My friend said, “I’ve decided there are three different types of yoga.” She’d prefaced this by saying how many years she’s been practicing, about twenty, and for those of you who don’t know, I’ve been a lifelong yogini, beginning my journey with life-saving asanas that “saved my life” from the effects of severe scoliosis at the age of 18. That’s nearly 50 years ago, my friends! I’m so blessed and stoked about how yoga has strengthened my experiences.“There’s three types,” she continued, “the mystics, the athletics, and the architectural minded. I’m the last kind. I’m interested in how the skeleton stacks and everything falls into place.” After she offered her opinion I smiled. Had we more time, and were I inclined to engage her more deeply, I would have told her that I’ve also studied the “type” of yoga she mentioned “she had trained in.” And I could have assured her that the founder of that “kind” of yoga, whom I intimately know, thinks of that “class” of yoga as being all three, as I do, too. However, I did not divulge my opinions (as I do here) because I prefer to save my juice for creatively sharing with … you. But had I more time (and energy) I would have laughed and replied to this spunky middle-ager, “My home yoga practice includes all three.”
For those of you who want to know, a basic example of these “styles” (forgive me for using such words, to illustrate “classifications” — one of my pet peeves, to put people, or yoga, into boxes, but for the sake of this thought–train I’ll give in. Here’s my synopsis of what this professional, career-lady (in the medical world) was saying.
The mystic yogi/ni is someone who speaks in an unnaturally soft voice while giving instructions, and usually mentions how we’re rooted to the earth yet connnected to the entire Universe as we’re finding our way into a pose, simple or complex, quotes the Bagavad Gita and burns too much incense.
The athletic yogi/ni is the person whose asanas, when I watch them “performed” make me go “ouch!” because they are more contortionist exhibitions than displays of union of mind-body-spirit. You know who you are, yogis and yoginis. Usually this person fails to greet the person on the next mat to them, and averts their eyes from others except when directly spoken to.
The architectural yogi: of greatest interest here for this person is proper and true alignment, according to the words of a certain teacher, instead of trusting their own intuitive ability to “find the pose” by him- or herself. Rarely does this kind of yoga person develop a home practice because of their need for the “perfect pose.” Which every attempt of an asana, is.That’s Carter, my consort, pictured here. The way he “does” his yoga is what he’s learned from me in our 24-year love affair. His triangle pose (trikonosana) is a perfect example of what I mean by the three-types-in-One, or omni-yoga. This photo and the previous photo, of me in down dog, were taken exactly a year ago high in the Andes when we were staying in the village of Ollantaytambo, close to Matchu Picchu in the Sacred Valley of Peru. A great place to go and if you haven’t—please give yourself a life-altering treat, and go!
Carter has heard me say many a time that practicing hatha yoga IS:
* moving our body-temple in such a way that combines breath and physical focus, that is:
* praying with our body (especially if we dedicate the enery we generate during practice toward a specific intention)
* NOT merely a great workout.
Carter is a trained athlete, to the core of his bone marrow, and had a hard time understanding that a physical workout could 1) be a worship, a celebration of Spirit/Body/Mind; 2) be done in complete silence or danced-to with jazz, kirtan, reggae or country music, if wanted; and 3) be a gateway to understanding how “things are not what they seem to be”. This is evidenced by everyone who commits to a practice of yoga, in any form—that God/Spirit/the Mystery is everywhere, within every thing.
* yoga is mystical: “Make your life a prayer, and honor your body as the temple of your spirit,” dear Carter.
* yoga is athletic: we sweat our asses off! Together, or separately, Carter and I practice in a heated room, to avoid injury and to promote ease in muscles, and to heighten the detoxification and purification aspects of our practice. Our muscles are typical for yoga people: long and lean. We don’t suffer from stiffness too much (both of us nearing 70) and … even though competitiveness is anathema for a yogi/ni, we enjoy our two mats snuggling up together in our home-made Santosha (contentment, in Sanskrit) Shack, where we inspire each other yet never compete.
* and yes Carter, yoga’s alignment can be called architectural. Along with the basics of holding strong the core during poses (called the mula bandha, the base-of-spine “inner lock” in Sanskrit, i.e., an engaged perineum), the fixed gaze and pleasant countenance of our drishti (the “relaxed” Buddha-like smile and focused-on-one-point eyes) — the alignment of a pose is crucial. Bones, muscles, symmetry, balance, spirals and loops created by our body’s alchemy: all of this architectual complexity takes discipline to achieve.
Thus: yoga, for me, is an omnivorous experience.Love and Light from your pal, Lord Flea, aka teZa Lord