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Practice with love.

Ah, yoga! What does it all really mean?

Today the concept of yoga has experienced such exponential growth, that it is no longer a growing phenomenon, but a common practice within our popular culture.

Yoga is happening everywhere, in everything.

W Hotel Tara Stiles YogaBig corporate hotel brands are enlisting the much desired high heeled arm balances of famous yogis to sell rooms, and celebrity sports folk are using its mystical powers to gain ascendency over opponents.

Its a booming business! I live in one of the most saturated yoga communities in the USA. Its everywhere. I can’t walk 100 meters without coming across a new studio, or a shop selling yoga apparel.

I also teach each year at Om Yoga Magazine’s London Yoga show. They truly have it all – this is a yoga celebration with transcendental meditation, Broga (Yoga for men), boxing yoga, traditional hatha yoga, through to hot sweaty yoga fun in a hot sweaty inflatable tent! Wow!

And don’t be fooled into thinking the birth place of the brand, India, is any different. These days its not just finding a vacant cave in the Himalayas to commune with the divine, there’s something for everyone, from the strictly traditional shalas, down to the naked yogis flashing their asanas on Goa’s beaches.

Some teachers will tell you that this is all wrong, that traditional yoga is the only path. But, yoga was and always has been for the contemporary society, developed with the physical and mental needs of the time in mind… Our society is diverse, vibrant and full of choice therefore its only natural that yoga has expanded to match.

Yoga at Red RocksWe no longer fall into or out of particular categories. These days its common to be a little of many things, and this makes choice much harder, but it doesn’t mean that our choice is wrong. We all have our different pasts, and different experiences, our own collective karma, and this inevitably shapes our practices and particular tastes when it comes to shopping for our flavor of yoga.

But what does this all mean?

It has certainly become a difficult and even dangerous place to choose the next step on our yoga journey. So many options, so many teachers fighting for your business to become your next ‘guru’.

Yoga has become a brand, something to be consumed.

Yoga like chocolate?A yoga teacher friend of mine described the change in yoga to being like chocolate, that is no longer experienced, but consumed and devoured.

So how do we avoid wolfing yoga down? How do we stop and enjoy the flavor? How do we choose correctly?

Well, perhaps the real question could be, what is and what isn’t really yoga?

We may see a word that says yoga, we may wear yoga clothing, but in truth, we all know that this is not what makes us a yogi. Heck, even the studio we attend, or the teacher who guides us, is not what makes us a yogi. For example you can be a great hatha yoga teacher, but if you don’t behave with integrity and value outside of the classroom, then you can’t really consider yourself a yogi.

The real yoga happens in our practice.

Yoga Times SquareI’m not talking about the practice of asanas either. I’m not even referring to deep meditation, pranayama (breathing) practice, or reading the latest copy of Yoga Journal, or Patanjalis Yoga Sutras. I’m diving deeper and wanting us all to discover our true practice. What is the intent behind all of this crazy yoga side show?

Well, its definitely going to be a personal answer. Everyone will have a unique and equally valid reason.

Consider this: What does the word yoga mean?

Yoga is union. Union with the divine. Asana is simply the practice to prepare the body for the fixed devotional concentration.

But don’t panic if you’re not feeling united, or your reasons are not anything to do with a spiritual destination. Its totally cool. Practice, practice, practice and all is coming, as Jois said. Yoga is going to sneak up on you anyway. Now that’s a happy thought.

Frauke Behrens Kundalini YogaAnd that practice doesn’t have to even be on the mat. Jois didn’t refer to family as practicing the seventh series for nothing. Life is yoga – family or no family, there is opportunity in all our relationships to practice compassion, patience and presence. Open your heart, experience, taste and definitely, savour, and you can practice in all that you do.

Don’t over think it. Instead let us consider the absolute fundamental in all we do.

Isn’t our goal in life to feel great? To not be bogged down with pain and suffering, or stresses and worries? To be happy? Free from maya (illusion or our perceived reality – worrying about money, stresses at work, etc)

And isn’t this really, truly, because we deep down want to be good to ourselves and show ourselves a little love? And love is like a flame, that ignites and grows, igniting or attracting flames in others, without diminishing. Union.

So welcome to yoga!

It doesn’t really matter where, or what, or how.

Simply start here.

Do it to look fitter, healthier, sexier.

Do it to boost your self esteem, your life force, to get your endorphins buzzing.

Do it to reduce pain, to feel stronger, to feel lighter and happier.

Do it to escape, to destress, to energize.

Do it to meet people, to experience community, to laugh, to learn to grow.

Do it for you!

Because a better you is a great place to start with making the world a better place.

A better you is a you that is open to love, compassion.

So as we watch the brand of yoga grow, lets be sure to keep a little for ourselves.

Lets aim to savour the flavours available, both the sweet and the sour, and to practice not as consumers, but, as students, with love as our subject and love in our hearts.

About the author

Jamie IsaacJamie is an International Pilates teacher and wellbeing specialist. Jamie teaches from his studio in Southern California, as well as workshops all over the world, including weeks in the USA, England and Fuerteventura. A former international trampolinist and a graduate in Physical Education and Sports Sciences, Jamie practices and teaches Pilates as more than just a set of physical exercises. By incorporating body and mind he finds the Pilates method benefits all aspects of life. Jamie is passionate about passing on his knowledge of Pilates, helping others to relax and progress, and teaching in specialist areas such as injury rehabilitation, specialist referral and coaching other sports professionals and enthusiasts. Join Jamie for his upcoming Pilates retreat in Fuerteventura. Jamie is the founder of Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat and Fluid Art Pilates.