Monday, April 2, 2012
Is Old School Yoga Becoming Extinct?
Is Old School Yoga on it's way to extinction or can the more modern methods and Old School methods coexist? It reminds me of the 80's when snowboarding started to become popular. Skiers and Snowboarders butted heads for many years and still occasionally do, but both are surviving on the Mountain together. (I'm Old School here too...Snowboarders test my yoga patience).
I attended The International Yoga Festival in Early March, where in 2007 I came to meet one of my primary teachers Vamadeva/Dr. Frawley. This year he and Yogaini Shambhavi did not speak there and for students like myself, I felt this year, there was little there for me. As I gathered from the locals and attendees through the years, the word was that things had become too "Hollywood"....and too physically focused. Personally, I attended Kundalini Yoga, one Iyengar cass, and the rest was lecture. The lectures were not well attended, while the asana classes were so packed, many people were turned away. I then realized how blessed I am that my studio does as well as it does because of what and how we teach and where we teach it.
Old School studios and teachers frequently mention their frustration concerning the Boom of yoga as a popular exercises (substituting asana class as Yoga), one that may harm the practitioner or creates the impression on beginner "yogis" that, often times, is one that gets them accustomed to focusing more on the external rather than the internal. Truth be told, it's more difficult to work the mind, which requires healing the aches and pains of the heart that many people do not feel safe tapping into (because our culture is so external), but one thing I know is...this is where Yoga (by definition, not by asana brand) is found and where personal growth and compassion is cultivated. I'm not writing about yoga asana injuries here, as that has been beaten to death already, I am simply bringing this up because so many beginners hurt themselves and never give yoga a second chance (the tragedy). This is why us Old Schoolers get our yoga mats all bunched up in a wad. Asana alone is not yoga, but yoga can be taught through asana.
Through the years my attitude has gone back and forth on the subject of the Old School or Modern approach, usually concluding that we are all on our own path and who are we to judge what path is greater than the other? I support people practicing whatever physical practice they wish to practice and the only thing I might change is what we call our classes (and maybe hunker down more on the quality of education yoga teacher are receiving...which is another topic altogether). Asana Class is more appropriate or even Inspired Asana Class in many cases. I even feel like this regarding my studio if the class is more than 50% asana (which are most of them). I have been to power vinyasa yoga classes, Iyengar classes, or any hybrid class you can imagine (except Bikram since I know I can not handle the heat) and if the class is void of pranayama, then to me, it's not yoga (my opinion). Otherwise, if the teacher teaches us to breathe and offers modifications that help calm and center our bodies and minds...then this is Yoga (no matter what the style). Yoga is everywhere if we are taught what yoga actually is, unfortunately, those lessons are fewer and fewer because it is the rare student who will sit and listen to a 15 minute lecture on yoga philosophy before asana class begins.
So, this is an educational blog entry for those who love Old School yoga. If you wish these kinds of studios to stay in business and these kinds of teachers to keep teaching, then you need to support them. I see and hear a lot of talk from individuals regarding being "into" the deeper teachings, though the physical body still seems to rule because why else would the Old School studios and Old School teachers be shutting down and giving up? We say we want a more Sattvic mind, though we take most of our classes that feed the Rajasic mind that already rules us and causes us frustration and suffering.
It has always been my wish that we could all work together, to cultivate Unity in the yoga commUNITY and I am seeing some of this, though we still have a long way to go. There are studios we regularly refer who offer what we do not and they also do the same for us, but this is rare. What I see more often is studios and teachers trying to be all things to all people and this leads to a break down in community and expertise in certain areas.