Although the practice of yoga has become widespread during the last 30 years, there are still quite a few misconceptions about this ancient method of self-transformation. Here is a brief survey of the most common myths about yoga, and a look at what yoga is really all about.

1. Yoga is a sport: One of the important components of yoga is the practice of physical postures, known as asanas in Sanskrit. Due to this physical aspect of yoga, some people think of yoga as a sport or an activity akin to body building. In this sense, yoga is seen as a casual pastime which one can take up and practice now and then like any sport.

The fact is that yoga is the art and science of physical, mental and spiritual development. Although the yoga postures may look like the stretching exercises found in some sports. The exercises in yoga are one part of an all-around program of personal development. The postures are not an end in themselves, but are meant to help prepare one’s body for mental and spiritual development.

2. The physical side of yoga is the most important part: Although the practice of yoga postures is the most commonly known aspect of yoga, it is not the most important part. In fact, the ancient system of yoga begins with the understanding and practice of moral precepts and living a life in harmony with self and society.

The foundation of yoga lies on the observance of principles such as not harming others, acting in the spirit of welfare, non stealing, non accumulation of excessive physical wealth, viewing all things as an expression of Consciousness, purity of mind, contentment, and selfless service.

If you can learn how to live in harmony with those around you, and at the same time work on your own inner development, then the other components of yoga (postures, concentration and meditation) can be practiced with the best possible effects.

3. Yoga is only for women: In some parts of the world the majority of yoga students are women, and some men may have gotten the idea that yoga is not for them. The fact is that all people are searching for inner peace and all people wish to avoid disease and live a healthy life. Yoga offers something for anyone who wishes an effective method of physical, mental or spiritual development and should not be thought of as a discipline reserved only for women or only for men.

4. Everybody must practice the same postures: In most yoga classes around the world you will find that several people at a time are practicing the same postures. Despite this widespread convention, the needs of individuals vary according to their physical structures and it is best to perform yoga postures that are individually suited to a particular individual. For example, a young man suffering from asthma will need postures that are quite different from an older woman with heart problems.

If you want to practice yoga postures correctly it is best to find a teacher who is able to prescribe the postures that are best suited to your particular needs.

5. You have to be extremely agile to practice yoga: It is true that some yoga postures are a bit difficult to perform, and require an agile body. However, just as postures should be selected according to the ailments that a person suffers from, a good yoga instructor will be able to show you postures that are within your reach. When performing yoga postures, you should try to do them to the best of your capacity and you shouldn’t worry whether you look like the picture in the book. Often, just the effort that you make in trying to perform the posture is enough to reap the benefits of that posture.

6. It is good to practice yoga postures out of doors: When you perform yoga properly your body becomes very sensitive to shifts in temperature. If you practice outside your house even a slight breeze may be enough to make you uncomfortable or even catch cold. It is best to practice indoors. The windows may be open but you should stay away from drafts. In summer it is best to turn off fans while practicing yoga postures.

7. Incense should be burned when practicing yoga: Although yoga comes from India, and so does much of the world’s incense, it is not a good idea to burn incense while performing yoga postures or doing meditation. Yoga postures should be done in a smoke-free area: this includes cigarette smoke and also the smoke of incense. During meditation the smoke of burning incense will cause disturbance and hinder the process of going within. Incense can be used before doing meditation or before practicing postures in order to create a nice atmosphere, but there should not be smoke in the air when the actual practice begins.

If you practice yoga regularly and do so with a proper understanding of its holistic nature, you will surely realize great benefits in all spheres of life.

Dada Vedaprajinananda has been practicing and teaching yoga and meditation for the past 34 years. You can read more of his articles on his website

Author's Bio: 

Dada Vedaprajinananda has been practicing and teaching yoga and meditation for the past 34 years. He is currently a senior teacher with the Ananda Marga society, and is based in Athens, Greece. Dada is the author of "The Wisdom of Yoga", numerous magazine articles, and composer of spiritual songs. His articles and songs can be found on the websites and