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Yoga And The New Discipline

in YogOpinions

new-disciplineby J. Brown

The novelty of yoga has been worn down to almost nothing by a multi-billion dollar industry that cares little for its tenets, like the crumbling shreds of a shoddily made pvc mat from China. But from out of the ashes of craven images and advertising schemes, a new discipline is emerging.

Early on, just as the nineties boom happened, I found my way into to a niche that challenged some of the conventional wisdom that became standard in yoga classes. As the years have gone on and the industry has grown, a lot of that conventional wisdom I was originally pushing up against has been morphed by standardized teaching methods and data-driven business models. In the absence of the old rubrics by which yoga was once gauged, alternate criteria for teaching and learning yoga are being adopted.

Questioning power dynamics, inclusivity, and safety is the new normal.

Never before have I seen so much “bottom-up” sort of change in yoga. There was a time when protocols all came from the masters atop the disciple pyramid. And while some maintain that this dissolution of the original hierarchy of transmitters is where yoga has gone wrong, the fact remains that the majority of teachers are no longer looking for answers from on high. Credibility is no longer something bestowed upon you but is instead determined by the work you do and the inclinations of the yoga-going consumer.

Also, decades or more of sticking to unexamined directives and their related injuries have caused many to become disillusioned with the bill of goods we were once sold. Pain tends to be more convincing than the power of myth. And while those images of Tao Porchon-Lynch doing unbelievable poses at age 98 are still amazing, the three hip replacements she’s had along the way are seemingly more relevant than ever. Now that yoga has become so firmly codified as the emblem of a healthy lifestyle, the determination of its efficacy is being more thoroughly weighed against people’s actual experience and the rigors of science.

Teachers are expected to make students feel safe in ways that early innovators were not concerned with. Even those who consider this trend to be a detrimental form of political correctness are still having to make adjustments to protect themselves in the new climate. Of course, this is greatly complicated by the advent and predominance of social media, which has created new avenues for obfuscation and garnering market share.

Students are coming to yoga with an entirely different set of filters than previous generations.

Average newbee yoga attendees of today rarely arrive with any expectation of deep philosophical inquiry, or are even interested in yoga outside of its potential fitness benefits. Emphasis on the physicalities, and the creation of gym-style scaled yoga centers,  have effectively compartmentalized and packaged classes into a sort of teaser, geared more towards enticing participation in lucrative trainings than providing instruction in any traditional sense.

Evolving scholarship has not only been laying bare an edifice of faith, but has coincided with the passing of Guru lineage holders and the falling pedestals of once powerful brand ambassadors. Impassioned yoga students of today would have a field day with the likes of BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois in their Yelp reviews. Harsh adjustments are becoming taboo, consent cards and trauma sensitivity training are the new fashion.

Where does the influence of the teacher end and the students’ self-empowerment begin? Is yoga a process of adherence or discovery, or both?

Most yoga teachers, on some level, were trained to tell people what to do. Most students expect this of their teachers. But, in absorbing all these shifts underfoot, sincere teachers are beginning to change what they are telling people. They are no longer comfortable with a continuation of the same shapes and cues that failed to lead to the heights they were promised. With external authorities stripped of some of their stature, practitioners have no choice but to resort to the discovery of their own devices.

Good teachers are still imperative. Everybody needs a little help sometimes. There wants to be a way for someone to invite a friendly, and hopefully informed, outside reverence when pursuing a process of self-healing and support. Regardless of the viewpoint that we subscribe to in yoga, be it of a more athletic , scientific, or spiritual bent, the proof is always going to be in the people. Like it or not, we just can’t get away with the same old shit anymore. Those rising to the challenge by providing an example of transparency and honesty, are the ones inspiring new generations of earnest aspirants to carry the torch forward.

The new discipline is inner-knowing. Teachers are only so good as they are conducive to a person no longer needing them. The veil has been lifted just enough that there is no pulling it back over our heads. Time has come for us to get clearer about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Effective yoga teaching is becoming less about imposing an arbitrary catechism on someone’s experience, and more about stirring the kind of inquiries that lead to students being able to make their own determinations.


J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer, podcaster and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY.  His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and across the yoga blogosphere.  Visit his website at jbrownyoga.com



37 comments… add one
  • Effective yoga teaching comes from someone who is committed to the path of yoga and their own practice. The physical practice of course, can be a stand alone, but the dynamic healing and change comes from the inward practice. Faithfulness to one lineage and their teachings and practice serves no one but the administrators of that lineage. Yoga is personal. Offer guidance, not dogma.

    • Flo

      Hear hear!
      I might have to steal your last sentence.

      Although I found my momentary home with Ashtanga, I wholeheartedly agree.

      It´s a bit like religion. People are following enlightened people, hoping that they can benefit from their wisdom and experiences. What most fail to realize, however, is that those experiences are highly individual and there is no shortcut to walking your own path.

      Which is of course much harder than displaying commitment to a particular group plus an occasional prayer.

