Like it or not, the modern yoga practice is evolving. I used to be the typical American yogi. I did home practices several days a week, and usually took a live class at least once a week for live instruction. Since this was the 1990s in Lancaster county, I had videos instead of You Tube and Yoga Glo, and I had a class at a local gym instead of a studio or a large festival.
Since then, times have changed. In some ways I was highly resistant, and some changes I embraced with open arms. Here are a few of the changes to the American yoga culture as I see them.
Even the availability of a variety of yoga studios is a fairly recent development. There is now accessibility to a nearby yoga studio in nearly every town in America. Easily accessible yoga studios with live teachers offer great benefits. A live teacher can answer your questions, and correct your alignment. A live teacher may offer alternative poses based on what they see in your body. A live teacher can see your progress, encourage you, and lead you in the right direction.
These studios all have their own teachers, styles, and a thriving community of yoga students. Having several local yoga communities to choose from has been such a great development over the last 15 years. Yoga classes are places where I can feel at home and find loving people with interests that are similar to my own. Practicing in a loving, welcoming community can bring a sense of kinship with others off the mat too!
When I'm traveling, I love picking out a few yoga studios to visit. In Ithaca, NY I visited several studios, but recommend Fine Spirit Yoga Studio and The Yoga School. In Corpus Christi, TX I loved Crossroads Yoga, and in Austin I enjoyed a lively practice at Black Swan Yoga. In Asheville, NC I found a thriving community (and improved my headstand) at Asheville Community Yoga. If you're in Lancaster County, PA, visit my home studios West End Yoga and The Yoga Place in Ephrata. I clearly spend a lot of vacation time finding yoga studios.
Out with the DVDs and VHS tapes (yes, I'm that old), and in with the You Tube and online services. I have been suprised to meet several yogis who fully embrace the yogic lifestyle, yet have never set foot in a live class. Many of them practice with free classes that are available on You Tube. There are also several online services that offer a wide variety of classes for a monthly subscription.
Electronic classes are a great way to fit a practice into a busy life. They offer the benefit of a wide range of practices that can be done any time day or night. People without the background to develop their own home practice can find safe home practices that have been developed by a professional. I discourage people from practicing exclusively online, because it is so important to connect with other yogis and assure safe alignment.
There is now so much more to yoga media than a print magazine or two. Yoga is everywhere. It advertises yoga and non yoga products. There are blogs, facebook accounts, podcasts and instagram accounts all dedicated to yoga. Largely due to these influences, the media is now making an effort to broaden the American image of a yogi. Yogis of different races and sizes grace the covers of yoga magazines (although I'd still like to see more fetured male yogis). The message is becomiong more inclusive (although my local yoga studios really already are that way).
Some yoga purists may shun some or all of these types of yoga practices, but it is bringing the benefit of yoga to the masses, and how can that be bad? I have dedicated students who have tried yoga based on facebook posts. I have peers in the yoga community who have never set foot in a yoga class (and they're just as passionate as I am). Maybe as yogis, we can find a way to be more inclusive and embrace the changes that are taking place in the yoga community that we love. It's time to share the benefits of yoga with the world!
If you're interested in ways that I'm contributing to yoga media (other than www.yogam8.com), check this out.
My Articles for Do You Yoga
Namaste - Beth