There is a lot of “yoga” out there right now. A boom has occurred and every gym, fitness spot, grassy area, and beach is now offering “yoga.” There are live streams, videos, Youtube channels, memberships, subscriptions and more. Learn to differentiate between those that are Yoga and the rest.
What Is Yoga?
There are 8 specific aspects to the practice of Yoga. When all are included, you are practicing Yoga.
1) Yama: Restraint/Direction/Control
2) Niyama: Observation/Self Control
3) Pranayama: Directed Breathing
4) Asana: Intentional Movement
5) Pratyahara: Sense Withdrawal
6) Dharana: Focused Concentration
7) Dhyana: Meditation
8) Samadhi: Integration
To explain each of these in depth is a much deeper conversation. For those of you seeking a deeper understanding or wishing to learn more about the history and philosophies of Yoga, begin by joining a class. A high quality teacher will incorporate these terms and explain them as they apply to what happens on and off of your mat.
Technique is Important
Asana (Yoga poses) change the way we move. The technique behind each position is important because it forces us to think and focus upon the way in which we are habitually using our bodies. Your teacher should be cueing postures in very specific ways in order to encourage you to redirect your attention and consider your habits. The value lies in understanding how to execute the postures well. Once you have developed this skill, then you can begin to move more quickly and gracefully through them.
Did you know that Yoga has influenced most of the major spiritual practices in the world? Ancient Indians were seeking answers. They wanted to know why the world is the way it is. They were studying the stars, the Earth and human nature. During class you should be learning about the philosophies and history of Yoga as well as how to integrate the practices into your life. Learning about the history of Yoga and the various practices that stemmed from it will help you to develop a deeper understanding and discernment among the various styles that have branched from the roots of the practice.
Yoga is something that we do all of the time. It happens on your mat, in the lobby, in your car and as you travel through the world. Your teacher should be giving you homework. As they teach, they should be offering focus points and concepts to consider. After you complete your mat practice (Asana) you may feel calm, steady and at ease. In your mind, though, there should be something that you carry out with you. Something that you consider beyond the mat. You should feel as though you are ready to make a tiny change or shift in your life that might just make things better. If you leave sweaty, tired and feeling like you got a work out, then you did, but it wasn’t Yoga.
Ancestry Means Something
It's nice to know where you came from. Your individual ancestry can help you to identify who you are. In the same way, the line of teachers that provided knowledge and guidance to the one you practice with can provide you with a better understanding of why they teach the way they do. Lineage in Yoga is a valuable bit of information.
Did you know that Raja is the root of all Yoga? Hatha is the seed of modern Yoga. All Yoga began at the time of the Vedas during which traditions and practices were shared orally. It wasn't until people began to write (The Vedas and Upanishads) that the practices were codified.
Knowing who your teachers are can make a difference in your understanding of the practice. If your teacher can trace their training back to a teacher who is trained in the traditional and authentic practice (Raja and Hatha) they probably have a stronger grasp on what Yoga is.
If your teacher cannot identify the lineage in which they were trained they may not be a teacher at all. Instructors can tell you to move, to breath and to focus. Teachers give you the tools to access Yoga. Those who continue to study, observe and deepen their own practice become guides who can show you the way to practice Yoga authentically.
Religion, Culture, Wisdom
LIfestyle practices including Hinduism and Buddhism influenced the way in which Yoga was described. As the stories of the Vedas were written, they were transformed by the way in which people were living at the time. Each new translation of the stories; from Sanskrit to Persion, then to Latin and eventually English, that which was written was changed. Beliefs, religion, culture and more effected the way in which the ancient texts were translated.
Even today there are new books, insights, perspectives and thoughts on how to practice Yoga. Every instructor has their own ideas they want to share. It can be challenging to find a guide with whom you connect. Keep practicing and searching for the right one.
Yoga In Everything, Everywhere
Every time we read the writings as they are translated by a new story teller, we are given a new perspective. The explanations change as a result of current culture, influence, experiences and individual meta-cognition.
Although the practices remain consistent; Asta-anga (eight limbs) must be practiced in order for Yoga to occur, the approach changes. Dependent upon where you were raised, your beliefs, teachers, guides and circumstances effect your practice.
One thing remains true for all of us: Yoga exists in everything, everywhere. We just need to reveal it. Stick with it. Practice Yoga Everywhere. Discover your Self.
If you would like to discuss or learn more about the history of Yoga and the practices of Raja and Hatha book a Realignment Coaching Session with Jenay or begin deepening your practice through the Lake Tahoe Yoga School 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Program.
Becoming A Yoga Teacher
Did you know that anyone can be a Yoga instructor? Anyone at any time can say that they know how to teach Yoga and can easily begin selling Yoga classes. There is no certification required, no registration, no education.
Of course, we know that this is not what makes a person a Yoga teacher. The ability to instruct people to move through various postures does not necessitate special training. However, the skills needed to guide people through a Yoga sequence that intentionally creates physical, energetic and emotional change requires depth of study and practice. The Yoga Alliance provides us with a set of guidelines to follow in our training.
