A Yoga Teacher's Identity Crisis, Part I: Why I Need to Define Yoga

BACKGROUND: Both my parents are very highly educated.  My father is a Pediatric Endocrinologist, my mother has a PhD in Biochemistry and evolved to become self studied in naturopathy, herbalism, and anything else in the realm of non-western medicine.  They are both highly inquisitive, deeply thoughtful, and well-read individuals—attributes I never thought applied to me.  As I’ve delved into the world of yoga and movement, I’ve discovered a passion I never knew I had, and with that, a deep curiosity I also never thought I had.  I am the type of person who now wants to understand why.  I have a need to justify, to rationally explain, to connect the dots.  This is partly a type-A thing, partly a passion driven thing, but mostly a parental influence thing for which I’m truly grateful.

WHY I WANT TO SHARE THIS WITH YOU: As I ponder my current yoga teacher identity crisis, it’s crossed my mind several times that none of you may actually give a rat’s a$$ about my evolution.  Why should you?  Your yoga practice is personal to you.  You may attend classes with various teachers to get a well balanced practice, you may attend class once a month or less and therefore consider your yoga practice as kind of a random once-in-while exercise.  Who knows, but what does it have to do with me? Not much.  However, if you’re on this email list, you’ve most likely been to my class and enjoyed it.  And if you’ve been to my class or decide to come again, I need you to know why I teach the way I teach.  Even if it’s not important to you, it’s important to me that an explanation exists about the process behind what I’m doing.  Even though it’s all subject to change at any moment, there’s always an intention.  In my perspective, intention is everything.  If we don’t live with intention, we’re just floating around aimlessly.  

AN IMPORTANT QUESTION: If you’re not interested, I’m not offended in the least.  If you are interested, you might read on.  My identity crisis revolves around this question:  What makes a yoga class a yoga class?  Is it the breath work? But not all teachers focus on breath.  Is it the flow? But not all teachers teach flow.  Is it the poses? But teachers add their own variations of poses these days.  Is it the spiritual element? But many students do not consider their practice a spiritual one.  Is it the environment, the sacred space? But I have taught yoga in the middle of the High Line on a busy summer Saturday.  Is it the mind/body/breath connection?  But some runners or martial arts practitioners consider their movement to also be a meditative act of mind/body/breath connection.  So then what makes yoga yoga?  I want to believe there IS a universal answer, but I haven’t found it, so I will resolve for now that it depends on the practitioner.  For me, my yoga practice is a place to turn my anxious mind off.  To cultivate a deep sense of awareness of the subtleties of my body that seem impossible to access during everyday life in the city.  It is a place that seems sacred, that evokes a feeling of home.  A place where I can cry if I need to and no one will judge me.  A place where I am so in tune with myself that I start to understand my habits, my struggles, where I push too much, where I am insecure, where I start to ask uncomfortable questions.  There is attention to breath, but it may not perfectly link with my movement. There is movement of my body, but it may not look like traditional yoga postures. There can be a physical challenge, but there doesn’t have to be. There can be music, but there doesn’t have to be. Really, what I think it boils down to for me is awareness during movement in a safe space.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Yoga has had a dramatic evolution over the past 30 years in Western culture, not to mention its evolution since its earliest mentions in the ancient Vedic texts.  So, what yoga IS is not set in stone, it’s a conversation.  So before I continue with part 2 of this post, I’d like to extend the question to you. 

What makes yoga yoga to YOU?

Please feel free to comment below or email me directly.