Yoga Vita

Musings on Yoga, Life, and the Yoga Life

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In teaching: I also started teaching yoga on a regular, paid sort of basis about three or four months ago. The business of it all has its fair share of annoyances and frustrations, but the teaching people yoga part has been fantastic.

I’m teaching not my beloved ashtanga, but (gasp!) generic flow yoga.  Turns out I’m actually quite happy with it. The “flow yoga” thing gives me the freedom to do what I need to do to make yoga accessible and engaging to people who otherwise might not be doing yoga at all, people who would be hesitant or unable to join a yoga studio. I’m learning that I need to spend a LOT of time just reminding people to breathe, encouraging them to actually be in their bodies, helping them to appreciate themselves wherever they’re at. People are chronically deprived of stillness, gentleness, and release, and it shows in their bodies. I hope in my teaching to create a space where people can experience these qualities–the up-dog, down-dog, strike-a-pose thing comes second.



Yoga + Capitalism = ???

The September intensive I was scheduled to to teach has been canceled due to lack of enrollment. Pooh. This will provide me with more time to sleep, but damn, I was looking forward to teaching. But then again, another morning intensive is scheduled for October, so I may soon have another opportunity, if people SIGN UP. In the meantime, I’ll be helping out with more studio publicity and general sprucing up of things, so hopefully we’ll see a better turnout in the future.

But all this gets me thinking.   Blabbing follows. . .

It’s kinda hard to get new students at a studio these days.  Although there seems to be more general interest in yoga, there are a TON more studios. I’m not necessarily complaining- – I like the increased accessibility of yoga, and a bit of competition challenges studios to provide what students are looking for. But the negative side to capitalistic competition in the yoga world is that the things students are usually looking for, at least many new ones, are not necessarily. . . well, GOOD things. They want a yoga butt, or they want to just space out for an hour and a half, or they want to pick up fit dates, or they want to appear trendy/glamorous/whatever, or they want teachers who will massage their egos, or they want CardioYogaBootyTango with wrist weights, or whatever. So studios get all wrapped up in being trendy, offering singles classes, developing some kind of cutesy gimmick, and otherwise catering to yoga-consumers’ shallow desires instead of offering authentic yoga.

Studios that offer authentic yoga and that really focus on quality teaching just don’t have the gimmicks that draw people in, by their very nature. So most people end up at least starting at studios that offer really watered-down forms of yoga, or programs you could hardly even call yoga at all.  And lots of people get stuck there or quit.

Honestly, don’t really know what to make of all this.  I mean, is it really so bad if people are practicing TangoBootyYogaMix or Yogalates or whatever-the-hell and thinking they’re doing yoga?  I mean really.  Does that threaten my practice?  (It may threaten my self-image a little, but you know, vairagya and all that.)  And if people want their little after-work spa retreat foot-rub thing going on at their yoga studio, shouldn’t they be able to enjoy that?

Perhaps what it comes down to is that the market for yoga is actually just as small as it’s ever been.  Most people just want a back rub, some scented candles, a glowing ego, and a hot date.   Fine.  It would just be nice if there were a clear way to determine where to find quality, authentic yoga instruction.  But that’s such a nuanced thing, I’m not sure if it can be clear-cut.  Maybe we all just have to wade through the muck and figure it out ourselves.


Ahh, Home Practice

I LOVE my home practice. I practice at home about one to two times a week, and it is such a nice change of pace from my yoga shala practice, which I do about four to five times a week. Sometimes in my home practice I just do plain old full Primary like I do at the shala, yet the feeling of it is different because I’m better able to tune into the sensations in my body and breath. Sometimes I do fun little sequences that I have made up for myself. If I’ve been feeling a little tight or closed off in the chest, I’ll do a series to open up my chest and shoulders and to invite deep breathing and relaxation. If I’ve been overworking my legs and hips in Primary Series, I’ll do a practice full of hip openers and hamstring stretches. And sometimes, even if I’ve practiced all week, I’ll do a little restorative session on Sunday just because it feels so good!

I really love that I’ve gotten to a place where I have both the confidence and the discipline to create a practice for myself and follow through with it. I like the balance I find in practicing 70-80% traditional Ashtanga and 20-30% self-styled flow yoga. I still feel connected to a rigorous yoga tradition, yet I have the freedom to listen to my body, to listen to my heart, and give myself what I need. “Listening to my body” can be used as a cop-out, as one of my teachers has explained, and I agree that it can indeed. But I would continue on to say that if one sincerely practices the discipline of listening to one’s body, in the context of a firm grounding in yoga practices and philosophy, one can truly take their yoga to a deeper level. Instead of relying on someone else to tell me, to give me, what is good for me, I myself must do the honest work of finding out what is truly good for me and I myself must create a way of bringing that into my life.