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Not All "yoga" is Alike

By Sam Dworkis

I smile when people say: "I tried yoga, but didn't like it." This is like saying "I dated once, but he/she wasn't my type, so I stopped dating. I'm less amused when people say, "I stopped because I wasn't flexible enough." But worse yet is: "Yoga hurt, so I quit."

Historically, very flexible people created classical yoga in India many thousands of years ago. Although the early yoga exponents could do amazing things with their bodies, most classical yoga is simply inappropriate for our Western bodies and lifestyles.

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About a hundred years ago, yoga came to the West. Many different styles developed…some stayed traditional, and some adapted to tenets of modern exercise physiology.

Here are some of today's yoga approaches with numerous styles in between:

Yoga Styles: Some yoga is totally physical while others are totally spiritual: Some approaches are so aerobically challenging that only the fittest survive while others are so slow and meditative that many quit due to boredom.

Teaching styles: Some are "follow-the-leader," wherein teachers demonstrate by practicing with the class while students follow the best they can. Other teachers demonstrate first, and then guide students into the exercises. Others yet don't even demonstrate; they just "talk" the students through it.

Instructor expertise: Some teach only what they were taught irrespective if they can do the exercises themselves. Others teach basically only what they can do. In these classes, students who thrive are able to adapt themselves to what the instructor does. Those who can't adapt quit.

Training: Most yoga instructors have taken some sort of yoga-teacher training. Some trainings last a weekend while others last months. Regardless, most instructors take periodic training seminars.

A major problem is that yoga is usually taught by good-meaning people who have studied basically one style of yoga and that's what they teach. Their students who can adapt to that style thrive; those who can't, quit.

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For instance, what if a yoga style is designed for athletically supple people and the new student is middle aged, or out-of shape, stiff-as-a-board, previously injured, or recovering from chronic illness? Most approaches are inappropriate for these people; they are either too demanding or too easy.

Because yoga varies wildly, new students should always choose their instructors carefully. If you don't feel comfortable taking yoga with your first teacher, try another school and other teachers. After awhile, you'll develop a better understanding of what style and what teacher is best for you.


Reproduced with permission
Resources: with profound thanks to Sam Dworkis of www.extensionyoga.com.

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