Misconceptions about yoga are abundant in the general population, according to a new survey by The Yoga Alliance.
The survey found that 57% of those who do not currently practice yoga believe it involves mantras or chanting, akin to a religious act of worship.
Almost two-thirds (60%) think flexibility is a prerequisite to start practising. And half the men questioned believe yoga 'isn't a workout' - compared to 73% of people who do practise believing it is as effective as running, weight lifting or swimming.
The research was carried out by US-based The Yoga Alliance, in aid of Yoga Day USA on January 23, and a week before World Yoga Day on January 31.
To mark World Yoga Day 2010, and in response to the 'common misconceptions' survey, Yoga Abode has put together six definitive facts about yoga:
1) Yoga builds strength and muscle tone. Because yoga is weight-bearing, it helps build muscle tone, while strengthening the bones - essential to prevent osteoporosis. Incorporating weight-bearing exercise into a fitness routine is vital for long-term health.
2) You do not have to be flexible to begin. In fact, the less flexible you are initially, the more you have to gain. Although flexibility is not the main aim of yoga, it is one of the benefits of practising.
3) Age is no barrier: you are never to old. The older you are, the more you can benefit - do not believe our modern mantra that ageing equals deterioration. If we work at it, we can remain healthy and ache-free. Remember: biological age is more important than chronological age.
4) Yoga is not a religion; it is suitable for those of every faith, or for those with none. Although styles such as Kundalini and Sivananda yoga include some chanting, most yoga classes in the west do not.
5) Yoga for stress, anxiety and depression: yoga practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering cortisol levels and blood pressure, and promoting relaxation through the breath. Yoga and meditation (including mindfulness techniques) are increasingly recommended for those suffering from mild to moderate depression, anxiety and stress.
6) Yoga as therapy: yoga is increasingly recognised as a powerful way to treat a wide range of physical conditions - including back pain, headaches, arthritis, asthma and obesity. If it also taught therapeutically to those with serious illnesses such as cancer, MS and Parksinsons.