just yoga, part 2

Part 1 is here….

Sigh.  Maybe it’s because this time of year is colder and darker;  maybe it’s because it’s that time of year when my  head is in India but my body is still here; maybe it’s because of the modern yoga scene in general.   But it’s the time of year where I turn even more inward and become philosophical.  Or ranty.  Take your pick.

Am I the only one who is not impressed by photos of people doing what’s called “acro yoga”?  You know….the photos of someone being hoisted skyward by someone with their legs in the air?  Sure it looks cool and fun and it catches my attention for about 3 seconds.  And yeah, I’d like to try it just like I would like to try flying through the air with the greatest of ease on a trapeze.  Once.  But for a studio to put it on their regular schedule?  Really?  Do studios actually make more dough with acro yoga on their schedule?  Or is it just another yoga fitness version of the Slide?  Something to catch our attention for 15 minutes because we’re never satisfied with doing JUST YOGA?

I taught a yin yoga class over the weekend at a place where I only teach once a month so I don’t build any type of student-teacher relationship with drop-in students.   A new woman came in and like I always do I introduced myself, asked if she had ever done yin yoga before (never), and asked about her injuries.  She told me she practices vinyasa and proceeded to give me a litany of her issues and then stopped and said, “I’m sure you don’t want to hear everything.”  I said, “yes I do.  that’s my job.”  So she gave me a few more and knowing she would fine with what we were going to do, I told her to take it easy, that the class is more about letting go than muscling in, and that I would keep an eye on her.

After the class I asked how she was and she said fine, that she liked it, but she had trouble with stillness because she moved all the time in vinyasa.  I shrugged and said, yes, people have a hard time with being still.  That’s just par for the course in yin classes with vinyasa practitioners who don’t know any other way to be their yoga.  Notice I did not say “do their yoga.”  Someone then complimented her on her vinyasa practice in spite of all her injuries and she began telling me again about all her injuries.  I just nodded and said, “well…sounds like you need some yin yoga to complete your practice.”  However, I really wanted to ask her, “why isn’t your yoga healing your body? ”   But more importantly I wanted to ask her, “why aren’t you even questioning whether the yoga you’re doing is right for you?”

I hoped she would return.  I intuited that she could really use a yin practice and not just on the physical level.  But rarely do students I meet in public classes seek out classes in my home shala to get the personal attention they deserve.

I read this blog today and thought it was entirely applicable to the student who was in my class:

Yoga is a healing modality that creates balance and transformation. Sometimes people may become obsessive about how to heal from a certain ailment or malady. They focus so hard upon what ails them and their energy becomes consumed in a downward spiral. By Yoga practice you expand your awareness to explore your boundaries. What is the mobility of my body? What is the capacity of my breath this breath in this position? In? Out? How long before the tendencies of my mind interrupt my silence? This expansion of awareness is akin to taking stock on all your resources or being the manager of all your systems and behaviors. Healing which really lasts comes from the intelligence provided by observing yourself and choosing those things which you intuitively feel bring you towards well-being.

An excellent, thoughtful article and one that makes me despair about the modern state of yoga with its myriad of styles.  So many people have asked me lately what “style” of yoga I teach that I want to run away screaming.  It seems like all that people know about modern “yoga” are labels and not the essence, a healing modality as the blogger above writes about.  More times than not, people (and I am talking about people who have gone to yoga classes) have no idea that yoga is a healing modality when I tell them I also do private yoga therapy sessions.

When people ask me if yin yoga is a style, I honestly say no, it’s not, at least not the way I teach it.  I tell people in workshops that it’s just another way to be your yoga, the asanas are the same, that there is merely a different emphasis on stillness.  Even when I teach vinyasa (and I am loathe to call it flow), my emphasis is stillness.

My website says that:

...“Metta” is a Pali word (maitri in Sanskrit) meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolence. Yoga practiced in this manner is about befriending your body and becoming your own best friend.

Metta Yoga is the yoga of Awareness, a powerful combination of yoga, meditation, breath awareness, and intuitive healing.

It is yin (stillness) and yang (movement) yoga, blending softness and strength. You will be encouraged to compassionately explore your edge as you grow your practice, strengthen your body, expand your heart, and free your mind. You will be challenged and supported, but most importantly, reminded to bring your full attention to your body and to your breath, ending class with pranayama and mindfulness meditation.

I posted that on my Facebook business page today and a woman responded “this sounds like just what I need…are there classes near me?”

For some reason, her question made me very sad.

That’s all I teach.  Just yoga.

Come take a class with me and you’ll see.  Quickly.  Before I run away screaming and, as a friend has said, I take up residence in India.

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13 thoughts on “just yoga, part 2

  1. I was at a friend’s party a few weeks back when I was asked that very question: “What kind of yoga do you teach?”

    I usually say… that’s not an easy question to answer but if you want me to put a label on it, then I teach what I call Slow Yoga.

    That of course, prompts people to ask what Slow Yoga is. So I start talking about the pace of our lives, the stresses we’re under, the way we never stop or sit still for too long.

    Some people listen to this spiel of mine and nod their heads and sigh. Yes, they say. That’s what I need if only I had the time!

