Yoga is a wonderful exercise that promotes flexibility, improves strength and balance. It is often misunderstood by those not familiar with the practice of yoga. The word “yoga” actually comes from the Sanskrit language meaning union. In order to achieve this union, yoga practitioners practice breathing exercises and physical postures. For beginners in yoga practice, many of these misconceptions may seem obvious, but they can lead to an ineffective practice if the student is not taught the true meaning of the yoga practice.
The first common misunderstanding is that yoga means “asana”. While yoga does have asanas (physical postures), it does not mean that it requires you to do them. Asana (the word itself implies the Latin meaning of pass.) While it is possible to perform asanas, it is not necessary, and the person who is trying to do the asana will do them because they are instructed to. If you do an asana incorrectly, it will not be effective; you should be doing the asanas correctly in order to get the most benefit.
The second common misconception is that yoga is about pranayama (inhaling and exhaling). A common error is thinking that you need to breathe in a specific way in order to perform a yoga posture. Actually, you don’t, and the intention of the breath is to inhale. There are other methods for performing the inhalation and exhale, including “mukha svanasana (downward facing dog)”. This type of yoga posture is known as the mudra, or “dog pose”, and is often taught along with the asana.
Another common misunderstanding is that yoga means “meditation”. Though some types of yoga meditation can focus on a single thing such as identifying a mantra (a word or short phrase that you recite in order to focus your mind), yoga meditation generally involves the whole body and is more about relaxing and being in touch with yourself than focusing on anything. One of the more popular forms of yoga meditation is called “yoga svanasana (downward facing dog). For those who may not be familiar with the term, yoga svanasana literally means “downward facing dog”.
There is another important point about yoga that many people don’t understand – while yoga meditation is essential, it is only one aspect of a comprehensive holistic wellness practice. You need to do wholesome activities every day to bring your body, mind and spirit in balance. You cannot practice yoga and then ignore your other wellness practices because they will only complement and reinforce each other.
For example, it is important to note that the words of the yoga sutras do not mean “do nothing”. The word “don’t” is not meant in the context of the word “meditation”. The word “stillness” in the context of the Patanjali sutras is not meant in any way to suggest that stillness is somehow less important or that we should try to avoid it. Instead, the word “stillness” is a complimentary word that connotes the fact that we are not always moving and therefore, our awareness can sometimes become stagnant.
Another area that is often confused by the misleading yoga practice and Patanjali’s words is the concept of “soha” or “being”. Although this word has various meanings in various cultures, the meaning in yoga practice is to transform oneself into the supreme being. Some people mistake this misunderstanding for a misunderstanding of the word “consciousness” because consciousness is also a part of the supreme being.
Another major reason that this misconception arises is that many people equate the word “consciousness” with a particular idea or concept. They think that “consciousness” and yoga mean being in constant self-contemplation. However, in reality, the word consciousness is simply the idea of being. In other words, yoga means transforming oneself into the highest possible form. So there is nothing at all to be “Consciousness” about.