Controversial

I feel overwhelmed – by yoga

I feel overwhelmed by yoga. Overwhelmed by the very practice that I started in order to cope with the ever-increasing, often conflicting, demands of life.

For me, this is a new thing. You see, yoga used to be straightforward. The kind of thing where you’d simply roll out your mat – and do your practice. Maybe followed by some breathing, chanting, meditating.

Going to a studio meant experiencing one (or more) of the above.

But now it’s different. Yoga instructors give foot and neck massages. They rub essential oils into your skin during savasana. They create (curate?) music playlists. They bring in elements of other Eastern traditions (Qigong, Tai Chi, to name a few) or draw on exercise routines that you’d normally encounter at the gym (isn’t chaturanga a push-up, after all?).

Then, of course, there’s goat yoga. SUP yoga. Underwater yoga. Yoga on a helipad. Naked yoga. Yoga with your dog. Or your cat. Aerial yoga. Acro Yoga. Hip Hop yoga. TRX yoga. Rage yoga. Yoga sculpt. Snowga.

The pressure’s on. Teachers nowadays need to create an entertainment package to attract students (and make them come back!). I feel there’s a new generation of teachers, but also of Teacher Training Courses. TTCs cost a lot of money, and to generate interest many try to be innovative. Who would want to do a standard, boring 200hr Yoga Alliance TTC if other options are out there, providing degrees that make graduates stand out?

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And stand out they must, in a market that is becoming more crowded by the minute. A Yoga Alliance study recently stated that for every current yoga teacher, there are two teachers in training (and nearly 1/3 has been practicing for two years or less).

Many see this as a golden career opportunity, but competition is fierce. And I do wonder – are there more students like myself who simply feel overwhelmed? When I did my TTC back in 2010, in India, practising on a dirt floor, it all seemed simple. Yoga was straightforward. Not easy, but straightforward. We read the Bhagavad Gita, chanted and did our sun salutations.

What’s currently going on simply feels overwhelming to me. Am I the only one?

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35 replies »

  1. I’ve always taught the only way I could and figured that in time my students would find me. And it has worked out that way. These days I only teach a gentle hatha yoga. I try to provide the class with movement that emphasizes breathing and concentration using basic asanas. I begin the class with brief pranayama and meditation and then a teaching story or some other remarks relevant to the present. And I think that with that I hold students who can do far more difficult hatha then what I present. I am convinced that there are many who are looking for a practice that spiritually challenges the heart and mind. As commenters have said above, there are many doors by which we enter yoga. And with a little intention and thought on the teachers part, I believe that we can hit all eight limbs on the mat, in a simple hatha practice. Build concentration and peaceful acceptance in the asanas – at whatever level of difficulty – and it’s hard to not want to go deeper. So, if the teacher wants to, she can teach all of yoga while giving students the physicality that brought them through the door.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree – it can all be taught in the same class, but it’s not easy. And I also agree that students find their teacher, but at least my problem at the very beginning was that I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I just stumbled from one class to another, trying to figure out what yoga meant to me (imagine, I showed up to a Kundalini workshop dressed all in black! :))
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, it’s not easy. For one thing you have to have the time for a 15min block of time for the pranayama, meditation and story/commentary. And I didn’t start teaching until I was 60 and I am pretty much devoid of ambition, so doing what I want in a class is not too hard for me. Re: Kundalini class… maybe black is the new white?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Andrea – this is a great realization and I’m glad you shared it. I agree that there are so many types of yoga out there now and it can be overwhelming. I think it’s wonderful that more people are incorporating yoga into their lifestyles, but I hope we retain fundamental yoga principles as the world develops around it so it doesn’t just become a flexibility competition.

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  3. Glad to see others feeling this way! I started teaching 3 years ago (in San Francisco, the “mecca” of modern yoga) and struggled to figure out how I was going to ‘keep up’ and stay ‘relevant’ as a teacher. But along the way, something really beautiful showed up: authenticity. The deep teachings of yoga are everything to me, and while I love to sink into the physical practice, that’s not what it’s about anymore. And so I teach from my heart. Students will resonate or they won’t. There is something for everyone. Anyway, I continue to vacillate between being annoyed by the hip-hop hype of modern yoga, and being happy that yoga, in any form, is infiltrating a culture that desperately needs it.

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  4. I totally agree with you ………….. I am studying Post Graduation in Yogic Science….. It is a one year course and still i feel one year is not enough to learn Yoga let alone teach it. TTC of 200hrs i dnt even understand what they are teaching in that course?? …… When i was studying the theory of the course i realised that there are so many myths about yoga …… this is why i started a blog hopefully it bursts the myth what people have about yoga.

