There are a lot of yoga trends out there. In recent years, trends like hot yoga, beer yoga, heavy metal yoga, and the infamous goat yoga have become more popular. When we post these new kinds of yoga on our pages, people appear to be either excited by the new, or disappointed that these kinds of yoga aren’t “real yoga.”
This debate begs the question: what is real yoga?
Yoga is estimated to be a 5,000-year-old tradition, and since its beginnings, it has changed a lot. At its heart, many believe yoga was practiced and developed so its practitioners could reach enlightenment. The poses, or asanas, we tend to associate with yoga were just one part of a whole practice, which also includes behaviours, ways of living, beliefs, breathing, and more. In fact, Patanjali really only stated that the practitioner’s posture should be comfortable and steady, the yoga sutras did not say much more about asana.
The purpose of yoga in the Western world has definitely shifted from the 5,000-year-old traditions. The type of yoga we practice and celebrate has evolved tremendously in the 100 years since it was introduced in North America. While some practitioners still derive spiritual benefits out of a yoga practice, most yoga classes in North America focus on asanas and appreciate how the physical practice of yoga increases their flexibility and improves their bodies. And it’s from these asanas and Western ways of practicing yoga that these new “fad” yogas come.
You could even argue our North American version of yoga, isn’t exactly “real yoga” either.
But what does all of this have to do with yoga trends?
Considering the ancient purpose of yoga, the answer will rest in the mind of the practitioner as to whether these new yoga fads are considered “real yoga.”
As we said, our 21st-century, Western version of yoga still offers access to spiritual alignment and enlightenment for those who choose to delve into that side of the practice. And perhaps these new forms of yoga are just new ways to reach the same enlightenment more traditional yoga brings.
For example: If SUP yoga allows you to feel the waves under your feet and connect more deeply with nature, is it true yoga?
If beer yoga causes you to be utterly in the moment with every sip in a different way than a downward dog, does that experience count as spiritually relevant?
If goats jumping around your yoga mat encourages you to embrace the unexpected, and gives you a better understanding of the unexpected nature of the universe, perhaps this kind of yoga is getting you somewhere in spiritual development?
While this may seem to be a stretch (get it?), it is possible for new kinds of yoga to still give you the enlightenment the original practitioners of yoga were striving for 5,000 years ago.
But on the other hand, these ancient practices need to be respected and understood. Perhaps those who take goat yoga as their first class, aren’t going to understand the important history and deep significance of yoga in that moment. Perhaps yoga will seem like a novelty or a game.
At the end of the day, new types of yoga open up the practice to a wider audience. For many people, yoga has led them to better lives, more compassion, and more understanding. If fads can introduce new people to a yoga practice, that ultimately betters their lives, isn’t that a good thing?
Also, consider this, there are lots of activities like holding a baby, going to church, or attending a concert that may achieve some sort of spiritual deepening, but would you call it yoga? Where can one draw the line?
We’ll let you decide! What do you think about yoga fads? Do you find them spiritually significant? Do you try them? Or do you wish they would stop popping up every few months?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and are open to all opinions.