I’ve been practicing yoga for about 40 years along with lifting weights and working out in gyms. I’ve seen trends come and go in both arenas. Changing it up can make it fresh, especially gym classes. But with yoga, the shift has been from listening deeply to the body, holding an asana/posture while allowing the body to release on it’s own terms, into a westernized bullying practice.
Popular yoga forms:
- Ashtanga: succession of tedious asanas (series 1, 2, 3) for weight loss, can’t-find-your-breath work
- Power yoga: restyled Ashtanga from the 80′s for aggressive westerners
- Birkrim: repetitive overkill in high heat to torture the body, developed by a said-to-be sociopath; not surprised if that were true
- Kundalini: constantly moving, energizing, no genuine breath work except for the out-of-breath kind
- Vinyasa Flow: also adapted from Ashtanga (and other traditions) for weight loss and aerobic work
You get the drift: it’s more about a workout, losing weight, being fit, etc. and not so much about focus, stillness, being or breath. Unfortunately, these unkind types of yoga now dominate most studios. Good luck finding one that regularly offers (more than once a week) a yoga class of yesteryear that is varied, centered and truly cares about the breath/body/spirit like these adaptations:
- Hatha: what we used to think of as yoga but originally meant the physical aspect of yoga practice
- Yin: more like the old “hatha” but not quite challenging enough and often seen as a compliment to “yang” (the above yoga types) rather than a practice of it’s own
- Iyengar: similar sequences enacted, inclined to more standing poses and use of props
Seems to me that if a “major workout” is what you’re looking for why not do TRX, Zumba, Parkour or Crossfit? Much “yoga” appears as a disguised gym class. Maybe it’s just trendy to say you take yoga. I don’t know.
In my day, if you had back injuries, insomnia or other maladies, yoga was prescribed (think Lilias Folan here). Anymore, I hear from doctors/PT practitioners that more and more people are regularly being treated for yoga-related injuries. Something feels wrong about that.
I’m not against “vigorous” yoga styles; I’d just like options. I dislike the ‘either/or’ atmosphere of a punishing toughness or the “newbie” too gentle/old people yoga. How about ‘and & both?’ A variety of asanas besides the same 20-ish. Instead of a facetious nod to breath work there’s an actual incorporation of it.
I’d like more respect of the body, not the badgering it. Trust it to know itself instead of the continual, callous imposition upon it—in exercise, in food. Listen with deference and understanding and then…let go. Yoga taught me that years ago. I no longer see that message sincerely conveyed in today’s classes (O, the words are spoken but the undercurrent and movements don’t back it up) which is why my yoga practice is mainly done at home.
Our culture does enough manipulating, hustling and shoving of our spirits, minds and bodies. Can we please have yoga back?