4 Myths About Yoga Explained

  1. You need to be flexible to do yoga

    • There are modifications for most poses that can allow for anyone to do them. Yoga is not about how flexible you are, it is about helping increase movement throughout the body to promote improved overall function.
    • Here are a few modifications to basic yoga poses
      • Child’s pose – use a bolster or rolled towel under ankles or behind knees
      • Downward facing dog – bend your knees, keeping your back flat
      • Upward facing dog – let your knees come down to the mat
      • Forward fold – use yoga blocks to place your hands on
      • Shoulder stand – place a block under your sacrum, lift legs to 90 deg
  1. Yoga is not really a workout, it’s too easy

    • Yoga is both a mental practice as well as a physical practice and while some poses are about relaxation, some are definitely challenging for your body and balance.
    • Sometimes it’s about finding the right class as well as the right instructor for you. You can talk to the studio or gym and tell them what you’re looking for and they can help match you to a class that might be right for you. Hatha yoga encompasses many types of yoga and is a more physical based yoga practice.
      • Typical classes that may be more physically challenging: ashtanga yoga, vinyasa yoga, power yoga, rocket yoga
      • Typical classes that may be more relaxing: yin yoga, yoga nidra, restorative yoga
    • In an article from Harvard Health Publications, researchers studied a small group of sedentary individuals who had not practiced yoga before. After eight weeks of practicing yoga at least twice a week for a total of 180 minutes, participants had greater muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and cardio-respiratory fitness. (1)
  1. Yoga is just a class for stretching

    • Yoga is much more than stretching.  A 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) has provided additional insights about the use of yoga in the United States:
      • Among adults who practiced yoga, 94 percent reported doing so for wellness-related reasons and 18 percent said they used yoga to treat a specific health condition. The most common health conditions for which people practiced yoga were back pain, stress, and arthritis. (4)
    • It incorporates many aspects and has many purposes, including but not limited to:
      • Strength and stability
        • Being flexible enough to get into poses is good, but strength and stability in those poses are important so you don’t put strain on your joints and ligaments
      • Cardiac rehabilitation
        • In a 2015 review of 17 studies with 1,310 participants, yoga reduced systolic blood pressure in 11 studies and diastolic blood pressure in 8 studies, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
      • Stress reduction
        • There is evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly. (5)
      • Weight loss
        • Researchers found that people who practiced yoga for at least 30 minutes once a week for at least four years, gained less weight during middle adulthood. People who were overweight actually lost weight. Overall, those who practiced yoga had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) compared with those who did not practice yoga. (1)
      • Improved management of health conditions
        • COPD: A 2018 analysis of 10 studies with 502 total participants found evidence that yoga can improve physical ability, lung function, and quality of life in people with COPD.
        • Type II Diabetes: A 2017 evaluation of 23 studies with 2,473 participants showed that participating in yoga programs was associated with better blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, at least on a short-term basis.
      • Improved sleep and stress with Yoga Nidra
        • There are studies showing effectiveness of Yoga Nidra for veterans experiencing PTSD, helping victims of sexual abuse, and improving sleeping patterns. (2)
  1. You can’t do yoga if you have an injury/pain

    • You can modify poses to avoid aggravating your symptoms:
      • When doing yoga, you do not have to do all of the poses. You can talk with your instructor before the class and let them know you have an injury and ask for modifications for some poses. This way they are aware of any injuries and can help provide help when needed. You can also talk to your physical therapist about how to modify certain poses.
    • Yoga helps lower back pain:
      • A 2018 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality evaluated 8 trials of yoga for low-back pain (involving 1,466 total participants) and found that yoga improved pain and function both in the short term (1 to 6 months) and intermediate term (6 to 12 months). Yoga is among the options that the American College of Physicians recommended for initial nondrug therapy for chronic low-back pain in a 2017 clinical practice guideline.  (4)
    • Yoga helps neck pain:
      • A 2017 review of 3 studies (involving 188 total participants) found that yoga had short-term benefits for both the intensity of neck pain and disability related to neck pain.  (4)

  1. Harvard Yoga Benefits – https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat
  2. HuffPost Yoga Nidra – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-yoga-nidra-works_us_58efcea5e4b048372700d692
  3. Boston Magazine Bikram – https://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2013/09/11/what-is-the-difference-between-hot-yoga-and-bikram-yoga/
  4. NIH Yoga In Depth – https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm
  5. Harvard Yoga for Anxiety and Depression – https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression


By Jane Kruszewski, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC | Therapydia DC

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