There’s a lot written about how we practice yoga in the U.S.– everywhere from xojane to elephant journal. Is it yoga if you do it at a gym? What if you don’t chant? What if you don’t meditate/aren’t a vegetarian/don’t want to go to india? Can you still do yoga, or are you just working out?
My answer: yes. Is everyone who shows up for 4:15 poweryoga going to “do” yoga? I don’t know. Yoga is a practice. It’s a cycle, it’s a continuum. It’s a path. We move, and breathe, and yes, sometimes chant. This is part of yoga. This isn’t “yoga”. But if you can’t name all the yamas and niyamas, and if you don’t know the sansrkit for pigeon pose, you can still practice yoga.
Yoga teachers have different ways of guiding us.
I have several teachers who are masters of metaphor. They don’t stand up in front of the room full of students (everything from college students looking to get toned to serious students of philosophy to guys looking to heal an old sports injury) and get esoteric. They grab onto an incedent that made them think, and tie it somehow to what a yoga practice can do. They help us move inward from some external event that we can understand. I have some teachers who harldy talk at all, but who understand that no matter why you are there, moving and breathing will start to do the work of yoga on us. And I have some teachers who approach yoga teaching with a great reverence for tradition, who use lots of sanskrit terms and who know that we will start to learn when we keep showing up. It all works. It’s all yoga.
And it doesn’t matter if you’ve never uttered an om before, or if you are a twice-a-day kind of person. You are learning just the same. The guy next to me is learning that it’s ok if he can’t reach the floor in uttanasana today (as a teacher of mine says, “I’ve been to the floor. There’s nothing there). The girl on my other side is learning to let go of her ego when she does a “perfect” pincha mayurasana.
What teachers share with us, no matter how they approach it, is that you don’t need to walk in the door ready to “do” yoga in a particular way. You just walk in the door. The rest starts to take care of itself, and the more times you walk through that door, the more you get it.