“Is This a Lecture or a Yoga Class?”

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 Photo by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia September 1999

When I teach yoga, I make it an effort to actually teach them yoga, not some stretching exercises to give them a “yoga butt” or whatever people want to achieve by doing yoga these days. In my classes for beginners, I start by giving them a brief history about yoga, putting emphasis on Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois especially; then I explain the philosophies (the eight limbs) to them. 

As I was teaching a group of teenagers who were beginners one day in Manila, a student rudely interrupted me as I was explaining the concept the eight limbs. “Is this a lecture or a yoga class?” she asked, and I was taken aback by the rudeness, the blatant annoyance, and the boredom in her voice. The four others in the class looked at her awkwardly, since they were listening and paying attention to what I was saying (or at least pretending to). She rolled her eyes as I looked at her; she was also one of those student who asked me if we would be doing handstands or those “cool things” she saw on Instagram, and I told her from the very beginning that we weren’t.

I told her that what I was explaining to them is yoga, and that the asanas are only a small portion of yoga. Anyway, she did stick around and finished the class. We just did the basic surya namaskars then ended with the last three finishing asanas before savasana

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only yoga teacher (ok, I’m not exactly a yoga teacher, I just teach yoga) who has encountered students such as this. Students who come for the cool, show-offy Instagram poses and not for the psychological and spiritual practice that true yoga should be incorporated with. Has social media really distorted yoga that badly to the point where students actually get irritated to find out that it’s not what they expected it to be? Although in some ways, I was kind of glad that yoga has sort of become commonplace, but I don’t know if it’s even something worth admiring anymore now that modern day yoga has become reduced to an exercise.

I just hope that this girl actually took time to reflect on the true meaning of yoga. Yoga is an internal journey of self-discovery and self-development, therefore it’s something that you do both in and out of the mat and must practice continuously as you live your everyday life. 

Photo courtesy of Vogue Italia

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