Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Yoga to the People - Call it Whatever, It Aint No 'YOGA"

As the title says and i will repeat it - 'Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Yoga to the People - Call it Whatever, BUT IT Aint No 'YOGA'. Period!

I went to a hot yoga (yoga to the people) class today. Ok, i will say it upfront, i usually only do iyengar yoga). I wanted to see what it was like. I do understand the need to innovate, to create new things, but i dont think hot yoga qualifies to use the label "yoga". Okay its a hot workout (lots of sweating) and the poses at best can be said to be inspired from classical yoga. But guys, this is not yoga! Call it anything else, "hot exercise", "sweat exercise", whatever, i am all for it. But, Please dont attach the word Yoga, drop in some Asana names, and end the class with a Namaste to make this yoga !!

To begin with, there was no attempt to make the students understand the pose in terms of the axes where the stretch needs to happen, to recognize the elements of alignment, and correctness. There was no sincere attempt to emphasis the need to create balance in all angles, planes, and or that focus that one needs to apply in the mind to hold the pose.

Beyond the general stuff, take for example individual poses such as the second warrior pose [veer asana] (by the way, they call it the triangle pose - its not). When doing this pose, there are certain important points to note. The chest has to face forward (all students had their chest twisted a bit towards the bent leg). In the classic pose a major emphasis is on the the stretch that needs to happen at the groins - the forward leg needs to open from the groin outward to the knee which goes back. The hips need to be tucked in wards and brought in the same place the (forward) bent leg knee and the back foot. Another key aspect of the warrior (or many of the standing triangle related poses) is that the outer portion of the back leg has to be planted deep down into the floor so much so that the chest is propelled up. But the pose we did in Hot yoga was nowhere about this. It was about working your thigh muscles to hold the warrior pose at 90% angle (between thigh and the legs at the knee jt ).

The same can be said of the other poses. And i dont understand why do almost 30 mins of poses alternating with 10-15 seconds of Shava Asana. The Shava Asana is done typically in the end of the practice.

I could go on but suffice it to say, Hot Yoga was simply a fast paced workout (but i seriously dont understand the logic of the hot room!)

Bikram (i was told Hot Yoga follows the same 26 postures of Bikram yoga) and the many others, including those at Hot Yoga and similar variants, folks, i sincerely admire your efforts to make Yoga Popular and i am all for innovation. And yes as a physical exercise, Hot Yoga is great. Do whatever you guys like (i am all for people wanting to sweat their butt off in your classes) but just make it clear "this Aint yoga." I mean there is 5000 years of art, science and wisdom to it. If there is any doubt of what Yoga is, one just needs to look at the picture of BKS Iyengar (or his students) or see his videos or books - here are some for reference with more here

Last but not the least, why this experience was more disconcerting is that there was a guy who was doing "Yoga" for the first time. And to him this is what "Yoga" was after the class. But i think it was the wrong introduction. Suffice it to say, just take an introductory class at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in NYC and you will know why i am writing this post and what i am trying to say.