This is a guest post from Meera Watts, the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com
Yoga and meditation may stir up certain ideas in you. It might seem a bit intimidating as you see people balancing sideways on one arm or sitting in lotus pose looking peaceful. Most of us would have to spend years developing the ability to cross our legs like that. What you may not realize is going into these kinds of poses and doing spiritual practice doesn’t make you a better yogi or meditator.
We are all on our own journey when it comes to spiritual practices like yoga and meditation. Yoga is not about mastering poses on the first try. Dedication to meditation does not mean you’re going to have to commit to a life of silence. Both of these practices are for everybody which means you get to make it your own. Here are some misconceptions about yoga and meditation.
1. Yoga and Meditation are Part of a Religion
Yoga and meditation are not considered a practiced religion. There is no obligation to go to temples every week. While they were created under the Hindu religion and practiced by Buddhists, neither of these are religions either. They are ancient philosophies with a spiritual tone to them. This spiritual tone is more about everything. It is open and spacious and as air does not specifically belong to us alone, we belong to no religion as a spiritual being.
There are guidelines, such as the eight limbs of yoga that ask us to be good to ourselves and every living being on earth. The practices ask that we nurture ourselves and look to be the best versions of ourselves. We develop ourselves as opposed to following a set of rules like other religions.
What the yoga and meditation life asks is that we leave things better than we found them. We should not cause harm to any living thing. We should be kind to one another. With all this being said, plenty of people who do yoga and meditate will still eat meat. You can still believe in other higher beings like god.
2. It Takes Years to Be a Part of the Practice
The levels of both a yoga practice and meditation are variable. You don’t need to have great flexibility or have spent any time being mindful to begin a practice. Yoga works for any person regardless of age, fitness level, flexibility capability or balance ability. If you’re weak in these areas, this is just the reason you should start your practice. There are plenty of props to help you get into poses. They will allow you to gain the necessary space you need to get the benefits of yoga. There is chair yoga or you can use bolsters and blocks to help you out.
With meditation, you can choose guided meditation which is abundant and free on YouTube. Nidra yoga is about scanning your body in a very detailed way. You can count prayer beads. You can meditate while you eat, walk, or garden. Staring into a campfire or watching the sun set down for the day is meditation in itself. Meditation usually starts with just 10 minutes a day. You can sit cross-legged in a quiet room or do what makes you comfortable. As your practice grows by meditating a little bit daily, you’ll find it easy to sit and be mindful.
3. Yoga and Meditation Are A Competition
You already know this sounds a bit silly. The last thing that yoga and meditation would be competitive is in any way. Yoga is at your own pace. It is not about who is more flexible, who is stronger, or who can make a pose that looks perfect. What yoga and meditation are really about is you. It’s about healing the parts of your body that are tense. When we release that tension, we also release emotional tension that sits within certain areas of the body. Yoga was created over 2,000 years ago so people could be their highest self. So they could see their inner light shine through and attain enlightenment.
Don’t think of these practices as a means of gaining others respect or admiration. Instead, see them as a way for you to find your own peace within. You have the opportunity to master your own mind through meditation. Whatever has happened in your past can tend to leave scars of the heart. When we are mindful, this pain might come up. When it does, you have the opportunity to walk through it and get past things that hurt you. This is the power of meditation so nothing on the outside really matters. You are doing inner work and there is no competition with that.
Yoga is what allows us to best meditate so when practicing yoga, you should also pay attention within.
4. Yoga and Meditation Are Easy To Do
In the ways that you would believe yoga and meditation to be easy, they actually aren’t. Yoga can offer its challenge if that’s what you want. Many people will think yoga is not a great workout but there are plenty of strength poses. In Ashtanga, you are deeply challenged to physically push yourself. You will sweat and shake and when dedicated to the practice, lose weight and gain strength.
As for meditation, doing nothing and not attaching yourself to thoughts can be the hardest thing to do. Meditation is challenging in its own way. It is hard for us to do nothing but it is highly beneficial to keep on down the mindfulness journey. This is especially true for when you’re coping with challenges in life.
Modern day yoga and meditation in the West has allowed us to create various methods to gain mindfulness. The ancient practice might be intimidating in some ways but it should also serve as a reminder that we are all individuals. We are all going through life by our own rules and our own limitations. Don’t be intimidated by the misconceptions of yoga and meditation. Just enjoy the process of your choice and practice as often as you can.
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali)