Three weeks ago a reporter from the Round Rock Leader contacted us to request an interview about the studio and my trip to India. Later that week she visited the studio, and we had a nice chat for the better part of an hour.
Two weeks ago the feature ran on the front page of the Round Rock Leader and online at statesman.com, and last week the same story ran with a different headline in the print version of the Austin-American Statesman.
The article in the print version of the Statesman ran with a bit of a sensational headline:Veteran Yoga Instructor Felt Like a Beginner During Trip to India.
At first I was a bit shocked to read the headline; I thought, Oh no! People will think I’m a bad yoga teacher!
But then I remembered - those words are true, they are my words, that I’ve said many, many times since my trip. When my teachers had me integrate a new level of awareness of my breathing into my asana practice and when I added chanting to my practice to improve my breathing and help quiet my mind, it was so, so challenging. And even after 17 years of practicing yoga, I did indeed feel like a beginner.
After further contemplation about that headline, I realized that if sensationalism moves someone to read the article and learn something new about yoga, then it’s definitely a good thing.
My recent trip to India showed me that Yoga in the US and Yoga in India are two completely different kinds of yoga. Since I’d practiced yoga in India before, 9 years ago, I did have some degree of awareness of the discrepancy. That discrepancy influenced the philosophy of the studio - Yoga for EveryBody.
My objective has been for everyone to feel welcome (not just accepted, but actually WELCOME) to attend classes at the The Yoga Room, regardless of age, race, body condition, etc., which is different than the vibe at many studios in the US. We’ve always offered a range of classes so that all students can find a version of yoga practice that works for them.
But this recent trip further clarified for me the difference between Yoga in India and Yoga in the US.
In the US, yoga is an industry. Yoga sells. Celebrity yoga teachers make tons of money with flashy and sexy Instagram photos, product endorsements, teacher trainings, online trainings, retreats in exotic locations, their own lines of yoga apparel, and more.
Because of this, unfortunately, yoga practice in the US has been, in large part, watered down to acrobatics. It’s about who can stretch the farthest, do the biggest backbend, the most showy acro yoga pose, all of which create eye-catching photos that can be used in advertisements to sell something.
This focus on the physical aspect of yoga is, in some regards, good. Yoga is vast and its variety of practices serve to meet the practitioner at their current state. Physical exercise is certainly beneficial, and if the US version of yoga inspires people to exercise, that’s fantastic.
But in the US, we’re leaving out a major aspect of what yoga was meant to be. The main purpose of yoga, as is defined in the Yoga Sutras, is to help us calm and quiet our minds. It’s a calm and quiet so profound that one can spend their entire life exploring, improving, and refining.
And since a calm and quiet mind can’t really be captured in awesome photos that can be used to sell products, it seems that, sadly, this type of practice is undervalued, or perhaps not valued, in our modern US Yoga Industry.
Nevertheless, the mind-focused yoga practice I experienced during my training in India made me realize that there is a really big gap in yoga instruction in the US. There’s infinite value in cultivating a calm and quiet mind, perhaps more than we can easily understand, yet it’s rarely taught or practiced.
So beginning in the Fall, we’re reorganizing our offerings at The Yoga Room. We’re organizing our classes and offerings into three categories: Body, Therapeutics, and Mind, to provide a more complete representation of everything yoga has to offer.
BODY The classes in the Body category are focused on the body - improving strength, flexibility, balance - which has secondary focus of calming the mind.
We’ll offer all our current class types, with a couple of name changes. Our current Slow Flow, Vinyasa Flow, and Core Power classes will be offered under a single class type called Flow. The style of Flow class will vary a bit depending on the the teacher’s area of expertise.
THERAPEUTICS In the Therapeutics category we’ll offer a class called Therapeutics. This class is designed for students who are recovering from an injury, are experiencing pain, or have other health concerns. The practice is gentle yoga modified to meet the needs of the students in attendance, very much like how I teach my Gentle classes today.
The Therapeutics category will also include non-class offerings, such as small, issue-specific, 4 week therapeutic series (focused on, say, back issues, knee issues, etc.) and also private lessons.
MIND The classes in the Mind category are focused on calming and quieting the mind, sometimes through gentle body practices. I’m really excited to offer these new Mind-focused yoga classes so that our students who are interested in or curious about this kind of yoga have a place to learn and a built-in community of support. Since these classes are new, I’ll provide more details here:
- Mindfulness is a class focused on creating a peaceful and balanced mind. It includes a combination of gentle asana (yoga poses), and one or more of the following: breathing, meditation, chanting, and relaxation.
- Meditation is another class focused on creating a peaceful and balanced mind. The first portion of class is gentle to moderate asana (yoga poses), and the second portion of class is guided or silent meditation.
- Relaxation - This is our former Restorative class, renamed for clarity. Relaxation class focuses on counteracting the harmful effects of stress and creating relaxation in the mind and body. It includes gentle, supported yoga postures that are held for 5-10 minutes each.
The teaching staff and I are really excited about this new direction and our new offerings. We believe this change brings a more balanced and expansive range that better represents the breadth of yoga as it was intended to be, and it also provides a clear roadmap that can help you navigate the various classes to address your goals and priorities. We foresee that students may move back and forth between categories depending on how they’re feeling and what they feel they need most on any given day.
I’m working through the details of our new Fall Class Schedule, so please stay tuned for that in this newsletter in the next week or two, and also please note that, as much as possible, I’m trying to keep teachers in their current time slots so as to minimize disruption to your schedule.
I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback, either as a comment on social media or in a personal email. I look forward to seeing you soon!
Warmest regards, Zelinda