Yoga means union. Literally, the word yoga translates as ‘to yolk’. Often this is translated as a union between body, mind and breath or a union between us and God or a union between us and all living creatures. Either way, the union of yoga would imply to me that everyone is welcome to the party.
This year marks 16 years of teaching for me and over 25 years of practice. In that time yoga has changed SO much. When I was first practicing there weren’t even many yoga studios, just teachers teaching out of church or school halls, many of them not accredited by any organisation as such, they’d just done their time in India and come back teaching what they had learnt. There were no real yoga celebrities and no social media. No online yoga, no youtube channels, no podcasts, no goat yoga or dog yoga or beer yoga. You COULD buy a yoga DVD and redo the same class 6,000 times.
And don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on a rant about how things have changed for the worse and do the ‘In my day…’ because another key component of yoga wisdom is that everything changes. And with that change becomes the need to evolve.
There are many aspects of todays yoga scene that I love and that I utilise myself. The ability to teach via zoom and teach some of my students in Australia as well as my students here has been amazing. The social media tools of instagram and Facebook allow me to talk to lots of my students at once and share information about what is happening at the studio. I can now also do classes online with some of my favourite teachers all over the globe. Podcasts educate me, yoga studios offer community, social media encourages activism and action and the online world allows for global connection.
BUT…there is a whole lot of total bullshit that comes with this world too. I’ve spoken before about the famous instagram yogis selling sex rather than yoga so I don’t need to bleat on about that again. Or how so many yoga teachers seem to be looking to get famous rather than actually TEACH.
Yes that stuff all still irks me but I’ve noticed a new trend on social media, I’m going to call it yoga shaming. Yesterday I saw a post from a pretty popular teacher saying ‘gentle stretching is the new handstand’ and a post on how we should be seeing more diversity on social media. I agree with this post, the content and the message but there is something underlying it that makes me question whether it is really just another way of saying ‘my yoga is better than your yoga’. It made me check myself, my opinions and my outlook on this stuff.
I firmly believe that yoga is for everybody because, for me, yoga is not just the shapes that are made on a mat. it is living the philosophy off the mat and using the practices to help do that. As my teacher Emily once said ‘You can change your name to Shakti Bhakti Goldberg but if you’re not being a good and kind person off the mat, it doesn’t mean a damn thing’
And my Ayurvedic training has taught me that we are all different and what one of us needs from a yoga practice is not what another of us wants. So some of us need the sweat and the push and the challenge of handstands, while another needs the gentle stretch and small movements of a therapeutic class, maybe we get a buzz from yin, from hot yoga, from restorative, from pranayama, meditation classes, kundalini and on we go. The point being that my yoga is not better than your yoga.
And so the theme of the month at the studio for October is diversity and union. Bringing together our different trainings, styles, yogic tools and offering them to you our students so you can experience some (possibly) new aspects of yoga and hopefully learn to love and appreciate it all. Let’s breathe, meditate and move together, in union.