Designer Yoga. Is it Yoga? Does it Matter?

Ahimsa theme of the month (1).png

Last night a friend emailed me because she's writing an article about wellness trends- specifically focussing on the new wave of designer yoga studios. You know, the ones that hum, offer 45min classes with an immersive audiovisual experience, have a well-stocked boutique in the lobby and bathrooms that feel like a 5-star resort spa? My friend wanted to know what I thought, perhaps expecting I'd be a bit critical.

Indeed, I could get on my soapbox and give you a bunch of reasons why these studios are potentially problematic (especially among those of us who feel a strong sense of the importance of maintaining the authenticity, integrity and safety of yoga) but on the flipside, at this stage of my life and practice, I don't see much point in creating more division. I'll continue to teach classical hatha yoga from home and from our local community hall, with as much as integrity as possible and with respect to the modern yoga trends, as someone who loves variety and innovation-- I actually do think they're a bit of fun!!   

Yoga is about improving our wellbeing; to move people out of suffering toward more ease and joy, and if, by the end of class people feel better than they did when they arrived (physically, mentally, emotionally) then-- GREAT, the yoga is working!

I couldn't practice in these designer studios all the time though. They're more akin to a theme park compared to my gentle "move and breath sessions" that feel like the most exquisite homecoming. I guess it's a matter of distinguishing what one does occasionally for leisure/exercises vs one's yoga practice- as they might not be one and the same, and that's ok. Going to these designer studios you'll definitely get a luxe "experience", you'll find movement and breath, stretching and strengthening - hopefully with a bit of mindfulness thrown in, and if that serves you well, perfect.

Do these studios create a bridge for people to have a taste of yoga's potential, and dive deeper in to the practice over time? Who knows. I read a great quote yesterday from J Brown that said, to paraphrase... "people who go to yoga classes aren't necessarily interested in yoga" So. True. That said, we do have evidence in Australia that people come to yoga for physical benefits and stay for mental and emotional benefits, which is where we start to tap into the real heart of yoga.

And so I wonder whether lasting mental and emotional benefits are accessible inside of these ultra modern studios? We may find it wasn't "yoga" they wanted after all :)

Being interested in the physical practice of asana (postures) does not necessarily mean one is interested in studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, chanting Sanskrit, going vegetarian or practicing the 8 limbs: 1.Yama (ways we relate to others and our environment), 2.Niyama (ways we relate to ourself), 3.Asana (postures), 4.Pranayama (breathing), 5.Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), 6.Dharana (concentration) 7.Diyana (meditation) 8.Samadhi (oneness)

I'm one of those yoga practitioners whose life has been changed for the better thanks to studying the fullness of the practice, not just the stretches, and so it's this combination of physical practice with "off the mat" teachings that I pass along in my classes.

You'll notice in class I often say... yoga is this and yoga is that, but yoga is really..." and it may seem I contradict myself. Truth is yoga is all these things...

"yoga is union"

"yoga is relationship"

"yoga is liberation"

"yoga is effort and ease"

"yoga is the cessation of suffering" 

"yoga is when we still the fluctuations of the mind"

... and that's the challenge of attempting to define the undefinable.

There's something about yoga which is beyond measurement, beyond definition, and frankly somewhat magical. And I don't mean fairies and unicorns magical, I mean simply-- beyond definition. There's some secret sauce we unlock when we come into a fullness of presence, moving and breathing in community, shedding what we no longer need and living with intention.


THEME OF THE MONTH for September at Waverton Yoga is AHIMSA // NON-VIOLENCE.

We're taking a walk back to the yoga's roots... the first of the 8 limbs of yoga are the Yamas, of which there are five. Yamas are a kind of yogi code of conduct for how to live a good life in relation to others and our environment and that goodness begins with the first instruction to practice non-violence,  also called "Ahimsa" in Sanskrit.

Ahimsa is not just the absence of violence, but also... kindness & compassion.

Swami Nirmalananda taught Sharon Gannon and David Life the core mantra of Jivamukti Yoga (which founded on Ahimsa):  lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, which Sharon interprets as: May all beings, everywhere, be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Ahimsa, in the words of a few great yogis...

"Ahimsa is the highest duty. Even if we cannot practice it in full, we must try to understand its spirit and refrain as far as is humanly possible from violence." - Mahatma Gandhi

"Ahimsa is not mere negative non-injury. It is positive, cosmic love. It is the development of a mental attitude in which hatred is replaced by love. Ahimsa is true sacrifice. Ahimsa is forgiveness. Ahimsa is Sakti (power). Ahimsa is true strength." - Sivananda

"There is, however, only one idea of duty which has been universally accepted by all mankind, of all ages and sects and countries, and that has been summed up in a Sanskrit aphorism thus: "Do not injure any being; not injuring any being is virtue, injuring any being is sin."" - Swami Vivekananda

Looking forward to seeing you on the mat in September as we explore Ahimsa!

With Love,


PLAYLIST OF THE MONTH {To make it easier, now you only have to follow 1 playlist, it changes monthly and the previous playlists  are saved to my SpotifySeptember Playlist = dreamy tracks starting with pianos, moving towards deep and melodic house, it's a li'l more upbeat than usual, and there are no or minimal vocals. Enjoy!

Weekly Classes: Monday 6:30- 7:30pm, Wednesday 7 - 8 pm, Thursday 6:45-7:45am, Saturday 9 - 10am. Book Classes Here