The Biggest Misconception About Yoga
Is yoga just exercise?
Hatha yoga — the physical practice of postures — is only one part of a yogic way of life. Yoga, in its traditional East Indian roots, is a way to reach “union”. A simplification of this South Asian philosophy is that we are all part of one divine universal consciousness that manifests all of life. We, as humans can get caught up in egoic concerns, and “forget” that we are part of this much greater aspect of being. You may have heard some people describe this as the difference between the small “I” egoic self and the larger “I” that is one with the creator and all of creation.
The asanas or hatha yoga postures are popular and can be modified to suit every age, body type and ability level if you work with a qualified teacher. Traditionally, yoga postures served as a “warm-up” to prepare the body for the rigors of seated meditation. While it seems simple, sitting on a cushion on the ground for long periods of time is physically taxing. Sitting upright without support requires core strength; folding legs beneath the body comfortably requires flexible hips and knees. Yoga moves address these issues.
Is it “wrong” to practice yoga only for the physical benefits?
I don’t think so. Yoga postures offer many benefits. To require practitioners to want more would prevent receiving those benefits. Often, when people practice and begin to experience the deep inner calm that arises, they want to learn more about other yogic practices like pranayama — breathing exercises — or meditation. This is fantastic!
I encourage every person to enjoy yoga exercises at whatever level feels most comfortable and inviting. I recommend training with qualified instructors that are educated in the full yogic philosophy so that if and when you’re interested in learning more, the teacher can offer guidance for further study and training. An organization that oversees certification and education of yoga professionals is the Yoga Alliance, which I am certified through. Search on their website for qualified instructors in your location.
If you have any questions about yoga or the Eastern philosophy from which it is based, I invite you to ask! Just comment below.