Friday, March 30, 2012

What is yoga?

Yesterday while leaving work, a co-worker of mine who is from India was asking me about the type of yoga I teach. I explained how most yoga here in the west is mainly a physical practice, but I try to incorporate meditation into my classes. She told me that she attended a class at a local gym and it was nothing like the yoga she experienced in India. That yoga, she said, had very little physical aspects and was mostly meditation and breathing focused. She wondered why we didn't practice that way here.

Today after teaching a yin class, I talked to one of the attendees who was taking his first yoga class on the recommendation of a friend. "That was way more meditation-focused than I expected," he said, "it was great, but it's not what I think of as yoga."

I think these two exchanges perfectly capture both the essence of yoga (that it's whatever you want it to be) and the PR problem of yoga in the west (that many people only think of it as a form of exercise for young and bendy people.)

I am noticing that it seems to take about a year of teaching a particular class for the right people to eventually gravitate to it. Perhaps this is because most people have no idea what it means when a class description says "yin" or "vinyasa" or "restorative" and they need to experience it for themselves for awhile before realizing that it's having a profound effect on their body/mind/spirit. In any case, I'm glad people are finding their happy classes, and I hope more people come to realize the benefits of all types of yoga.


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