6 Myths About the Benefits of a Yoga Practice

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New myths about what yoga and the poses themselves can do for you are popping up all the time. Here, Yoga Physics founder Alexandria Crow debunks a few of her favorites.

Yoga studios don’t often hand out pamphlets explaining what yoga is or what you may gain from it. Yoga and its practices are often difficult to sum up quickly in words as there are many different techniques, styles, and practices to get to the yogic state. In addition, any yogi who has studied will know that promising specific benefits or setting expectations of gains for students actually negates the purpose of the practice altogether. Promising results is near impossible—not to mention it would make Patanjali himself roll over in his grave.

This difficult-to-define, expectation-less, and open-ended-results situation gives rise to many a myth about what yoga and the postures themselves can do for you. Not a day goes by that I don’t crack up scrolling through social media to read the latest and greatest promise that yoga is offering. Here are a few of my favorites.

Myth 1: Handstand, Scorpion, One-Armed This or That…get you into the VIP section of the Enlightenment Lounge.

I often joke that if fancy poses are the key to enlightenment then I should be sitting next to Siddartha and have rays of lights shining out of me. Alas, I do not. Complex asanas are first of all not even wise for every single body to attempt, nor are they the keys to transcendence. What could get you closer to what yoga has to offer is NOT doing the fancy even when you can, not clinging to them, and not focusing on what you’ll get when they are accomplished. What you’ll get from doing Scorpion is the shape of Scorpion. What you can learn from the process of approaching that pose and discovering whether or not it’s wise for your body will teach you far, far more about yoga’s true aims.

Myth 2: Yoga will make you the next David Copperfield—a levitating, time-traveling, but oh-so-peaceful magician.

I will say that being in tune with the moment does allow for some better decision-making skills and an easier daily existence. That said, these are probably only going to be skills you acquire if you become a monk and head to the hills to meditate for eons. Even then, if you’re clinging to the idea of supernatural gains, you’re missing the point of yoga. Yoga is being present, fully engrossed in the experience of the moment—not magic.

Myth 3: You’ll become a Ghandi/Mother Theresa hybrid.

A yoga practice can make you kinder and more compassionate by making it easier to be less reactive and more accepting of things as they are. It can give you the ability to be compassionate toward other people’s behavior and pain because you understand that they’re doing the best they can in that moment. But that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be sweet as pie, all the time—even to the person who cuts you off on the freeway or to the telemarketer who calls and wakes you up at 5 a.m. Yoga can make you less of a jerk, sort of. It encourages steadiness during moments of conflict or discomfort, which can help you fly off the handle less often. And it certainly can allow you to be gentler and more accepting of yourself and all of your facets. That said the idea that somehow practicing yoga makes you the definition of virtue is silly. Sure, you’ll learn to make better choices about what’s wise for you and you may become gentler with yourself and others, but you’re not bound for sainthood (that’s religion, not yoga).

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