Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 41 - What is the spirit of yoga?

This morning, I received an email from an acquaintance, and fellow yoga teacher. In response to the note I sent out to friends and family about the 108x108 project, she wrote:
I wish you all the best, altho' I can't think of anything further from
the spirit of yoga. This is truly yoga the Western way!!
I'm not sure what she means by this comment, but I've been pondering it all day. Is there a "spirit of yoga" standard? Am I not meeting it? What does it mean to do yoga "the Western way"? Do I have a choice to do yoga any other way? After all, I'm not Indian and I live and work in Montreal.

I honestly don't mean to be ironic or defensive. However, I would like to open a discussion on this point: What is the spirit of yoga?

Yogis can be very critical of other yogis' spiritual commitment. (To draw comparison, it's like Christians arguing amongst each other about who loves God more and who is more Christian.) This may seem ridiculous, but it's quite common in the yoga world and, for the sake of full disclosure, I'm not immune to this banter. I have been known to judge yoga teachers who don't practice yoga or who got their certification in a eight hour weekend course at the YMCA. Nevertheless, since dreaming up the idea of doing 108 sun salutations for 108 days, I made a commitment to myself to learn from as many yoga teachers as possible and to expand my definition of yoga to include all the expressions of it.

In addition, one of the main reasons I decided to do this project is to unite the yoga community, so we can put an end to all our divisive behaviour. There is no yoga better than another. Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, Anusara, Hatha, Power yoga--- the yogic message is the same: listen to yourself, explore your limits, connect with your heart and soul and connect to the world around you.

What do you think? What's your definition of yoga?

* * *
To switch directions, I had a lovely practice at Studio Bliss this afternoon. We were a small group. I was joined by my friend Mary-Margaret, who was in town from NYC and joined me, and Mario, a friend of a friend who is a dancer and yoga teacher. The space is beautiful and we had a fun practice. Mario showed us his creative interpretations of surya namaskar. Here a video of his sun salutation:

Surya Namaskar Recipe: Day 41 - The Mario Salute


  1. Hello Paris, i thought i would drop a line and wish u all the best with tomorrow's event. Much love, mafiosa

  2. In my opinion, the spirit of yoga is reflected in the purity of the intention. Practicing with the yamas and niyamas in mind.

  3. I believe that the Spirit of Yoga is Yoga in its purest form. It’s about practicing and teaching with integrity by being true to yourself, respecting your limits, practicing for the right reasons: to stretch, go inward, relax, release stress and tension.

    The Spirit of Yoga is also taking our practice off the mat and into the world by trying to be the best you can be, respecting your environment and those around you.

    I feel that the teachings of Yoga should be to help people attain what the practice is meant to bring: Freedom of the body, peace of the mind, connection with the soul. I don’t personally think that it is a bad thing that there are teachers who teach Yoga with only a couple of weekends training, because if somebody is passionate about something, they will read about the practice, have a strong personal practice; they will feel it, breathe it and do what they can to teach a safe class and be the best teacher they can be. Of course I have nothing against people who do take the training – why not further your practice even more? I am just saying that I have taken some classes with amazing teachers that have not taken a lengthy teacher training but because of their deep rooted passion of sharing the practice of Yoga, they have become compassionate, devoted and brilliant teachers. It’s not to say they won’t further their practice by eventually taking an Alliance Teacher Training program down the road, but I don’t feel that this marketed training is uniquely what makes someone an awesome teacher.

    So to somewhat sum it up, for me the Spirit of Yoga is to teach and practice with all that you are, not take yourself too seriously, have fun with it and share this beautiful practice and all its traditions with the intention of helping people find their peace.

    Many thanks Yasmin, for giving me the opportunity to share this with you and your readers.