number 6.
As you advance, you can highly tailor your practice within that one time to make it most effective. Depending on your –
- Ayurvedic Prakriti. Take this quiz to know yours.
- Any physical or mental challenges
- Short term goals within your practice and whatever other factors there are to consider.
Is it safe to do Yoga at home
Most of us start Yoga with the practice of Asanas. If you are a beginner, learning from a teacher is the best because a lot of technicalities are involved.
Online tutorials can only be a last resort option, as the teacher cannot teach you as per your body or correct you, especially for beginners.
As you become ready to advance in Yoga, it becomes all the more important that you receive guidance from a teacher. The more advanced the techniques, the more esoteric they are and should never be applied just by reading books oneself.
A ‘Guru’ is the only way to go, although exceptions prove the rule.
Why choose Yoga over any other form of exercise
Simply and briefly put – Yoga is much more about the mind than the body.
In Yoga we approach the mind through the body, use it as a vehicle to go beyond both. Since everything is worked upon, everything is benefitted.
Therefore, it completely depends on what your goal is. Want to get slim, go to the gym. Want to attain everlasting peace, come to Yoga 😊
Myths about What is Yoga
The physical practice of Asanas is Yoga.
Asanas as mentioned above are a part of Hatha Yoga and are only one of the 8 limbs of it.
All the 8 limbs are
- Yama – Discipline of self towards society
- Niyama – Discipline of self towards self
- Asana – Discipline of Body
- Pranayam – Discipline of Breath
- Pratyahara – Discipline of Senses
- Dharana – Discipline of One Pointed Focus
- Dhyana – Meditation (this is a passive act, you cannot do meditation, it can only happen to you)
- Samadhi – Achieving the ultimate goal of Yoga – Knowing yourself.
Yoga is Religious
Yoga is a systematic way of knowing the ultimate reality, just that. It doesn’t ask you to believe in any particular God, it is pure self-inquiry.
Krishna says in Gita – ‘Yoga is the of the self, through the self, to the self.’ Gita is a Hindu text, Hindu which isn’t a religion but a way of living – Yogic way of living.
The Mantras chanted are complex sounds to awaken different aspects of our consciousness. They can include chanting the names of Hindu Deities but to that extent only. You can believe in any deity you want; practice a faith of your liking and you can be a non-believer too.
Yoga is only for the flexible
As must be clear to you by now, Yoga is much more beyond the body. It is about YOU.
Therefore, any body type, age, or inclination can practice Yoga. In fact, the better you accept your body the better it opens up and faster.
One of the most famous Yoga Teachers of the modern-day Max Strom used to be the stiffest students in his class. But the acceptance of himself is what set him apart and made him what he is today.
Only Vegetarians can do Yoga
Food and water are what our body is made of and so, while it gives us our physical structure, it does affect our mental structure also.
Since Yoga is a practice of subtlety, from the body to mind and beyond, it needs a certain kind of clarity at all levels. An uninterrupted flow of conscious awareness. And vegetarian food is the most suitable for that.
However, Yoga doesn’t force but gradually makes you the way you need to be, for desired results. So, you don’t have to worry about being a vegetarian in the beginning. Just go with the flow.
Yoga is a conscious practice; ultimately you choose for yourself. TWEET
Yoga is not a complete workout like gymming
It doesn’t make sense to compare Yoga and Modern Exercise since the objective of both is completely different.
However, if we were to just look at the physical aspect of Asanas, they work with the intrinsic group of muscles. The muscles that are responsible for the balance of the spine and hence our body’s balance and posture.
Unlike Yoga, gymming, bodybuilding and most other physical cultures work with the superficial muscle groups.
Also, Asanas are practiced with a focus on deep breathing that multiplies the effects of the physical act several times for the organs involved.
As you go into the higher practices of Yoga, you start working with energy and the practice goes to another level altogether.
Yoga can only be satisfactory for long-term goals
It did give me the waking of my life within 10 days in Sivananda Ashram, so I would say no.
Not ONLY long-term goals, but you can also set and achieve short-term goals in Yoga. Consciously on the body level and as a natural process on the mental level.
From building strong shoulders with Dolphins to achieve the head-stand fast, to achieving better digestion just by learning how to breathe deeply – the key lies in identifying your goals.
Once your identification is clear, Yoga awards a dedicated soul with fast and clear results.
The perfect the pose, the perfect the practitioner
My teacher says if you want to progress in Yoga, run away from anything that feeds your Ego.
A true Yoga practitioner then would rather run away from showing off than indulge in it.
As Max Strom rightly said – ‘If practicing postures until we are super strong and flexible were enough to make us into masters of life, then people would be flocking to the athletes in Cirque du Soleil to seek spiritual advice’.
Yoga is for women and young people only
As long as you have a body mind and soul, whatever age gender or condition you are, you have the same potential in Yoga. Yoga practices can always be consciously chosen as per feasibility.
The pace of growth totally depends on your dedication and how much awareness you maintain in your practice.
The more difficult the pose, the better
Do you know which is the most difficult Yoga posture? The Cross-Legged Sitting Posture.
The biggest challenge people face in Yoga is to be still. The real challenge is to be in one posture for a few breaths, make conscious movements, and even relax in Shavasana. If you can do THAT, you can be sure, you are one of the better ones.
Satisfying our egos by striking fancy postures, all of us can do – just a matter of practice. But sitting still in silence – that is where real Yoga and betterment is.
Yoga is Boring!
To be honest, Yoga makes you the coolest dude around.
Not because you can strike cool poses again 😊 but because you learn not to judge.
Yoga is all about self-acceptance – you learn to accept yourself and others as they are while working on it. And as you do that, you let go of a lot of tension arising from a whole lot of expectation.
For yourself and for others. And it pervades to all areas of your life.
For all practical purposes, feel free to use soothing transcendental music for your Asana or meditation practice if you are a beginner 😊
I have covered all major doubts and myths that stop people from coming to a Yoga class or trying it out themselves.
In case you have any questions or doubts, feel absolutely free to leave comments below and I shall be happy to answer. Who knows I might even write a whole post on your question or doubt?
Keeping in consideration all the information given above, decide for yourself if Yoga is something you would like to get into. And if you decide for it, nothing can stop you!