Yogic Civil War

Before one of my flow classes last week, a woman came up to me and asked, “You’re Georgie, right?”

I said yes.

“I heard that you “don’t care” (and yes, she made little quotation marks with her fingers, bunny ears style) about alignment of the body in yoga poses. How can you not care? Yoga is all about alignment.”

Three things came to my mind. 1. Who did she hear this from, 2. Did I possibly say something in one of my classes along the lines of not giving a shit about alignment, and 3. Hello, Miss Anusara practitioner.

I laughed a little, because I didn’t know what else to do, but then responded. “I care very much about alignment–what have you heard that would make you think otherwise?”

And before she said anything, I knew the answer. It was in a hot flow class, warrior 1 pose, when I was describing how to have your feet. I did in fact say, I don’t care about the alignment of your feet but then went on to give them option after option of ways to position each foot. I told them to do whatever way felt best for their hips.

This is my attitude with all of the yoga poses. There are so many damn ways to do each pose that it’s overwhelming. I remember when I first started practicing yoga how frustrating it was to go to different classes and have teachers tell me conflicting ways to do each pose. Warrior 1 is one of those poses that no two schools of yoga seem to agree on. Some say hips squared with the front edge of your mat, others say to square the hips but to still maintain openness in the sacrum, some say tuck the tail bone, some say stick the butt out slightly, some tell us to roll the left stomach forward while drawing the right stomach back, and once I was told to melt my right butt cheek into my right upper thigh.

Then, instead of practicing yoga, my mind is like, I wonder if my hips are squared? Is my sacrum open? What does having an open sacrum even feel like? Since when do I have a right stomach and a left stomach? How the hell do I make my ass cheeks melt?

After years of practicing yoga, I still have no fucking clue how to do Warrior 1. And neither does anyone else.

Back to the woman who thought I didn’t give a shit about everything I had been taught by my yoga teachers (I’ve learned more about alignment than anything else). I knew that she was an Anusara practitioner because she was so OMG about hearing that I “didn’t care” about alignment. Anusara teachers and practitioners are really lighthearted and hilarious and fun but when it comes to how your sacrum should be in triangle pose, you better get it right. Then once you’re doing the pose correctly, you can smile and giggle and open your (correctly aligned) heart to grace.

I told the woman that I had been trained in alignment based yoga (Iyengar yoga) and that I was now in a teacher training program that emphasizes body alignment.

“Well, I practice Anusara,” she said. (Duh).

“Sometimes, so do I,” I replied.

She was confused by this, but took my class anyways. The truth is, I don’t practice or teach one certain kind of yoga day after day. Some say that this is because I’m a young, immature yogini, a “questioning” yogini, a poor little confused yogini. My practice and my classes are a mix of many different styles of yoga because I don’t think one single type has it completely figured out. I was going to tell the woman that my classes are Iyengar meets vinyasa flow meets anusara meets ashtanaga meets bhakti meets I don’t give a fuck what you do in this class as long as it’s safe but I thought I’d just let her take the class for herself.

Anusara is awesome because the teachers are always these little cute things that make you laugh and feel like a little kid in a candy shop while on your yoga mat. All of the poses become super fun and light (after, of course, you get your alignment right). Iyengar is cool because you get to really feel the poses for what they’re worth, no flow-ey, dance-ey “bullshit” (yes I have heard an Iyengar teacher call flow yoga “bullshit”) to distract you from what shape your body is in. Flow yoga is nice because you get to move a lot–the entire class, and you get to dance around and be creative on your mat. Ashtanga is awesome because it tells you what’s up. The teachers and the practice itself are like, um actually, you CAN do that pose that you thought you couldn’t, but actually, you CAN’T do that pose that you thought you could. Jivamukti yoga makes you want to save the world. Kundalini is fun because it makes you feel like you’re on crack.

I could go on and on with my stereotypes of each kind of yoga, but I’ll stop there. Bottom line is that every type of yoga thinks it has it right, figured out, the purest and most perfect form of the practice. It’s a damn yogic civil war out there.

Each kind of yoga has something good to offer me, and things that I don’t care for. I pick out the good stuff and go with it. Some days I like a certain style better than others. Some days one way of doing Warrior 1 feels best, the next day a different way works.

I admire yogis who have found the one practice that jives with them. I’m just not like that. Or maybe I’m just not there yet.

This civil war between styles of yoga can be seen everywhere, not just in yoga. This happens in climbing too, but even worse. Trad climbers hate sport climbers, sport climbers hate trad climbers, and everyone hates boulderers.

This WE ARE RIGHT mindset happens within every group of people. Religion vs. religion, race vs. race, country vs. country, soy milk drinkers vs. almond milk drinkers, the people who add the laundry detergent BEFORE putting the dirty clothes in, those who add it AFTER the clothes. I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m smart and you’re dumb as hell, and I ain’t stopping until you agree with me.

Why are we so worried about being right?

And why do we think everyone else is so wrong?

It is so hard for us to remember that although we are all humans, all connected in that way, we are also vastly different from one another. What I believe to be the “right” way of doing things may really not be right for you.

At the end of the day, we are all “right.” Whatever you believe in and however you live is correct, for you. Even if it completely contradicts my lifestyle, we both have it figured out. All of our ideas and views on this world are valid, and yes, even the people we disagree with and don’t understand are “right” in their own way.

Why not pick and choose from this awesome sampler platter of ideas and attitudes that we have all put out there, and then make it into something personally customized for our own life?

Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field- I’ll meet you there. 

Rumi

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