Entries in Pattabhi jois (1)

Thursday
Oct172013

Give Them Yoga

Yesterday one of my Facebook friends posted a question on her timeline: What is the big difference between yoga and Pilates? A very legit question if you’re new to both and want to figure out what to take up. The answers were interesting.

“Pilates is about strength and stability and yoga is more relaxing”

“It depends on which form of yoga you are talking about. Power yoga and flow yoga require a lot of strength. Hatha yoga is more about stretching. The mental dimension is primarily present in the relaxation at the end of the class”

I trust that these people talk from experience. They have probably taken some relaxing Hatha classes or fitness inspired power yoga classes with a guided Shavasana at the end, because that’s what yoga teachers teach; strength, stretching and guided relaxation.

I don’t know much about Pilates. On Wikipedia I can read that it is intended to strengthen the human mind and body and that is was developed by some dude in the first half of the 20th century. That does sound a lot like yoga. Lots of yogis developed their own systems and sequences from Hatha yoga last century: Pattabhi Jois, John Friend, Sharon Gannon and David Life and Bikram Choudhury (not to compare them, their ideas or systems in any way). I still think there’s a difference, though, and while I don’t know much about Pilates (which I’m sure is great), my point hasn’t really got anything to do with it.

My point is that there’s so much more to yoga than strength, stretching and relaxing – and that we as yoga teachers might forget to pass all this on to our students.

In an hour’s yoga class in a gym there isn’t time for studying the Yamas and Niyamas for meditation, chakra balancing, pranayama, bandhas, koshas, dristhi, kriyas, mantra and self-study. We know that if we say that Patanjali’s definition of yoga is to stop the fluctuations of the mind or that yoga in fact means unity – maybe even with our higher Self, God or the Universe, we’re considered ready for the loony bin. We should at least be wearing orange robes and have bald heads if we start talking about chakras and prana.

I do believe that you can have a great yoga practice without all these elements. Yoga can be a great physical or mental practice without mentions of the energetic body or Anandamaya Kosha. This way it’s accessible for everybody to experience the benefits of a yoga practice.  I, on the other hand, also believe that we as yoga teachers have an obligation to recognise when a student is ready to open up to these other aspects of yoga and give them a space for these aspects to grow, such as a sangha, a class or a referral to another teacher or workshop.

But you will be surprised about how many students come up to me after a chakra based restorative class to tell me about clearing blockages, experiencing strong emotions or asking where they can learn more.

All I’m trying to say is this: When a student asks for yoga, isn’t it our responsibility as teachers to give it to them? I know we can’t get though The Yoga Sutras in an hour in a gym, but we can always suggest that there is more than stretching and relaxing.

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