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  5. I think it can be overwhelming but if a different style speaks to someone else, I’m glad they have an outlet. Everyone should be free to cultivate the type of practice they enjoy and connect best with. I hope you are able to find like minded people so you can continue to do just that 😊

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  6. I am drawn to yoga for what yoga is all on it’s own, and I think there are a lot of students who still are. You find the teachers and the studios that suit you. And as far as all that other stuff goes, if it’s bringing more students to yoga, then great. Maybe once they get past the “special sauce” part of it that maybe first attracted them, and start discovering what yoga truly has to offer, then they’ll too find their way to a more traditional practice.

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  7. love this article. I agree with you on the overwhelming demand to try and make each class “entertaining”. I miss simple yoga. It’s become more exercise than practice for people. Thanks for sharing.!

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  8. It can be tough, especially when it feels like the essential message and point of yoga is being diluted. We talked about this a lot in my YTT. But, who knows? Starting out in hip-hop yoga might make someone fall in love with the real practice, eventually.

    There a lot of teachers out there, that’s for sure. And goodness knows, most of us can’t make any money at it. I think because of that, most teachers don’t stick to teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes , truly what is happening with yoga is called business. It’s that simple. There are still people who teach for passion and love, but it is hard to separate when money is involved. Who can afford a high rent and expenses of a studio and not try to out market the next guy? As for inexperienced students becoming teachers , you can thank yoga alliance for that, who by the way are making the most money from this big business. Any one can become a teacher as far as this organization is concerned. There is no set rules or qualifications. Just pay your cash…and oh yeah… if you don’t, we will make it hard for you to get insurance …or any validity for that matter…We could talk about this for ever but much better to get on your mat and forget about it…. It’s a trappings after all….great blog….Fare thee well!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind words. Yes, you are right, it’s big business, and it’s amazingly easy to get into it given that “yoga teacher” – similar to “journalist” – is not a protected professional title (unlike doctor, nurse etc.), which makes it even harder for students to sort through the mess… Thanks for reading!

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  10. It was earlier this year that I began doing yoga at home – I started by finding some Youtube videos to help with specific aches, pains and stiffness. I quickly discovered a huge variety of yoga exercises and breathing techniques, which has kind of been a good thing for me and perhaps it means more people can feel like they can find a version/style/or element of yoga that suits them… but I’m starting to sense I’m missing the underlying “thing” that is yoga, or rather, always was… the essence that is missing from many of these modern variants… especially now I have attended a class a couple of times.

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    • I totally understand how you feel. These are tough questions. Where is the “essence” of yoga? What is “authentic” yoga, and what is considered to be “modern” yoga? Some styles are considered to be more traditional simply because they’ve been around for longer (think Iyengar vs Hip Hop yoga) but that’s just a starting point I guess…. It really depends on what you feel comfortable with. By way of example, I love chanting and pranayama and have always felt drawn to Sivananda yoga, simply because they do a lot of it! All the best for your journey into yoga 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree that there does seem to have been an explosion of new and different types of yoga over the past few years – a consequence of the commercially orientated world we live in! But on the positive side – if this introduces more people to yoga – that can’t be a bad thing. And I’m sure that at least some of those people will go on to discover a purer, more traditional style of yoga.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I know quite a few people who started yoga at the gym and then went on to explore more of the practice. Now they’re committed yogis who get grumpy if they don’t get to go to their regular class 😉

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    • Yes, I sometimes feel that way, too. As one commenter said, it’s a commercially oriented world we live in. If you want to sell, you’ve got to have a USP (unique selling point), which probably means that you need to come up with something new and intriguing…

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  12. I had to smile, but yes, it’s true. For me, I ignore all the ‘faddish yoga’ styles. Hot yoga? Nah. Water yoga? Rope yoga? You must be kidding. I’ve found a teacher who teaches…yoga. Plain, simple, quiet, delicious yoga. And he’s been doing this for 20+ years. And has a full house (15-20+ students) in each of his classes. I think there are a lot of people like me who just want their yoga with a mat, a peaceful space, and a quiet unassuming yogi.

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  13. I agree with you Andrea, it is indeed overwhelming…but don’t forget, that even in ancient India, yoga was taught in different gurukuls, and no doubt there were differences in styles even back then:) So the best thing to do is to get on your mat and practice what feels right for you, at that moment. And teach through your own experience.

    It’s a big world and diversity is what makes it interesting.

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