What is Yoga right here right now in London?

3I6A1891-2Last International Yoga Day, I started writing a new Blog Post instead of just posting a picture of myself doing a probably bendy looking posture!

If I say “Instagram Yoga”, what comes to your mind? To mine comes the image of a very good-looking woman wearing quite little and probably doing an inversion at the same time as a massive back bend -hollow back I think they call it- and looking very relaxed and content. I haven’t really tried an inversion like that, and I’m not sure I would find that relaxing. Probably I’d just break my back. But I recognise that to get there they may have worked really hard, and I’m not anyone to say that, it is not Yoga. But to be honest I’m not interested in that at all. I’m not interested in goat yoga either, not beer yoga, nor climbing yoga…but yoga is the base of my current life. It influences my relationships, my self-love and image, it influences my actions, my eating habits, my way of being here in this world. I’m interested in Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Flow and Hot Yoga, and I’m particularly fascinated with the effect of this later one, Hot Yoga. But for some people Hot Yoga is not “real” yoga, what is yoga then? right now, right here? I know the answer in my heart but probably that won’t be enough for some people, so I’ll do my best to give my humble opinion.

A few days before International Yoga Day I saw a campaign, this time on Facebook, about saving yoga from crazy hybrid practices such as beer yoga and from big businesses. Perhaps they are right, beer yoga is just going too far. But what’s wrong with hot yoga? At least that is what I jumped to, because I love practising it. There were all sorts of comments, some quite offensive around this post, and then I spotted one saying, “Telling what is Not Yoga is not yoga”. It just made me think…To make it very clear, I don’t like Bikram Choudhury, but I believe that he had a great business idea and made a good sequence (It really doesn’t suit my body but it suits other bodies, for me it is similar as with ashtanga yoga (it doesn’t suit my body), at the end of the day Ashtanga Yoga as we know it now was designed by a person, one single person that has been idolised -now I’m in trouble, don’t hate me my ashtangy friends!-: Patthabi Jois), Bikram Yoga has influenced many lives, I know a few people that absolutely love it and they swear the effects of calmness and stillness in their mind after a class are unbeatable, it’s yoga.

What elements should we consider for the practice to be yoga in London? I’m afraid that yoga cannot be only geographically placed in India, it has crossed all borders and it is everywhere now.

I will try to list a few elements, like a brainstorm:

  • Breath work – extension of the breath, and some retention.
  • Meditation element: Seeking the mind to be controlled, calm, still.
  • Physical postures, including forwards folds, side bends, back bends and twists.
  • Physical mindful elements such as strength, flexibility, balance, mobility and stillness.
  • Philosophical principles, and this could be quite tricky to find in a class that is only focused on physical elements but quite possible to find without textual instruction if focused on meditation and breath work. Could be the attitude towards ourselves, towards the others, overcoming fear, expanding the limits of the mind and the body, practising gratitude, contentment, etc.

I strongly believe that if the Yoga practice that you do brings you satisfaction, the sense of contentment, improves the relationships that you have with others and it encourages you to love yourself or at least to resolve and improve the relationship that you have with your own self, then it probably IS Yoga.

Why did I want to mention London…Because I live here and live yoga here in London. I understand that the yoga I practise is mostly physical and that, if we go to the roots of yoga, the traditions and practices are vast, and they largely focus on Meditation. But there are also roots of Modern Yoga traditions and those are very physical, the practices have been evolving and reinterpreted over the last century.

I believe that the more yoga/meditation people do, the better this world will be. And instead of feeling possessive around the practices, and in cases spreading hate/anger with violent comments, particularly on social media, we should think that as long as they spread love and compassion, then it is fine.

Happy everyday Yoga Day 🙂

 

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