Wednesday, September 5, 2007
A good friend of mine is exploring yoga and asked me this question (I'm paraphrasing): "Do you think that yoga in a gym that claims to build strength and give you a good workout is not real yoga?"
I wanted to share my answer because I feel very passionately about people doing yoga...whatever kind you can get your hands on!!
Here was my response:
I am sure you will find opinions on all sides of the spectrum...because I know I have. There are some yoga devotees who think that unless you have an actual guru from India guiding you you won't fully reap the benefits from yoga. I think that is crazy talk! :-) Yoga is personal and internal as much as it is physical. I know thousands of years ago when people in India started doing yoga, it was meant to prepare the body for hours of seated meditation. So if you think about it that is strengthening and stretching the body/muscles. In this country we have made it our own, of course. I don't think that makes it any less "yoga" or any less effective. Plus, there are plenty of places who teach very traditional yoga in the U.S. If you practice a vigorous form of yoga like vinyasa flow or power yoga you will see strength gains bc of the work your muscles are doing to keep you stable and balanced. That is a great benefit. I can't imagine any style of yoga, even the least strenuous and most meditative that doesn't have some effect on your strength and musculature.
I think it all has to do with your perspective. You can make yoga what you want for YOU. You can take a very physical and fast paced yoga class and still meditate and work on your mind/body awareness. I know I do. In fact, I am more in my head in a strenuous class bc I am trying to focus on not being negative and whining to myself about how hard it is! :-) I think it is great to try many types of yoga classes. So, my bottom line answer to your question is...yes you will reap great benefits from power yoga as well as many other types you try. I say got for it and take the class at the gym- it sounds great! In fact, many gyms are looking to bring yoga classes like that in to encourage more folks to try yoga. I think the whole Mind/body/chanting/"oooohhhmmmmm" thing can freak people out! :-) You can be as meditative and mind/body focused as you want or just go through the poses for the physical benefit. There are so many proven benefits to yoga, both physical and mental, so one can't really believe that you shouldn't expect to gain strength from a yoga class.
I know that traditional yoga is an 8-fold path including meditation, breath work, physical practice, etc. For all intents and purposes I am referring only to the physical work since that is what most of us in the West are familiar with when you say yoga. I continue to expand my knowledge of yoga, the spiritual journey it will lead me on and the lifestyle it provokes. As I learn more interesting pieces of the yogic lifestyle, I will add my thoughts here. Until then, jump into a downward dog and try to convince yourself that you are enjoying it when your shoulders start aching! :-)