Self Study is one of the most important practices a Yoga teacher must do. While studying the texts, philosophies and practices of Yoga we must apply that which we learn to our lives. We must move with the intention of noticing how it effects our own bodies and live as witnesses and observers of our own thoughts, speech and actions.
Teaching Yoga requires constant practice and study. It requires self awareness, continued study, growth and development. A Yoga teacher is always practicing, but not always posing. They are developing deeper awareness of themselves in order to gain a better understanding of the practitioners whom they guide.
Intense, but not Intensive
The training required to become a Yoga teacher is intense, but it should not be intensive. The quality of the training a blossoming practitioner attends can make the difference between them becoming an instructor or a teacher.
The most common initial Yoga teacher training program is 200 hours in length. A comprehensive program includes everything from history to anatomy and should also cover the philosophy and practices of traditional Yoga. To fully grasp these concepts it is important that a budding teacher apply them to life. To do this, we must walk the walk and talk the talk, everywhere. We must take the time to understand and apply everything we learn. A quality Yoga teacher takes the time necessary to develop themselves, their knowledge and their own practice.
Everyone has their own special set of skills. A quality Yoga teacher does more than instruct poses. They absorb themselves into the practice and radiate their passion into the studio as well as out in the world. Every aspect of their life is dissolved in Yoga. Listen to how your teacher speaks, watch them move, notice what they do while demonstrating or moving through the room. Listen for their unique set of skills.
Learn about your teacher. Do they have a degree? In what field? What lives did they live before they became a Yoga teacher? How does their past effect the way in which they teach? Each one of us applies that which we had learned before we became Yoga teachers to the way in which we teach and live. When you practice with a quality Yoga teacher you will be able to see, hear and feel who they are as a result of their past experiences.
Value Your Teacher
Standing on your head, jumping from downward dog to handstand and being able to wrap your legs behind your shoulders does not qualify you to teach Yoga. In fact, many teachers lack the flexibility to access many of the party trick poses you will find on Instagram. In addition, just because your teacher can do these things that does not mean they can teach you to access the positions in your body or that your body can move in those ways.
Think about your favorite teachers in school. What qualities made them memorable? A quality Yoga training offers more than instruction during a work out. The teacher should create space, energy, guidance, support, instruction, direction, passion, enthusiasm and availability. The practice of Yoga is a way of life and they should share their life with you every time they teach.
When you find your Yoga teacher demonstrate how much you value them by paying full price, letting others know what makes them different and showing up to support what they do and continue to learn and grow with them.
If you just chose this blog because of the title, take a moment to reflect upon that which you were hoping to get from reading it. Begin with these two words: “Yoga” and “Brand.” These two words inherently do not fit together. A brand is something that had been manufactured. Yoga is a practice that was discovered thousands of years ago. A brand is owned, distributed and sold. Yoga is none of these. It is everywhere, to be lived by anyone, for free. Yoga is not a product.
[The first space in which Raja Hatha Yoga was practiced in Lake Tahoe.]
Location, Location, Location
A brand is all about looking good. The right location, models, lighting, attitude, motto, all matters. You have to consider the demographic and customer you are trying to reach. You have to sell.
This is not Yoga. No matter how hard I try to sell you on trying for the first time, second, going somewhere new, attempting a different approach, or convincing you that it will change your life, you have to be ready to become a Yoga practitioner.
No matter how pretty or new or shiny the studio space. No matter how sexy, strong or flexible those joining the class may be, you have to be ready to change yourself. Yoga is not about location. It is about mindset.
No matter how good you are at posing you will still need practice in order to discover Yoga. Sure, you may look good in your Lululemon pants and your Athleta top while you are handstand floating to the front of your mat. Regardless of your ability to access Virabhadrasana Eka or Ashtavrakasana we all have to keep practicing to work within.
Yoga is not a show. It is a practice of mindful movement, breath, and ultimately letting go of expectations. When you practice it may be with a large group, small group or individually. The space in which you practice, style that you choose and those with whom you join in are not what matter. It is your attitude that makes the difference.
Are you here to be seen or to See?
Who are You Following?
A brand sells because you desire to be like that which you see. Fit, strong, relaxed, affluent, happy, whatever it is you desire, the company selling is doing everything they can to convince you that their product will change you. We all know that it won't. No piece of clothing, yoga mat, block, strap, or new tool is going to make you a better person. Only you can do that.
Before beginning, trying again, or returning to the practice consider what you are seeking in a teacher. Seek out a guide who is knowledgeable beyond Asana and who understands and practices the philosophies of Yoga. Find someone who is authentically themselves all of the time. Your teacher should be real, dedicated, truthful, vibrant and fearless to be themselves no matter what. For this will encourage you to do the same.
If you are considering beginning, trying again, or returning to the practice and would like advice, guidance or assistance please reach out to Jenay. Whether choosing Lake Tahoe Yoga or another location in which to practice she is happy to provide support to anyone interested in practicing Yoga.