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Yoga Bliss Gambia: Common misconceptions about Yoga

My Magazine 2023/07
4 min
Author: Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
One of the most common and first doubts of the exercise is that, as yoga became more common, so did some of its misconceptions. People have made their own interpretations of what they see or hear in media which is not always correct. Here are some common misconceptions.


1.  Yoga is a religion


Often people are hesitant to practice yoga or learn about yoga with the belief that yoga is a type of religion.  Traditionally yoga has been practised by people of the Hindu faith for many centuries, but the practice of Yoga in itself is a spiritual discipline. Spiritual discipline can help one’s development in any line of religious belief and practice since there are underlying connections with spirituality and religion.  But Yoga can be practised without religion.  Yoga is a way of life, through understanding of spirituality you are striving for unity between self and universe, expressed through harmony between mind, body, man and nature.


2. I have to be flexible to do yoga

It's quite often that I hear “I can’t do yoga because I can’t even touch my toes”.  There seems to be a preconception that you need to be flexible to practice yoga.  It's quite the contrary, by regularly practising yoga you will become more flexible as a natural result, and flexibility isn’t a measure of how good you are at yoga.  By performing different asanas you will know your body, you will build strength, endurance, and flexibility.  Props and alterations can be used to overcome individual constraints and difficulties, so it is possible to build a suitable practice for anyone. The essence of yoga is to become aware of yourself and your body, to understand how breath control can help physically and mentally. 


3. Yoga is all about sitting cross-legged humming Om and meditating

This is not quite a misconception as we can sit crossed legged and hum “AUM’’ or sit and meditate as part of the yoga practice.  But it is not the only aspect in Yoga, it is one aspect of the whole practice.  “AUM” or Om is a very powerful sound, the sound pronounced and voiced correctly is known to mimic the sound of the universe.  The frequency and the vibration the sound creates can generate harmony as it becomes one with the universe.  So humming AUM is not such a strange thing, the repetitive humming of this word brings peace to yourself and the surrounding.  Meditation is a critical aspect of yoga.  It is a continual process that we must practice to withdraw one’s senses and calm the mind.  Now we often see ‘’yoga’’ and ‘’meditation’’ marketed separately as both require ample time and devotion, but they are both essential aspects of the yoga practice as a whole. 


4. You have to be young to do yoga

Tao Porchon Lynch is the world's oldest yoga teacher. Source:

Yoga can be practised until any age as long as you have a conscious mind and body. In fact, there are many known yogis who lived to their 90s and beyond, often continuing their practice until their passing.   Yoga is a lifestyle, and so it can be practised throughout your life.  From kids until mature age, it's never too early or late to practice yoga!


5. Yoga is same as stretching

Stretching is the movements that elongate the muscles to create flexibility and elasticity of the muscles and can be done with any type of breathing or level of focus.   On the other hand, yoga in terms of physical practice (asana) involves a combination of breathing and movement coordination, movement control, strength work and stretching, all practised mindfully.  This not only improves flexibility but also increases strength, alertness, agility and stamina.   Yoga is also not only about asana, it is a wholesome practise of balancing body, mind, spirit and building spirituality.


6. Yoga is for women


Yoga has definitely caught on popularity among women but, ironically many of the founders of various schools of yoga were men.  Yoga previously used to be only practised by men, while women practising would be frowned upon in the scene, quite contrary to the current situation.  It is sometimes overwhelming for men to attend a class full of women, maybe feeling a little out of place.  But overcoming self-consciousness or external distractions are benefits to reaching a deeper yoga practice oneself.  The practice is for your own self and not for comparison to others, the mind and senses are focused inwards.

If you had any of these misconceptions, I hope they have been clarified for you!


Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Founder, Yoga Bliss Gambia and Yoga Bliss Creations
Melissa Daswani is a professional yoga teacher trained and accredited in Hatha Yoga from Rishikesh, India. She was introduced to yoga in the early adolesce by her mother who often practised yoga at their home and still continues to practice to date.
Melissa started to indulge in yoga with a keen interest in her 20’s after researching the benefits of practising yoga.
In order to expand her knowledge and practice, she initially enrolled on official training in India during 2009. Her initial stint in yoga teaching began in 2012 in Togo, followed by expanding in the Gambia from 2016. Melissa’s style of teaching incorporates the fundamental and crucial steps of yoga called Hatha yoga, which encompasses the basis of all other styles of yoga. Melissa believes that every individual has something to gain from Yoga which is not limited to mental, physical or spiritual.
Yoga is not a religion but more a spiritual exercise as well as a practice that can universally be incorporated into your daily routine. Melissa offers regular weekly classes in Fajara, the Gambia, which is open to all levels.
She also runs a weekly beach yoga class which is very refreshing and energizing.
It’s her love and dedication towards teaching which allows her the opportunity to share the essence of yoga and its benefits to people from all walks of life.
Whether you reside in the Gambia or a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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