Be Careful When You Hear These Words
“What type of yoga do you teach?”
It’s a fair question I get a lot.
A fair answer I give is, “We teach our own method of yoga, called Functional Yoga Instruction.”
The usual follow-up.
“Imagine yoga and physical therapy getting married. If they had a child, it would be Functional Yoga Instruction.”
Dramatic pause … “oh … I was looking for something more traditional.”
And off they go to find a yoga studio that teaches traditional yoga.
But this is where it gets interesting…
What is traditional yoga, anyway? And how will they know when they find it?
In the early 2000s, I was attending a workshop with David Swenson. David has been teaching Ashtanga Yoga for decades. And the creator of Ashtanga Yoga, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, taught it to him.
Pattabhi used to teach Ashtanga Yoga in a very specific way. Practice begins with an opening chant. You practice yoga. Practice ends with an ending chant.
I’m sure most of Pattabhi’s students still teach it that way.
But David would omit the chanting because he didn’t want to alienate people from the practice of yoga.
One of the women attending David’s workshop noticed the omission and mentioned it. In front of 200 people.
She said something like, “Why don’t you teach Ashtanga Yoga the traditional way? Why don’t we chant?”
David tried to explain the chanting can be off-putting to some folks, so he dropped it. He wanted to make yoga accessible to more people.
Well, the woman got more and more agitated (sounds like she needed some yoga). Her outrage for keeping the traditions of yoga alive kept escalating.
That’s when David dropped a truth bomb…
He said something like, “If we’re going to keep the tradition of yoga alive, I must ask all the women in the room to leave. Because yoga used to be for men only.”
Silence filled the auditorium.
“Also,” David said something like, “I will choose only one of you guys (men) to work with for the rest of the workshop. Because, traditionally, yoga was taught by word of mouth from teacher to student. So the rest of you will have to leave.”
That pretty much put an end to the “traditional yoga” debate.
David smoothed all the ruffled feathers. Tempers cooled. And we all (men and women) went on to have a great day filled with great yoga in the most nontraditional way.
Keep It Real
Yoga, as we know it, has been around for about 100 years.
Yes, yoga as a way of living has been around for 1000s of years, but that’s probably not the stuff you’re practicing.
We’re talking about Hatha yoga, or physical yoga.
Here’s a simplified version of mondern yoga’s history…
T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) was a well known in India. He had a reputation for drawing upon Indian medicine and yoga to care for and heal people.
In 1926, the Maharaja of Mysore hired Krishnamacharya to teach yoga in the palace of Mysore.
One source said that Krishnamacharya gained access to a physical fitness training manual. The book contained exercises for gymnasts and wrestlers.
And guess what? They were of European origin.
It didn’t matter. Krishnamacharya saw the conditioning benefits and added them to his yoga practice.
He broke tradition. He modified what he knew with techniques he believed would benefit his students.
Krishnamacharya broke another tradition by teaching a woman hatha yoga.
Indra Devi was his first female student and she was tenacious. Krishnamacharya refused to teach her his yoga methods. But she persisted and he eventually took her in as a student.
You see, even “The Father of Modern Yoga” didn’t do things in a traditional manner.
Neither do we.
At Winter Garden Yoga, we take the most fundamental yoga poses and teach them in a safe way. With the method of Functional Yoga Instruction, you’ll get a lot of benefit without a lot of risk.
The Least You Need To Know
— Be careful when you hear things like, “we teach real yoga” or “we teach traditional yoga.” There is no such thing these days.
— “Traditional Yoga” doesn’t have anything to do with room temperature. Nor does it have anything to do with a specific style of Hatha yoga.
— Even the teacher credited for creating modern yoga broke tradition.
Here’s a great blog post to help you find the right studio for you.
You’ve got this!