A quick blog to displel a common yoga-world myth:
Not everything is yoga.
Yoga is the container for all things, but it is not all things.
Acrobatics are not yoga they’re acrobatics. Gymnastics are not yoga they’re gymnastics. Potting a plant is not yoga it’s potting a plant. Feeding your cat isn’t yoga it’s feeding your cat. Insane aerobic workouts with a dollop of Deepak Chopra quotes are not yoga they’re just insane aerobic workouts with a dollop of Deepak Chopra quotes.
Yoga is yoga.
Are there thousands of different definitions of what yoga is? Of course! Are there a lot of ways of expressing yoga? Yes! Is modern and western yoga constantly evolving? Duh! But to say everything is yoga just provides an excuse to do anything you want and say it’s yoga.
It’s a way of circumventing actual practice and catering to popular shortcuts that alleviate the need for actual introspection, work, dedication, and ultimately healing in the mind/body/spirit system. Yes a lot of what we teach in western yoga is relatively modern and always evolving. I’ve read Yoga Body. But that doesn’t mean we should water down a phenomenal art form and healing modality into an amorphous blob of random movements or activities. That’s not actual practice.
Now, in terms of different approaches, there are some teachers who teach incredible physically, movement, and anatomically based classes that are yoga to their core. There are also teachers who teach spiritually based energetic classes that are yoga to their core. There are also teachers who teach a mix of the two that, you guessed it, are yoga to their core. So what makes all of these approaches yoga?
1. Yoga always promotes healing and not harm.
2. Yoga seeks to heal rather than perpetuate unhealthy patterns.
3. Yoga fosters cooperation with the body, not competition with the body.
4. Yoga is mindful and not mindless.
5. Yoga aspires to balance not deplete.
6. Yoga (when the class is asana based) is comprised of well-taught and aligned yoga asana (be they classical or modern) not jumping-jacks and burpees.
7. Yoga restores a sense of contentment to the system.
8. Yoga fosters a healthy relationship with self and body.
9. Yoga guides us to ourselves, not away from ourselves.
Out of respect for ourselves and for yoga, let’s do yoga. I go to the gym to work out and I love it. But I don’t call it yoga. I do yoga to do yoga. I water my plants but don’t say I practiced that day because I watered my plants. I still do yoga practice because that’s doing yoga. Boundaries are a good thing. They make sure we stay on course and don’t allow ourselves to be carried away by the changing currents and tides of our minds. They make sure we allow ourselves to receive all the benefits of this phenomenal practice. We’ve been so lucky to have found yoga, let’s honor it so it can continue to be of benefit to all for many years to come.