Let's talk about yoga styles... In our teacher trainings, we cover a module that discusses the history of yoga, how it has evolved, and the many styles that have developed. And in 2023, there are hundreds of styles of yoga. There are some you may be familiar with: Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga, Hatha... and some you may not be as familiar with: Katonah, Forrest, Anusara, Kundalini... The above styles listed only encompass a sliver of a huge yoga cake. Within the styles above, there are even sub-styles and "lineages" that have emerged. People's perception of yoga is always a curiosity to me, as the founder of a yoga studio and as someone who has developed her own "style" of sequencing classes based on the lineages of yoga styles that I have been taught.
Because there are so many styles, students who are new to the practice are often times walking into a class that is NOT what they expected. They see images of yoga online, on social media, in stores that sell athleisure wear and yoga pants. When you come to our studio, we do our very best to welcome you and acquaint you to our yoga home. We want you to feel comfortable. We know that you can spend your time anywhere and we want you to value the time you spend on your mat practicing with us.
We also know that the style of yoga that we teach is athletic, creative, rigorous at times, challenging, and.. I'll say it... HARD. Yep, it is HARD.
And sometimes, that is NOT what people have in mind when they sign up for a yoga class. I can't blame them for being confused. Hear me out: The impression many people have of Yoga is that it is "kinder," "gentler," "accessible," "just stretching," "quiet,"... you get the gist. And I do believe that Yoga is and can be those things. But it is most definitely also other things. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is known as the “Father of Yoga,” began to teach what we now know as Vinyasa Krama yoga in the 1920’s. Initially, the Maharaja of Mysore (the king) had invited Krishnamacharya to his palace to teach his sons, the princes, “gymnastics” and discipline. At the outset, Krishnamacharya’s style of yoga was designed for teenage boys. The history of yoga runs deep and contrasts with the idea of the “kinder, gentler” impressions that many people have. During the 1920s, Krishnamacharya was known to hold demonstrations in which he performed very difficult asanas (postures), stopped cars with his bare hands, stopped his-own pulse, and lifted heavy objects with his teeth!
Women were not allowed to practice with Krishnamacharya. And as the story goes, one woman in particular, Indra Devi, sought out his teachings. Devi, born, Eugenia Peterson, was a Russian woman who had become a Bollywood actress and wife of a Czechoslovakian ambassador. When Indra Devi first leaned yoga from Krishnamacharya, his methods were severe. As told by his brother in law, B.K.S Iyengar, Krishnamacharya was known to be violent, bad tempered, and physically abusive.
Now, of course, we do not support these abusive methods. But when learning of the history of yoga, they can not be ignored. And the idea that the physical part of yoga was initially accessible and for all bodies and all genders is false. Yoga has evolved and developed since Krishnamcharya’s time into different styles and versions which can all largely be traced back to his students, Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar, and Indra Devi. Through these teachers the styles of yoga have developed that you now see at yoga studios all over the world, including at The Om Lounge.
I once wrote a blog about the PR problem that Yoga has, and many teachers and students alike told me it resonated for them. Yoga is as different as the people who practice it. One person's flavor is not the same as another's and yoga styles are so vast that it is like going to Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop for candy.
We have always welcomed all Levels of practitioners to practice at our studio. And we label most of our classes as All Levels, because, well, they are for anyone and everyone who wants to try. But the truth is that whether or not the style we teach will resonate with you is not based on a "Level." Everyone is welcome but our physical style is designed with athleticism in mind and we desire to be true to what we are inspired to teach and practice.
We see "brand new at yoga" students who have never hit a Down Dog a day in their life come to practice with us from day one and stick with it and grow their practice. We also see the opposite. We see students who are expecting something else and when in class with students of different skillsets become intimidated and flustered. Two people can take the same class and see it completely differently. Over the years, I have maintained that in order to grow, you must plant seeds and that is why we do not have classes in our studio that are specifically for one level or another. We just have class and if we want to work with a particular skillset, we schedule a workshop .
My advice to students navigating the yoga landscape is to take any class anywhere with any teacher that you want to and make it work in your body! If poses are offered that challenge you, take them or don't. If you having a day where you feel like trying something, go for it. If you want to observe and hang back, that is OKAY! The class is just that: a class. Most importantly, trust yourself to know what feels good for YOU. If you take classes and you feel lost or unsure, recognize that is normal for lots of people when they come to yoga as beginners. If classes you are taking aren't serving what you need, move on. Consider taking private lessons if the class experience is overwhelming.
But we must get past the idea of physical YOGA that has been romanticized as Rainbows and Unicorns, soft and completely accessible, for “old” people, or just stretching. It can be that, but to deny the actual athleticism of the practice is to deny its roots.
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