According to the Oxford Dictionary, a myth is “a widely held but false belief or idea.”
Sometimes myths themselves, as the late Joseph Campbell taught, can be wonderful in creating stories that provide metaphorical analogies to help create context in our lives. But sometimes, myths are false beliefs quietly woven into the fabric of understanding and taken as “truth” even when they are based on complete falsehood.
When I was younger (I am 52), there was this myth that after you eat, you could not swim for at least an hour because you could get cramps and drown. I know, I know, for those who weren’t born in 1967, this sounds absolutely ridiculous—and it was. It was a myth, without supporting facts, based on a false notion, and spread over coffee and krumpets at PTA meetings, and left us kids watching the hands of the pool clock to release us so we could jump back into the pool with our friends.
As a yoga practitioner, discernment, and observing how we are committed to an illusion, in the spiritual practice called avidya is a continual process. We must be willing to look at our beliefs, ideas, myths, and even those things we had once held onto as being true and be willing (in the light of new information) to discard them.
Here are some myths that I invite you to reconsider:
1. Bringing your knee over your toes in asanas is dangerous.
2. If you do antiracism work, you aren’t racist.
3. Integrating strength exercises limits your flexibility.
4. Placing a black box or BLM box on your studio’s Instagram equates to making your yoga space sensitive, conscious, and welcoming to BIPOC.
5. A student who verbally agrees to a physical assist means they are comfortable with being touched.
6. Black revolutionary soldiers were patriots (no, they were enslaved).
7. Stretching makes your muscles longer.
8. Because you practice yoga, meditate, go on silent retreats, and read the Gita, you aren’t racist.
9. You can do the work of antiracism alone.
10. Yoga collectives and certifying agencies advocate for unconscious bias, cultural appropriation, and anti-racism work be required in their credentialing guidelines (beyond a resource list on their website)—I sincerely hope they start doing this.
11. Officers who killed Breonna Taylor have been arrested.
In committing to opening our minds and hearts, we must be willing to keep our strongly held beliefs in check and in a constant state of scrutiny. This is how we grow, not just as individuals and communities, but as a species inhabiting particularly challenging times—commit to your willingness to be changed.