“What is the practice of traditional yoga?”
by Jacqualine Haller
Founder & Director of Jaya Yoga Toronto, voice/creator of Jaya Meditation and” The “AUM” Project.
So many times I am asked what Hatha yoga is. There is so much branding out there these days, it’s confusing for students at times. It’s not to say that branding is wrong or bad somehow. People have creative ideas on what they offer and want to put their name to it. We see that happening everywhere in the world, so why would yoga be any different. I too have called my meditation sequence “Jaya Meditation” after all, so I am not any different. It helps us define the coffee shops we like, the yoga pants we want to wear and the people and causes we want to support.
However, I wanted to write this blog to help clear up some misunderstandings that seem to be floating out there.
You will find a lot of studios will name their yoga classes after the name of their studio. However, chances are they are still teaching “Hatha yoga.” All those downward dogs and halfmoon poses are Hatha yoga postures. Studios or teachers will put them in the specific sequence and state that sequence is now their style of yoga. Again, all good as it can sometimes simplify things in a yoga world that is becoming very non-simplified.
Let’s be clear though, the actual postures you are practicing are Hatha yoga postures.
So what is traditional yoga? What does that even mean anymore?
There are a lot of credible yoga school’s out there in North America, in fact our studio offers yoga teacher training as well. For my teacher training and for many others, we packed our bags and made the trip to India to get our credentials. There, you can’t help but learn the discipline of Yoga. That’s all they offer.
What does discipline in a yoga class mean?
It means we aren’t there just to stretch. If you want to just stretch, there are plenty of gyms that will offer that. In fact, my teacher in India would say that if you’re not breathing with your asana (postures) you’re not doing yoga.
Plain and simple; you’re not doing yoga.
Many studio’s hold reverence for the ancient teachings of yoga, and we guide our classes this way.
What does reverence in a yoga class mean?
We chant/sing OM at the beginning of our classes. Please don’t be scared off by the word ‘chant’ either. When you go to church and sing a hymn, well… that’s the exact same thing. You are chanting or singing the name of God. It’s the same thing. I hear students say that they love yoga, but they don’t love the spirituality of yoga. Well, the spirituality of yoga is to evolve and use your yoga practice to do that. It is to find flexibility in our bodies, so our minds can be flexible and we can process change in our personal lives with greater ease. I mean, why do any of it if we aren’t actually evolving into better versions of ourselves and learning tools to manage stress in life?
We chant/sing OM at the beginning of our classes. Why? Because OM is a grounding sound. You’ve seen it, students arrive to class with different energy because we all experience life differently. Some students are happy and chatty, and some are dealing with loss, stress at work or are mourning. When students chant/sing OM at the beginning of a yoga class, it’s an internal vibrational re-set. It takes all the different energies that everyone brings into a yoga room, and brings us all into the present moment. This allows us all to begin our yoga practice with reverence.
At the end of the class, we lay in sivasana. Why? Because this is where all the benefits of yoga come to you. When you lay down quietly after a class, all the fresh oxygenated blood that you just created for yourself in your practice, rushes through your body to heal you. If you are running out of class onto the next thing without taking time for yourself, the whole benefit of your practice is lost. Asana (yoga postures) prepare you for sivanana (a gentle meditative state of mind). It gets the “body” out of the way, so the mind can be still.
Why rob yourself of that by rushing out after a class?
If you are looking for the yoga studio where you walk in, start moving and bending and rush out, we are not the studio for you. But if you are looking for a studio where you can practice in the traditional reverent sense, and gain the benefits of yoga for yourself, come check us out.