Some yoga studios are beginning to feel like a little more like gyms than a sacred space, not that there is anything wrong with that, yoga is a broad church so to speak and there are many different expressions of it which people connect to and with. There are some conventions of yoga that are being dissipated as the practice moves away from its spiritual heart, and debate and discussion is emerging within the yoga community as to the problems of the industry of yoga.
As one of the fastest growing pastimes, with appeal from children to the elderly and everything in between, the demand for yoga teachers remains high. Where there is demand, a market is created, and yoga teacher training has become an industry. Regulation is provided via certification bodies like Yoga Alliance, but these regulate the course content at set up rather than quality assuring the experience for participants of the course, and the depth of learning or access to teaching experience.
In Patanjali’s seminal writings on the eight-fold path or eight limbs of yoga, the physical expression of the poses through asana is number three – and only one of the components of practice. The first two are Yama and Niyama, restraints and observances. Then after asana there is breath, Pranayama, and withdrawal of the senses, Pratchyhara. Dharana is concentration, Dhyana meditation and finally Samadhi is union with the divine.
If the complete set of Patanjali’s eight limbs aren’t part of your yoga teacher training experience, you are simply learning some dynamic stretches, but missing out on the richness that the integration of all the elements bring to a practice. Yoga works through the integration of movement, breath, behavior, mindfulness, control of mind and turning your practice towards the divine – however you choose to express that concept in your life.
Bringing all of these elements together for your students through placing emphasis on how they work in concert in a class setting, bringing an element of spirituality into the commencement and conclusion of practice, and incorporating the deeper teachings of yoga into asana is what yoga is about, more than an express workout to tone your abs and glutes – you get that as a bonus!