I just started practicing yoga on the advice of a friend. Admittedly I’m more a gym rat and treadmill fiend so I was hesitant at first but it’s grown on me. The thing is, I take the yoga classes at my gym and they’re basically all taught by the personal trainers there. I’m loving it but people are telling me it’s not “real yoga” and that I should go off and find a “real” yoga studio. But if I like it and I’m feeling good why should I leave for what others are telling me is the real thing? Yoga’s pretty popular now so I don’t feel so much like a dirty hippie (no offense) taking classes in the comfort zone of my gym. Should I tell the purists to buzz off? Should I listen to them and try a yoga studio even if it means costing me more money? What am I missing? What’s “real yoga” mean anyway? — Sincerely, Gym Yoga Rat
Dear Gym Yoga Rat –
We’ve heard this “real yoga” beeswax before. You want to know what real yoga is? The first place to look is in a book. No really. Sure yoga class will teach you some fancy moves to whip out at a party, but knowing yoga’s history and lineage will give you perspective on the practice, which will then allow you to deliberate and make your own decision of what real yoga is, to you. Follow? Stay with me. Yoga in America is BIG business and there are plenty of yogapreneurs out there to tell you their yoga is the ultimate absolute best: find enlightenment! heal your sickness! solve all your problems, money back guaranteed! There’s yoga everywhere – gym yoga, yoga franchises, video games, the Yoga ‘Don’, yoga offered to “real people” with the tagline “No Chanting, No Granola, No Sanskrit” – but does that mean it’s not real? Eh. Summoning our inner LeVar Burton – take a look, it’s in a book*. And just a tip, anyone marketing it as “real yoga” is doing just that, marketing.
The sanskrit word “Yoga” literally translates to something close to “union.” The traditional practice is a uniting of the mind and body. Ask yourself why you’re practicing. If you really want to dig deep, pull a Gilbert and flee to India (or Scotland, I guess) for your own Eat, Pray, Love journey. If you’re yoga-ing for feelgood exercise, typically an asana-focused practice (physical poses), then yes perhaps you should check out the dirty hippie joints in your area. There are so many different types, spinoffs and specialized offerings these days that trying out a tasting menu of as many as possible is to your benefit. I hear they even clean the mats now!
What is real yoga? Is it asana; meditation; pranayama; devout piousness; pretzel competitions; prehabilitation; rehabilitation; butt-hugging status symbol profit? You decide. After all, while some love to wear it on their rumps, you could say the “real yoga” happens on the inside.
- Linda’s got a great list of books to start your yoga journey
- yoga.about.com is a good neutral place to start some digging
- Yoga Journal a solid resource for articles
- and of course any of the blogs you see on the right column under “What YogaDorks are Reading” are all especially great resources
YD readers if you have more to add please contribute in the comments!
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The Yogacist will be a recurring weekly column featured every Tuesday on YogaDork.com – to entertain, to educate, to let you know you’re not alone!