Just last week I was in class and the teacher, who is always exact and precision when it comes to anatomy that one of the MANY definitions of vinyasa is to place deliberately with care: to place carefully. I’m paraphrasing. I’ve heard this before. In fact, I can recall a conversation about the term vinayasa in my own teacher training course. As a style, the term is confusion. As a movement it can mean the transition between sides in an Astanga practice or the flow between reverse warrior and side angel.
What my teacher (NR) said was a reminder for me to slow down and be intentional. Especially in a quickly moving vinyasa class are we paying attention to what we’re doing when we have only five breathes to find the pose and get out of it? I don’t know about you, but for me it’s about 50/50. Sometimes its more brain than body and other times the reverse. The perfect practice would incorporate the marriage of thinking, listening, and doing.
After class, that same evening on the radio Tom Ashbrook’s show on point. You can listen or read the transcript “Where Yoga Gets Crazy” about Competitve Yoga and Bikram Yoga. For me, the succession of NR’s class which was intelligently sequenced and informative and this radio conversation made me laugh because I began my serious quest to becoming a teacher with <<GASP>> Bikram yoga.
There was a studio near my college and I went regularly. When I graduated, I still went regularly. This was the first studio where I had a daily practice. Part of the appeal of course was that I lost so much water weight that when I got to the showers afterward I felt skinny and beautiful. And, the same sequence of postures every single time was appealing to me. Which, likely speaks to why I found my yoga in Boston with Elliott McEldowney the greatest Astanga instructor on this side of the river. The postures feel differently daily. But there’s comfort in knowing that the sequence is the same despite my body’s unique reaction.
Bikram yoga was not my thing any longer. I remember people getting sick in class. There were days when I was light headed. This was not a sustainable plan. I had remarkable teachers in Noho, but they sold the studio and started another studio leaving Bikram to someone else. That should have been a wake up call. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t until I was ready to have this bliss-filling yoga experience that I saw what I was missing in Bikram classes. The emphasis was now and is still placed on the action of the posture and the intention I bring to the mat rather than realizing the ultimate expression of the posture. Bikram is not for me now but it is part of my yoga journey. It is the practice that truly got me committed to showing up to the mat. It was empowering. It was fulfilling.
I just ran into someone in local naturals store and she was looking at yoga stuff for her mom who just started Bikram. I told her while I’m not a fan these days, If people are moving and happy doing something, who are we to tell them their yoga is “bad” or not “authentic?” People need and experience the industry of yoga for different aims and ends.
If you listen to the conversation Tom Ashbrook was having, I wonder what you think. I am so not ready for yoga competition because yoga is not a performance in my world. For ancient yogi’s it was. Heck, boys went around performing yoga to make money for their ashram. But I approach my mat differently. Does the Bikram culture and other yoga cultures condescend to the yoga I teach? Maybe, but it might not matter if my yoga continues to be genuine and intentional. You know, like, placed carefully.