I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what defines “yoga”. And the more I thought about it, the more questions seemed to arise. For example, does yoga have to follow certain rules? Can’t any exercise contain a certain element of yoga?
Over time, I’ve heard statements about yoga such as:
- Studios must contain true yoga “traditions” to be a true yoga studio.
- A fast moving class cannot be yoga. There is just not enough time to explore each pose if done too quickly.
- Young, inexperienced instructors do not have enough understanding of yoga to verbalize their interpretation of yoga.
- Music does not belong in yoga or yoga has to have yoga music.
- Less is more in the long run when it comes to your limits in yoga.
Really??? Being a yoga practitioner, teacher and student, do I have to be so rigid in what I believe to be the definition of yoga? Do I have to poo-poo other’s interpretations of what yoga is to them? Whose traditions are we following exactly?
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand the importance of proper alignment for injury prevention BUT there are times I just want to move my body! When someone is having fun dancing, each movement isn’t always synced with proper alignment. The first time you went for a jog, it’s likely you were feeling out the process and didn’t take a class on proper running techniques! Were your jumping jacks in gym class dissected as a child?
I still like jumping jacks; I have been doing them since I was 4 years old.
Hmmm…39 years I have been doing jumping jacks without ever a thought of alignment. How do I feel after 39 years of this repetitive exercise? AWESOME!
I know this seems a little over analyzed but my goal is not to lessen the importance of practice and technique, but more to open up the idea that things can be interpreted differently and that first time yogi’s shouldn’t be afraid to give it a try! The first aerobics class I took, I simply followed along as much as I could.
Now I am not talking about teachers or instructor that say, “Okay now try jumping into headstand…come on you can do it….” Or teachers who never give a thought to alignment – that would just be irresponsible – but I don’t think anyone should be made to feel they can’t just follow along in a class the best of their ability. When it comes to yoga I was fortunate enough to learn from people who gave me the tools to explore my practice and placed no limits on poses, or places it could take me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I love having no limits in both my yoga and my life. I enjoy a slow flow now and then, but my passion is a fast-paced power yoga class with lots of crazy stuff to try and cool music.
Some may argue I am not practicing yoga, but for me, my mind is at peace, my body is working its edge, stretching and strengthening and I am totally 100% in my body: listening, feeling smiling…
When someone comes to my class or exercises and hones in to what their body feels like, and breaths in a purposefully way, for me this is yoga. I do not believe one person’s interpretation of yoga is any less or more valid than another’s regardless of experience or age. Each person’s interpretation has its own magic that fills their soul.
Before I even knew what yoga was, I used to find it in my golf game but that’s another subject for my next blog