Yoga Urban Legends

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May 6, 2011

We’ve all heard a few good urban legends in our time. You know what I’m talking about; those stories you hear around the water cooler, the ones that get passed along from a friend of a friend (AFOF). Oh yes, the tellers of these tales believe them to be true, and the stories have been retold, regurgitated, and embellished so many times that it doesn’t even matter if a shred of it is the truth; they are the stuff of legend!

One of my favorite urban tales dating back to early childhood is the one about the little kid whose stomach exploded when he drank a Coke after eating Pop-Rocks candy. Another urban legend about a guy with a hookarm that terrorized a young couple parking late at night, still spooks me out today.

You name the subject, and there is likely a fantastical news story to go along with it. These mythical fables have even permeated the world of yoga and I thought I would share (and hopefully debunk) a few of my faves.

Pretzel Man. A 27-year-old man in Altoona, Pennsylvania was rushed to the hospital a few months ago when he could not pull his arms back out of turtle pose. It took nurses more than ten hours to pry his arms from under his thighs, permanently disfiguring his arms. This is the reason why I don’t attempt turtle pose (wink-wink).

Yoga is for girls. This, I think, is one of the most hilarious yoga urban legends. This story is repeated by men throughout North America who fervently believe yoga is too sissy for them. Ha! The truth is that many, many years ago in India, women weren’t even allowed to practice yoga; as it was reserved solely for men. I think it is an awesome karmic twist that the ladies are rockin’ the asanas now but really hope that this myth gets debunked, as I, for one, would love to see more men on the mat!

Yoga is a weird, religious cult. Well, I have to admit, when I first started practicing, I didn’t know what all this namaste, chakra, and third-eye stuff was about. I’m happy to report that after practicing yoga for several years, I have not shaved my head or sent all my belongings to a guru in India. I will say that the spiritual aspects of yoga can be like a religion but one that you control with your mind, body, and spirit.

You have to be a perfect, wholesome, vegan to practice yoga. Well, yes, there are the yamas and niyamas that guide the practice (santosha, contentment; asteya, non stealing; ahimsa, non harming; soucha, cleanliness; etc.), but that doesn’t mean we yogis don’t like to have some fun. If you don’t believe me, check out what my friend Lo has to say about the 10 ways she is un-yogic and doesn’t give a….

Yoga gets you high. This is not an urban legend. This is actually quite true!

People over 40 are just too inflexible to practice yoga. I’m not even going to address this, except to say, we don’t practice yoga because we are flexible; we practice yoga to become flexible.


I guess the beauty of urban legends is that you get to believe what is true and what is fiction. I suppose you all have been told some good yogic urban legends. The water cooler is open, and I’d love a few more fictional fairy tales, so please spread the word with a comment below.


Buddha Image: Jose Luis Navarro


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ELISE EDSON May 6, 2011 at 7:55 AM

Haha! About that first urban legend, “Pretzel Man”, though – I can tell you that it’s half true. While I was living in LA a few years ago, a male celebrity came to my yoga studio and flung himself into every pose. Well he got stuck attempting to force his legs into lotus and eventually required help from his entourage to unstick his legs! No disfigurement, though – he was fine 🙂


Sam Stone May 6, 2011 at 10:57 AM

I love the idea that men aren’t meant to do yoga. Especially after the crap I got when I first started from my male friends! Now- I have had friends ask me to do various poses, more or less as tricks at parties. They find it ‘cool’.. I’m not even so sure it’s about being sissy for all of them! (some for sure) But it may be more the ego, and fear about looking dumb in front of women! I bet you dollars to donuts an all male yoga class would be full in a heartbeat. As to the wholesome thing… Nothing I want more after I wrap up a session than a juicy burger. Mmm… Sacrilicious.


Y is for Yogini May 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM

DIG it! you rock, M! 😀


Kate Ranstrom June 16, 2011 at 3:39 PM

I am glad you commented about yoga not being a strange cultish religion. I am a Christian who practices and teaches yoga and have found that it has helped me relax so that I can meditate and pray. It’s been a fantastic tool!


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