“What is Yoga?”

(5 Jun 2016)

Today I joined the weekday YTT’s classes to make up for the classes I missed when sick and because of my final year individual production in May. It’s a really different group from my group, and it is primarily with Chinese students.

During our theory class, Jess asked all of us to respond to a question from our own perspective – “WHAT IS YOGA?”

I wrote down everyone’s answers because I found it fascinating how it meant so many different things for so many people:
– Release of energy
– Giving and letting go
– Time to decompress and take care of myself
– To persevere, to build commitment and stamina
– Conversation with my body & personal health
– The concept of Shtira & Sukha – effort & ease – as a philosophy to living life (me)
– Connection of my spirit to the universe (Jess)

All these reasons were relatively still in the same terrain: how yoga is essentially good for our mind, body and soul.

But then, one of the Chinese students’ answer was this:
– She used to see Yoga as something that only rich people do. She started doing it to lose weight at first, which she did. Now she sees yoga as her career.

This stood out for me, because this was something that was so different from the values I personally associated with yoga. When Jess asked her if she saw yoga now still as something only rich people did, she said yes. I found this super problematic but this is linked to a much bigger topic about how yoga is spread in the west. However I must remember that everyone is entitled to their own values and the thing is not to jump to judgements and disagreements if I disagree with something. And me also acknowledging that I am part of the privileged group she speaks of, and part of the system that perpetuates it that she speaks of. It doesn’t mean it is wrong. I have to be careful not to be the biggest hypocrite. The society we live in is changing and different from when yoga was first created. ALso, there was something about how this Chinese student was so sure and certain about doing yoga, she signed up for YTT the day after she heard it that struck me – to have that decisiveness and going for what you believe and want to do. I have to make my own stand about yoga too, and not be afraid of being part of the inevitable business/hustle side of it. Let’s not mythologise yoga but breathe yoga in daily urban living.

Yoga will mean different things for different people. I have to understand this and not judge people’s different reasons for coming to it, especially as a teacher. And as a teacher, it will be my way of carrying myself and how I share yoga that will also affect students’ POVs on it. I promised myself I will not lose sight of where yoga came from, and always be a practitioner first than a teacher.

Sonia (Weekend YTT). 4/6