Yoga's super popular in our day-and-age, but what is it? With so many varieties buzzing about, it's hard to tell these days! Is power yoga really yoga? How about other fads like aerial, acro, yoga barre or even heated yoga?
We won't get too crazy with it today, but I know a lot of us get caught-up in the details so I thought some clarification could go a long way. I don't want my yoga ego to take over though, so let us default to the head guru, Patanjali who wrote the Yoga Sutras roughly 2500 years ago. His 196 aphorisms guide us through every question, qualm and concern; however all we need are the first four to answer our question most effectively & efficiently.
1.1 | This moment is where we find peace.
While styles like aerial, acro and barre may feel a bit more trendy than an hour of breathing through intense realignment on your mat, it doesn't technically mean there's no yoga involved. The first sutra teaches us that yoga happens right here, right now, with an effort to yolk back together what fell apart. Basically, yoga begins when with a realization that this moment is all we have, so let's start finding our way back to it. Whether that happens finding your breath flying in the air, grounded by a barre or gripping a rubber mat between your toes, if you're accepting responsibility for your own peace of mind, you're doing yoga.
1.2 | Yoga is the calming of the wavering mind.
You know those moments where you short circuit because you can't decide whether to go with the black or grey shirt? Coffee or tea? Or maybe you're more wavering with the big decision moments where the belly says "let's do it," the brain says "no way, dude" and the heart just flutters? No matter what sends the waves around in you, yoga's simply activity & insight that soothe the waves.
The modern yoga climate lets us be a bit more picky with how we do this, for better or worse. While there's no substitute for the practical nature of using just our bodies to learn about them, a lot of people don't want to do that. Being able to move with momentum in power yoga or with a significant other in acro helps a lot of people find calm who otherwise wouldn't. Further, for avid yogis like myself, it offers variety when one form goes stale in a given season. A lot of the days I find myself in my silk because I cannot motivate myself to move on my mat. Other days I'm on the barre because my balance sucks that day and I need support.
No matter the variety, yoga brings us back to the moment. When we find stillness here, the waves diminish.
1.3 | A calm mind exposes the spirit's truest nature.
Avid yogis tend to be a odd bunch when compared to the collective majority, I believe this is why! Yoga teaches us to embrace and reconnect with what soothes us in a world that's otherwise taught us to identify neurotic, numbing stress as productivity. In yoga, time takes the back burner to what's happening, here and now, in order to mindfully produce. The opposite happens everywhere else - what's happening here and now takes the back burner to the ticking and tocking of the secondhand on the clock.
Instructing in so many different spaces with so many different people and styles over the years, its truly amazing how every tool offers its own unique profile of healing. Aerial silks and acro-yoga tend to expose people's fears and insecurity a lot more than barre or grounded practices, which makes both amazing for soothing people who've experienced severe trauma that's triggered the nervous system of their bodies into more chaotic patterns. Acro's amazing for insecurities in particular, helping so many yogis learn communication skills as well as how to build trust with new people.
Overall, the practice of yoga helps all trauma dissipate as we create comfort with calm through awareness, joy & understanding.
1.4 | A chaotic mind exposes the body's current dis-ease and dis-order.
Ever hear someone say, "that's when their true colors came out," regarding someone losing their cool and exposing their chaos? Well, yoga teaches us that saying isn't too far off. Our more chaotic selves help expose what's going on below the surface - the lack of ease and order within. While our truest colors actually come out when we are well-fed, well-nourished and calm, our nerves do a good job of exposing what's in the way of that. As an instructor, your chaos teaches me what tools I need to pull out to be most effective & efficient in delivering you calm.
My longest standing private client's been with me since 2015. While we have tried so many different things over the past four years, his toolkit's simple. When I get there and he's in an aggressive mood, we either fly in the silk to bring his childlike spirit back or move with the breath to bring the internal heat to the external world. Other days he's sleepier when I get there so we ease in with a yoga wheel up & down the spine before a grounded practice with lots of core activation. If his plantar-fasciitis acts up, we meet at my home studio to use my barre to nuance how his toes connect with the earth with a bit more productive ease.
The practice not only teaches the tools to sooth dis-ease and dis-order, it helps us let go of the fluctuations in the mind that identify with the disease or disorder just because it's just been there so long. The postures most of us think of when we hear the word yoga help realign the body away from disease so that we don't feel ornery because the pain misalignment causes over time.
Pretty deep stuff. Hopefully now you can see a bit clearer how yoga exists in so many forms, as well as why so many people love it! It's not just stretching at all - that idea barely scratches the surface, really! It's more about soothing commotion in the mind so that you're not making decisions you regret later (causing even more mental commotion later down the line). So the next time your body tells you "I need yoga," now you know it can be as easy as feeling a big, deep breath come in-and-out if you only have a moment, or as complicated as an acroyoga retreat to the Caribbean if you need a collection of them!