July 3, 2014

Is Asana “Real” Yoga? ~ Michelle Marchildon


One night last week a friend told me that I do not practice “real yoga,” because I have too much ego.

Hahahahahahahahaha! Right? Obviously she hasn’t seen me doing yoga! If you want to see a person without any sense of ego, or even a shred of decency, then by all means take a look at my pictures on Instagram including the one where I’m in a bathing suit. Or look at photos of my early yoga practice, available wherever books are sold.

Furthermore, anyone who has children cannot, and I repeat, cannot have an unhealthy ego. Children keep us humble.

To keep my ego in check, my children over the years have told me:

  • Do not wear shorts in public.
  • Do not speak, do not say anything, do not even breathe while my friends are here.
  • People like you should not be allowed to use technology.
  • Do you remember if I could have been adopted?

The reason that I apparently have too much ego is because I practice asana. And asana is no longer “real yoga.”

Something is happening when we no longer consider “asana” to be yoga. But I have heard this before, this allusion to “real yoga” and the idea that it doesn’t include asana.

First of all, “real yoga” seems to be whatever the speaker believes it to be. I think this concept stems from fear. When we try to define what is “real” by claiming that only we do this thing correctly, then that’s a person’s ego speaking. We are trying to protect ourselves from looking stupid.

OMG! Holy turn the tables Batman!

When a teacher states that his way is the only way, or when someone shows you an alignment technique and says it’s the only way to do a pose, here is my advice: Run as fast as you can.

I know this much for sure: There are many paths to enlightenment. You should take all the input you can, and then make your own decisions about what works for your body and your spirit. “Try it on,” is my motto. Remember, you are still in charge of you.

This “real yoga” label is ultimately self-defeating. Is the “yoga” you learned in gym class not “real?” Is Acro-Yoga or Yoga Fit total baloney? Is it yoga to trance dance? Every entry point into the practice is, in my opinion, meaningful. Whatever gets you to your mat, and therefore to an introspective place, is yoga.

Lastly, the idea that asana is not “real yoga,” is quickly taking hold. Three people told me last week that asana is not yoga. But asana is one of the “Eight Limbs” for goodness sakes. It’s in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is 2,000 years old! It’s at least as yogic as say, pranayama. It’s all yoga!

My feeling is that asana is under attack because of our current obsession with it. Asana is taking focus away from the other Eight Limbs.

I get that people are upset at the Instagrammers posting selfies. I get that you could be highly offended, especially by my photo in a bathing suit. I understand that yoga is a practice inward, so posting photos as an outward expression of your love is not, entirely, the point.

But still, it’s yoga and it’s real. The pursuit of understanding one’s practice, or just to practice one’s practice, is absolutely yoga. The pursuit of practice as a path to self-knowledge is not “ego.” It’s actually quite humbling. If you are doing right, it never gets easier. It may even get more confusing!

I know that many agree with my friend that asana is not yoga. In fact, I know her teacher, and I’m pretty sure he will agree that I am a naughty yogi mostly because I choose not to study with him.

Yes. I choose. That is not ego my friends. That is confidence. I choose what is right for me, and if someone wants to misinterpret self-confidence and strong boundaries as ego, well then I’m mostly okay with that. I guess to prove them wrong I’ll have to post another photo of myself practicing yoga in a bathing suit. Even if it’s slightly gross, I’ll be a humbled “real” yogi once again.



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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wiki Commons

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