      Same with Yoga, as you said.


  • I needed this! Sometimes I allow my laziness to determine whether or not I make it to my mat. Sometimes it’s the fatigue, sometimes it’s the pain, but I try my best to not allow more than 2 days between practices. I sometimes wonder do i need a good motivating yoga teacher.

  • This blog has inspired me to start my own blog. I loved the way you described your experiences throughout.

  • Karen

    Yes, Tao has had 3 hip replacements, but said just this weekend that she wishes that she hadn’t let someone convince her to get them, that she believes that she could have healed herself with her own wisdom and healing practice, and saved herself a lot of suffering. She spent much time and energy describing how to not hurt yourself in certain poses, things she’d learned from practicing since 8, studying and living her practice, teaching for 77 years. She is such an inspiration for those of us who are growing through aging! The life force, positivity, wisdom, humility, compassion, and strength on so many levels inspired by her deep belief in yoga I would argue IS what we could emulate to find once again the depth , bredth, and possibility of a yoga practice!

  • Kim

    I like how Remski and Brown like to criticize practitioners in their 90s (Iyengar and Porchon-Lynch) for having injuries. Iyengar pretty much practice until a few weeks of his death and Tao is still going strong. Most 50 year olds are not even in this good of shape. I intend to seek out Remski and Brown when they are in their 90s and see if they are even still practicing at that age. I doubt it, they are too into social media clicks with their fan clubs.

    • skrab

      That’s a very unwarranted criticism. I don’t know who Remski is, but J Brown is refreshing in his candor and honesty. I don’t get the sense that he’s in it for a social media following.

    • Hatha Yogi

      You don’t need to wait until they’re in their 90s, Kim — they aren’t doing much practice now. Their own fear has led them to perpetuate the falsity that certain postures or vigor in practice lead inevitably to injury, and they salivate every time a dedicated practitioner gets injured, running to their keyboards to exclaim with delight to their echo-chamber social networks, “See!? I told you!”. Ironically, J (in his early 40s) suffers from persistent back pain, which could likely be prevented if he had a more dedicated and thorough asana practice. I’d love to have these 40-something guys go through a mobility screening test alongside someone like Tao Porchon-Lynn and see how they compare.

      • Kim

        Thanks Hatha Yogi. I’m noticing a disturbing trend of these social media yogis who promote their latest workshops and power point presentations to convince people of the evils of traditional yoga. These social media yogis say if only people would do a sanitized “safe place” non-Hindu based version of easy stretch yoga promoted in these lightweight workshops, then there would be no injuries or dangers from the “patriarchy.” I have seen these same social media yogis cyber bully those who are in established systems and make people feel bad about their faith and beliefs. Just look on the Yoga Movement and Research FB page headed by Diane Bruni and you will see a lot of this type of bullying. God forbid if you say you practice Asthanga or Iyengar styles on that page.

        • The attitude that you describe has made me leery about responding to articles and posts. It doesn’t encourage open dialogue and learning . Seems like a reflection of what is happening in our world.

        • juanita

          I agree Kim. I saw a post on Diane Bruni’s site recently where an Iyengar teacher queried Remski on his credentials. Apparently, he was criticizing someone else who is researching the origins of hatha yoga for not being credentialed and peer reviewed. The teacher asked Remski if he held himself to the same standards (valid credentials, peer review of his work). Remski flew into a rage and came back at her with a bunch of ad hominem attacks, and also attacked Iyengar. The thing is, the fact that Iyengar could be abusive and demanding is common knowledge (most Eastern teachers are that way–look at the martial arts), yet Remski keeps dredging this up. It’s a tired worn dialog and he’s gotten the mileage he could get, yet neither he nor J. Brown have much else to contribute. They make their bucks off the criticism of Iyengar and Pattabhi. I don’t deny that each had things that deserved criticism. Now it’s time to take what they started and improve on it. I agree with you. Remski and Brown both seem to celebrate injuries and manipulate them to write about. Good comments Kim and Hatha Yogi!

          • Kim

            Thanks jaunita!
            There is a lot of thinly veiled hatred coming out of the Bruni/Remski/Brown camps. I urge people to be careful about following these folks. If you have any doubts to the veracity of these claims, just look at those who try to cross them on their FB pages. They get mobbed by the throngs of brainwashed fans of triggered White women. Most of J.’s posts lately have been about his midlife crisis in having to close down his studio to make way for the next Corepower. Rather than bowing out gracefully, he is lashing out at those who have established traditions which will last longer than his legacy. Sad.

          • x

            juanita, could you provide a link for the discussion you are describing on Bruni’s site with Remski? My criticisms of remski and brown are a bit different than yours but I also am not a huge fan. Thank you for mentioning Diane Bruni, I was unaware of her and the articles I’m looking at now seem very interesting.