    Others react badly, like a guy I was speaking to. Why, he said, ask people who are already time poor to move slowly and not get the workout they think they need and want? Why not give them what they want?

    Ah, I said… because if someone is ill from eating too much ice-cream, do you offer them more ice-cream? That’s why.

    The more we think we need to move/be/do things faster, the less likely we are to slow down. But slowing down is what we need. Connection with other people and ourselves.

    I’m glad to be one of the small but growing tribe of Slow Yogis out there who don’t care for being the most acrobatic or fabulous or intense or whatever… Also I re-read my series of posts on the Mark Whitwell workshop I did a couple of years ago and I was all yeah… this is where its at. This is how all yoga classes should feel.

    NOT like a workout or a series of tricks. But like an intimate communication between yourself and the universe.

    And you know what I mean anyway! :)

    • and it’s people like you, my friend, who keep me from going crazy. and we are indeed a very small minority. at least in my area. which I why I need to get out.

      I have always said that after my first time at KYM, I totally changed my practice and it wasn’t until I met Paul Grilley that a light bulb went off over my head about yin. as a student once told me (and I wrote about it), modern yoga as it is currently taught in many places does nothing but feed disconnection and mindLESSness.

  2. Beautifully stated, thank you. I love how you so eloquently describe what you mean by metta yoga. I have been fortunate that the majority of the teachers I have had follow such an approach, probably because those are the teachers I seek. My current physical issues are bringing me more and more to the core of these issues, a reminder to constantly seek that balance. And like you, I never have an answer for the question of “type” of yoga. I may have to follow your lead and tell people I just do yoga and try to teach “just yoga” as best I can. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  3. Finally getting around to reading your post!

    Yeah, I find that my views are changing around this. I am trained to teach vinyasa flow yoga, and the more I go the more I change the pace, and add other ways of approaching asanas too. I hate it when in one breath you are instructed to do like three moves at the same time for the sake of movement and pace.
    I am finding myself more and more reluctant to categorize what I do, especially when sometimes I want to play with bolsters or sometimes I will want to play with nothing but long stretches. Because yes, as a vinyasa practitioner I ALSO need the stillness, and what I practice I teach.

    To be honest I am still attached to the vinyasa flow label though, especially as we don’t have to follow strict guidelines, not having a particular guru even if we are part of a lineage. This is what I like about it, that it’s creative and you can mix different things, but then it makes no sense to label it does it? Two sides of the same coin…

    More generally speaking, whatever I do, it’s not fitness. It’s breath and meditation in movement, coming back to your body and observing what is without judgement, connection, consciousness and self empowerment. Complete with “Yoga fluff and speak” and a freaking long savasana at the end :D

  4. Oh I totally hear you.. I too am feeling frustrated by “styles”. Great blog post. Just yesterday I had someone come to my Yin class who is planning on doing three Vinyasa classes a day on his year long retreat to get “his body healthy”. I didn’t even know what to say other than mention that when I was doing 6 classes a week of that style I ended up with injured knees and carpal tunnel.

    I just wrote a blog post not long ago about my frustration with a teaching a style versus just teaching what my instinct says to do. As I I get more confident with teaching I am kind of just throwing the labeling away as much as I am able.

    http://yoga4ayear.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/day-287-throw-away-the-yoga-package/

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Thanks as always for a thought provoking and grounding read Linda :)

    As a newbie teacher but long time student, I’m finding it hard not to stick labels all over myself! (so to speak ;) ) Studios don’t want you unless you can stand out from the crowd or offer something ‘different’. I’m like – “um, it’s all yoga right? I just teach yoga!” but *sigh* that’s not enough when you pay the bills.

    In the end I say I can teach a dynamic vinyasa, but that overall my focus is on mindfulness yoga that is a simple practice designed to draw the students attention within. Hasn’t got me many classes yet – but everyone wants me to teach a core strength flow!!

    I’d be a regular student of yours if I wasn’t half way around the world :)

    xx

    • emily, thanks for reading but especially for saying you’d be my student! :)

      Paul Grilley once gave me excellent advice when I asked him about talking about the Buddhadharma in class. I told him that in my area of white bread suburbia — where the yoga studio owner took down the cloth painting of Durga I brought her from one of my trips because she was afraid it would offend Christians — I was hesitant to talk about Buddhadharma in my classes but if I did not, it felt like I was not being true to myself. He told me I should always teach from my heart, always teach what is true to me, otherwise it IS fake and people will know anyway. He said those who want to hear what I say and those who want “my” yoga will come, those that don’t, won’t. The ones that won’t aren’t my students anyway and there are teachers for them, that I am not their teacher. But I have to be true to myself. Always.

      Which means I do not have packed classes, but at this stage of the yoga game (and it IS a game) I am fine with that. The modern yoga scene is crazy and I am comfortable with standing alone and apart. as a friend told me, a prophet is never appreciated in their homeland (I in no way consider myself a prophet but I get what she meant.) and the true path is ultimately walked alone.

  6. Pingback: life in these Yoga States (apologies to the Reader’s Digest) | linda's yoga journey

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