When Yoga Isn’t Yoga

There are all types of hybrid yoga classes popping up. But is it getting a little off the mark? When can you tell when the yoga class you are taking isn’t yoga?

I’ve been practicing and teaching yoga for six years. In that time, I’ve seen so many hybrid yoga classes spring up. It started perhaps with pilates and yoga merging into PiYo. Koga is kickboxing which combines yoga postures with punches, plyometrics, isometric movements, music and meditation. How about Sol Yoga that sandwiches 20 minutes of high-intensity training between traditional power Vinyasa, working your core, shoulders,  triceps and legs. Or there is Acro Yoga which makes you want to join Le Cirque du Soleil.

Then there are combos which don’t have anything to do with yoga. There is the sensational Yoga with Goats that is grabbing headlines. Why not add an intoxicant in there… Yoga with beer, wine, or cannabis.

I am not a yoga purist. There are many types of yoga that have come down through the centuries. All can be said to descend from the main accepted form, Hatha Yoga.

I’ve written how yoga has helped me in my cancer journey. The breathing and centering that yoga gave me inner strength to make it through. I kept going back to my training. Breathing mindfully through each pose, finding your edge, breathing and relaxing, breathing again. It is this conscious attention to breath that is the dynamic meditation of yoga. It is where, as the name Hatha suggests, the joining of the mind, body, and soul is found.

Occasionally, I like to mix things up. So I enrolled in a yoga studio near my work. All classes are “hot” and very active. None of them involve much floor and stretching work. You won’t find the words Yin or meditation in the class schedule. I spent all my classes on my hands and feet.

It was one particular class that drove me to believe that this is not yoga. It was a Yoga Sculpt class. Weights are added to give more intensity. Cool. I like the challenge. I add weights to my practice as well.

However, I found myself gasping and stumbling from pose to pose. I was at my maximum heart rate. I observed that most of my classmates were exactly in the same situation. Finally, as we collapsed in Savasana, the teacher announced that she would be teaching “Bootcamp” lessons next month. It clicked… this was not yoga. Gone was the connection with breath and motion. Gone was the connection with myself.

That has led me to conclude that any class that intends for you to lose your breath, to lose your connection to your body, that makes you stumble instead of mindfully place your pose, isn’t yoga. It can be called exercise… but it is not yoga. The benefits of yoga are attained through that connection. So breath and connect to your inner beautiful self.

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