I came across this article early last week as it circulated through my yoga teacher friends on Facebook. I’ve given it a lot of thought since reading it. Probably because I’m partial to this kind of practice. I like my yoga with movement and heat. I love the feeling of tired muscles at the end of my practice and the sweet release of my ujjayi breath as I relax into savasana. I get a little frustrated when I spend 75 minutes in a slow moving class or a class that’s cold. I have a hard time getting into these types of classes, spending most of the time with a wandering, frustrated mind. I know, I can learn something from classes like these and I have. Unfortunately, the feelings of frustration outweigh the positives. I practiced hatha off and on for 5 years when I first began to explore yoga but was never able to sustain a regular practice. In 2009 I was introduced to vinyasa and I suddenly understood the power of the practice and how important consistency was to my wellbeing. However, I honestly don’t know if I ever would have made that jump had it not been for vinyasa.
As I went through my teacher training, one of the common pieces of advice I heard was to teach what you love to practice. So it only seemed natural to teach warm vinyasa classes as I began my yoga career. I wanted to bring my love of this type of practice to my students, sharing everything I had received over the years. And although I definitely teach slower than I practice for a number of reasons, I still teach way more than 20 poses per side per class.
Needless to say after reading this article, I started to feel a little guilty about both my practice and my teaching.
It was this paragraph in particular that stuck with me.
I know, I know, to each their own. But really, call that what you want, but don’t call it yoga. To me yoga was and is about quieting the mind, breathing, finding stillness, feeling grounded and balanced. It’s about moving in a way that makes sense and is rooted in anatomy and yogic science. It’s about being honest with yourself and your students. It’s about knowing your limitations. It’s about slowing down so that you can listen and hear your own inner voice—the voice of intuition. It’s about finding stillness amid the activity. Try doing 20 poses on both sides in an hour; there’s simply no time for stillness.
Maybe I don’t spend enough time practicing stillness, I’ve honestly never been very good at stillness. Of course, all the more reason to practice it right? I had a yoga teacher once say that the thing you’re resisting the most, be it a pose, practice or project, is the thing you need the most. I get that, I really do. I should be spending all my time in upavistha konasana not in arm balances, I should be going to iyengar instead of vinyasa and I should most definitely be cleaning up my recipe index (the project that I keep putting off). That sure is a lot of shoulds isn’t it?
Now, I’m fully aware that I am about to spout a bunch of excuses but honestly, my time is limited these days. I work, I commute, I blog, I like to spend time with my husband, family, friends, go running and do yoga. So I try to get my stillness with my movement, as counterintuitive as it may seem. Not because I want to be involved in the yoga scene or wear my lululemon but because this is the type of yoga that feels good in my own body. I like the way it feels to close my eyes and cycle through a half dozen sun salutations. This is where I feel most grounded, where my mind settles and quiets down. I find unbelievable amounts of presence and balance as I move carefully through poses and my intuition and inner voice are never more clear than when I’m trying to soften and breathe through a difficult posture. This is the movement that makes sense to me, the kind of movement that has taught me how to recognize my own limitations, has taught me the difference between my edge and too far beyond it.
Heated, flowing vinyasa is my yoga. It has taught me patience, self-love, trust in my body, how to tackle difficult times and people. It has softened the rough edges, taught me how to forgive myself and others, to find that pause before reacting (which some might call stillness) and allow things to open in their own time. So I take some offense to the author telling me not to call my practice yoga.
However, feeling guilty about yoga feels so very wrong to me. Do I feel that we should all have some background in the traditions and history of yoga, of course. Would most yogis benefit from learning postures more slowly before jumping in, yes. Would we all do better with some stillness, most definitely. But we are so often bombarded by feelings of guilt, let’s not let the mat be one of those places. I say let it go. If sweaty, hot, fast yoga brings you to your mat, brings you joy, taps you into your body and out of the rat race of constant thoughts, well then, that’s success and by my definition, that’s also yoga.
Enjoy and Exhale!