March 9, 2016

Why It’s Not Important to Choose a Yoga Style.

Author's own (S. Brooke Bailey)

As a Yoga Alliance Registered Teacher who has spent hundreds of hours learning the specific nuances of certain yoga styles, it may seem shocking for me to say that it is not important to choose a yoga style.

After all, when we start practicing yoga for even a few months, people get curious and ask what style of yoga we do.

Depending on our familiarity with our studio or yoga teacher, we may or may not be able to answer questions about the style of yoga we practice. In fact, the group classes most of us take are an amalgamation of many different yoga styles.

When I decided to delve deeper into yoga in 2006, I was researching teacher training programs and asking certified teachers for advice. All of a sudden, the question of which yoga style I should study became more important because I was about to spend a few thousand dollars, along with numerous days and nights, studying and practicing yoga. But which yoga exactly? Wasn’t it all the same?

I ended up finding the perfect teacher training for me. In the program we studied three different styles of yoga: Iyengar, Sivananda and Ashtanga, and then pulled from each of these styles to teach a well rounded Vinyasa yoga class.

That’s right…four styles of yoga in one training!

The number of yoga styles has exploded in recent years as people begin to brand their own forms of teaching. It can take a bit of time to wrap our heads around the ancient lineages of yoga that have existed for thousands of years. Not to mention trying to filter the influence of each lineage on modern yoga, based on who has studied with whom and under what tradition or combination of traditions.

With so many individuals and yoga schools promoting their own styles of yoga, how do we know which one is the right one?

This is where the experiential nature of yoga is so critical. It’s not super important to choose a particular style of yoga, because if we practice and study with different teachers, gradually the right style will choose us. Our intuition will be drawn to a particular teacher or group of people (called a sangha in Sanskrit) that supports our whole being.

It’s not that we should blindly follow the next guru that walks into our local studio. Rather, there is an element beyond our logical minds that we need to pay attention to. It puts us in the places we need to be to make the best decisions for ourselves. In the end, we make the best decision we can based on the information we have and our own intuition.

I needed to study a wide variety of yoga styles with a number of wonderful teachers before I began to feel drawn to study just one style. Others know very quickly which yoga style they want, and need, to practice.

When we are curious about the type of yoga we are practicing, it means we are beginning to peel back the layers and move deeper into the practice. This is a great time to talk to our teachers and fellow students. Most yoga teachers, myself included, would love to know that their students want to go below the surface and learn more about why they are being guided to practice yoga in a certain way.

It took years before I began studying with my current yoga teacher, Rod Stryker. Then it took me two additional years of practicing his style of yoga, ParaYoga©, to realize that I wanted to commit to studying this particular style because it resonated with me and helped me consciously change my life for the better. Through the practice of many different types of yoga, I cultivated a better awareness of my own intuition and began to allow my intuition to guide me where my logical mind could not.

This is why I feel that we can let go of the focus on what style of yoga we practice. Having faith in the ability of the practice itself, no matter the particular style, to enhance our discernment to know what truly supports us.

It may happen quickly or it may take years, but as long as we are growing through the practice of yoga and becoming more aware of the habits that are not supporting us, then we can feel confident that we’ve made the right choice.

Gradually we begin to experience a correlation between practicing a particular style and moving beyond our limitations. If we don’t feel this shift, that is a signal that it’s time to make an adjustment and look for a practice that challenges us and gives us the tools to break free of old patterns and become the best version of ourselves.

Now let’s get a conversation going in the comments below. Do you agree with my perspective or do you feel that it is necessary to choose a yoga style early on and stick to it? I’d love to get your thoughts.


Author: S. Brooke Bailey

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s own

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