“So, what type of yoga do you do?” It’s the number one question I’ve received since coming back from PYC—It’s as if knowing whether I like it hot, cold, flowy, or still will somehow define what kind of person I am. And it might, to a point. We all know the ‘bikram-ites’, and their military like discipline, or the high-energy vinyasa-ers, who seem to like their Lululemons tight, their music loud and their chattarangas in abundance. Do I keep my toes together in Tadasana? Do I lock my knees? Each teacher, studio, and practice comes with a million nuances. Coming back to Portland and beginning to teach and explore studios to be apart of, it has not only become a question of integrity in my asana (physical) practice and technique, but also a question of my moral and ethical technique. What aspects of my yoga are integral to my practice, and which do I feel ok changing or adapting?
Having recently found myself at a hot yoga studio, in a studio filled with mirrors, body-obsession, and barking commands, it has become a seemingly heavy question: Could I teach here, and feel ok about it? Can I instruct in a studio that wants me to make sure we do at least 10 minutes of strictly core workouts, so that clients can come closer to their own images of 6 pack abs perfection?
I hear PYC instructor Chris’s words in response: “If you are teaching just exercise, fine, but don’t call it yoga.” AND, paradoxically, “even through a purely physical asana practice, awareness of the meditative, moral and spiritual limbs of yoga will also natural arise” (paraphrased from YTT lectures). In thinking about this question, I’ve had to stop off my high horse, and realize that for the first few years of my practice, health and physical related goals ARE often what brought me to the mat. (Does anyone start a Bikram’s practice for any other reason?!?) In reflecting, I’ve found an understanding that what brings us to the mat is not really the ultimate question—It is ‘What do we take away?’ Really, whether you believe your toes should touch in tadasana, or whether you backbend in Surya Namaskar doesn’t really matter as much as where your practice takes you. From each different style, studio, and teacher, I have been able to take away what I needed (which may have been entirely different from the person practicing next to me). So as a teacher, I feel I can adapt a lot of my teaching technique to fit into different styles, as long as at the end of class, I can confidently say that I did my best to teach an all encompassing YOGA, and that my students were able to find what they were looking for, whether it be more mind, body, or spirit related. At the end of the day, anyone showing up at any yoga studio is searching– and as a teacher, all I can do is help bring in the awareness to the present, to their own inner wisdom, to hope that they can open up their eyes and find.