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.