Maybe you think yoga is nothing but holding strange poses for hours on end. Maybe you think you’re too old or not fit enough to do yoga. Maybe you think yoga is only for women. Or just maybe you tried yoga once before, didn’t care for it and refuse to try it again because you think all yoga is the same.
Whatever the case, Aadil Palkhivala, who was a student of the famous B.K.S. Iyengar, is the founder of Purna Yoga and is known as ‘the Godfather of yoga in the west,’ says what you think you know about yoga is probably wrong.
Myth: Yoga is twisting your body around into strange positions in a really hot room.
Truth: Yoga is an internal process. It is about understanding the ego, the role that it plays in our lives and learning to conquer it on a day-to-day basis so that the joy and abundance of the spirit can flow through our body. There are many byproducts of yoga: well-toned body, focused and calm mind, controlled emotions, stress reduction and becoming fully aware of who we are.
Myth: Yoga will make you a better person.
Truth: Yoga brings out what you are and what you have hidden so that you can look at it, face it and work upon it.
Myth: Yoga is about Hinduism or Buddhism.
Truth: Yoga does not belong to any religion. In fact, I myself am neither a Hindu nor a Buddhist. Yoga simply teaches you to look inside yourself for your own inner light, and can be practiced regardless of religious beliefs. Yoga is an ancient science and art of searching for, finding and then living one’s life mission. It leads to a truly fulfilling life.
Myth: I am too stiff to do yoga.
Truth: Stiffness is death. Using the ‘too stiff’ excuse is like saying, “I am too poor to make money.” There are many levels of yoga, and you can start out with what you are comfortable doing. Yoga will help alleviate the stiffness and make you more flexible.
Myth: Yoga is for women.
Truth: Though most of the famous yogis have been male, yoga is equally for men as it is for women. In fact, most of my classes have an equal population of men and women. This is because yoga is not about flexibility alone, it is about strength, balance and endurance as well. Above all, it’s not merely about the body but about the whole being, male or female.
Myth: Yoga causes injury.
Truth: People are injured not because of yoga, but because of incorrect asana (position they sit and posture) and ignorant teachers. In fact, if you look at the statistics, yoga is one of the safest forms of exercise. The best way to avoid injuries is to work with a highly trained yoga teacher, preferably somebody who has more than 2,000 hours of education and who can see your body and knows when you are doing something incorrectly.
Myth: All yoga studios and instructors are the same.
Truth: Look for a yoga instructor whose life you respect. Look for an instructor who is calm yet focused, who has integrity and lives a life with character. Find an instructor you can respect for who they are rather than the shape of their body. When selecting a studio and teacher, look at their experience and credentials. They need to come from a lineage which has knowledge and integrity. Yoga can’t be “my innovations and the poses I made up” because true yoga has centuries of research behind it.
Aadil Palkhivala is one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world. He began his asana studies with B.K.S. Iyengar at the age of 7 and was the youngest to receive an Advanced Iyengar Teacher’s Certificate at the age of 22. Aadil is co-owner of Alive & Shine Center in Bellevue, Washington, and co-founder of The College of Purna Yoga, an elite, internationally acclaimed, advanced yoga-asana teacher training program.