          • Kim

            Hi x. Check out the Yoga Movement and Research facebook page. That place is like the “Jerry Springer” of yoga. They (Bruni, Remski and Michaelle Edwards) pretty much just indicted Pattabhi Jois for rape based on his demo videos. Anyone who speaks up in Jois’ defence is mobbed by the pitchfork-wielding crowd on that page. I think a lot of people just hang out on that page to see the drama. Hardly any “research” going on there. Too bad it is being represented as such.

          • Donald J

            @Kim: The “Jerry Springer” of yoga! Lol! Yes, I agree that page is mostly just gossip and some odd links to “movement”. No research really. Page seems to have been co-opted by this fellow Remski. Some of it’s a hoot, though! Apparently he thinks that folks doing yoga should engage in “long term talk therapy” (at which point I needed a barf bag…). Fortunately, that kind of navel gazing won’t get much traction. It is kind of a hoot though!

          • Kim

            The funny thing is Remski is quite the abuser himself. Have you seen how he belittles people who don’t agree with him. Then all of his followers mob them and purges them from the group. Remski reminds as someone who is psychologically abusive. I have read that he interrogated that teacher who was let go from her teaching position in Ottawa and made her cry. This is the same guy who leads workshops on “trauma sensitive yoga.” Hardly a “hoot” and more of a “sham.”

  • Corey

    great blog i found this program that seemed really good for weight lost. http://bit.ly/2hix70r

  • Great article, thanks for all! Yoga, like anything, is only as good as the intent of those teaching and those learning; stay focused and “listen to the right voices”.
    May I ask a favor? I know that you are extremely busy but if you can manage to carve out a few minutes, I would be greatly honored. I’m looking to help self-help authors; plus I’m also looking for examples and stories by non-authors too on how positive techniques have helped: http://tinyurl.com/j922xrc Thanks. Ter Scott!

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  • Wow! What a great read. The traditional path of yoga has truly worn off on today’s newbie yogis. I think the truth behind it has been masked by the superficial idea that yoga will fix everything around us but is forgotten that yoga starts within as to present to us real time contentment. It isn’t about the leggings or the backbends but the journey the mind takes with the body. Beyond the physical movements, yoga finds a deeper meaning in the mind which many have forgotten. As with any new trend, the uprise creates a speed of urgency to those jumping the bandwagon with little or no foundation. Hopefully there will be a time in which the spiritual ailment will find its truth within all new coming yogis but it all starts with information, or a blog! 😉

  • Wow! What a great read. The traditional path of yoga has truly worn off on today’s newbie yogis. I think the truth behind it has been masked by the superficial idea that yoga will fix everything around us but is forgotten that yoga starts within as to present to us real time contentment. It isn’t about the leggings or the backbends but the journey the mind takes with the body. Beyond the physical movements, yoga finds a deeper meaning in the mind which many have forgotten. As with any new trend, the uprise creates a speed of urgency to those jumping the bandwagon with little or no foundation. Hopefully there will be a time in which the spiritual ailment will find its truth within all new coming yogis but it all starts with information, or a blog! 😉


  • Hello all,

    I agree with what Ter Scott when they say “listen to the right voices.” Yoga is much more than a physical journey. It’s a spiritual journey as well.

    If you are able to actually find people that will actually help you down a spiritual path, make sure you follow them and listen to what they say. These are the people that will help you achieve what you are looking for when it comes to yoga.

  • This is a nice post. Yoga is not only helpful in improving your health but it provides mental peace as well.

  • I agree with this post. Time as really come for us to get clearer about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Thank you so much for this post.

  • Yoga, an antiquated yet consummate science, manages the development of mankind, this advancement incorporates all parts of one’s being, from real wellbeing to self acknowledgment. Yoga implies union — the union of body with awareness and cognizance with the spirit. yoga develops the methods for keeping up an adjusted mentality in everyday life and enriches ability in performance of one’s activities.

  • Yoga combines the knowledge of modern science with the depth of ancient wisdom. We at Yogalife, approach is open, embracing perennial wisdom, to teach how to connect directly with your heart. We encourage you to listen to and trust the voice of your inner self. In fact, yoga, with its powerful techniques for creating a sense of inner peace, harmony, and clarity of mind, is absolutely relevant to the modern world–both East and West. You can also be a part of Yoga with us and join the classes here: http://yogalife.org/classes/item/yoga-classes-with-anne-macnabb-in-geneva-switzerland

  • Brooke


  • Thank you so much for sharing such post, I inspired a lot to write my own blog and to starts a daily yoga practice.

  • Vic Proulx

    “The central enterprise of a true civilization is the development of conscious happy human beings, who understand how to transform themselves and uplift their conscious.” – A YouTube personality named Inayat

  • nice post and good information.the yoga is included in Ayurveda treatment thank you fro sharing this information.I really enjoyable to read your post.thank you so much

  • yoda is a one of the ayurveda treatment .The importance of ayurveda, ayu implies life Veda implies information. It’s called information of life.

  • You’re right, the people coming to yoga are coming for different reasons in general than before. I think the busy lifestyle we lead has something to do with it

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