Yoga Myth #1: Practicing yoga and meditation presumes buying into religious/new age beliefs.
Alternate Perspective: Yoga and meditation can be practiced as a path of genuine inquiry that invites courageous, compassionate awareness of life as-it-is.
Yoga Myth #2: impressive acrobatic postures = “advanced” practice, which in turn is evidence of spiritual growth.
Alternate Perspective: Genetics, youth and a history of gymnastics or dance might mean someone relatively new to yoga can rock cirque du soleil-esque postures… until they perhaps get injured. An advanced practice might look like child’s pose, vipassana meditation and specific, unimpressive, healing postures that you have learned are beneficial to your body.
Yoga Myth #3: “Yoga philosophy” is an uncritical memorizing of the great sage Patanjali.
Alternate Perspective: Patanjali is one thinker amongst many, not the prophet-scribe of an eternal gospel. His sutras have in fact very little link to modern posture practice. If we are interested in a “yoga of the mind,” philosophy should be an ongoing process of exploring multiple eastern and western perspectives, and updating our thinking about yoga with modern findings from science and psychology.
Yoga Myth #4: There is ONE “correct” way to do poses that will be beneficial to all bodies and comes from ancient authority.
Alternate Perspective: Bodies need different things depending on biomechanics, injuries and imbalances. Modern asana practice is about 80 – 130 years old and is largely a cross-cultural construction that keeps evolving. There is no ancient authority to rely upon.
Yoga Myth #5: Being “present” means thoughts about the past or future don’t come into your mind.
Alternate Perspective: Present attention is an act of intimacy with your own experience. This may include painful or pleasant memories, anxieties or hopes for the future, and insights about how these authentic thoughts and feelings affect your present choices and beliefs.
What is important is NOT that you block out any aspect of your experience, but that you relate to it all more honestly, compassionately and skillfully.
Yoga Myth #6: Taking on a made-up, Indian-sounding name, talking in a perplexing fake accent, or claiming “lineage” to a guru who is literally god on earth are evidence of being a “master teacher.”
Alternate Perspective: Run the other way! Wisdom is not pretentious, substance is not based in supernatural authority, and the masterful teacher invites you into an authentic experience of your own body and mind.
Yoga Myth #7: “Compassion” means abdicating all judgments of right or wrong, good or evil, true or false. It is somehow considered “enlightened” to never judge anything, and this is a cornerstone of “compassion.”
Alternate Perspective: Authentic compassion toward the human condition includes an acknowledgment of suffering and of why people do what they do. However, without recognizing that it is morally wrong to hurt people in certain ways, we cannot have compassion for the victim or for the perpetrator who was perhaps themselves once victimized.
To have a meaningful sense of compassion, we have to stay grounded at the human level. Certain actions have specific impacts on human beings, and are evaluated as traumatic, criminal, or harmful based on their bodily and emotional impacts. As spiritual adults, we can simultaneously have deep compassion, and unashamedly condemn evil, point out injustices, and critique falsehoods.