Is today’s yoga still yoga?

If you’ve studied, or read about the history and traditions of yoga, you’ll doubtless have come across the 8 limbs of yoga.  Most current yoga styles and practices concentrate on just 2 of these limbs: Asana and Pranayama. Which is a great way to be introduced to the practice; Breath and movement are relatable to most people, making yoga seem less foreign and exotic, more do-able.  The other limbs are more difficult to incorporate into daily life and have, for many, fallen by the wayside. They are more esoteric and require a lifestyle commitment that is not practical for the average person. So this leads more traditional yogis to argue that modern yoga, focusing on just the poses and breathwork, is just exercise, not yoga. You might as well go to the gym.

However, my experience is that having started in exactly this way, with just the poses and a little attention to the breath, yoga gently draws you down the 8 fold path, and a dedicated wannabe yogi will naturally find themselves exploring each path to some degree or other. Some work, some don’t. Some require an impractical degree of change at this point in your life, others don’t.

It might take years. What’s important, regardless of the style of yoga you choose to practice, is to commit to the practice. Stick with it. Find a style and a teacher that’s right for you and stick with it. It might only be once a week, but whatever you commit to, stick to it. The practice changes you through consistent time on the mat and commitment to that time no matter how you feel, how tired you may be. Show up everytime and see what arises. You might be surprised. What starts out as ‘modern’ yoga, might well lead you somewhere totally unexpected. Be curious, ask questions, try new styles and be open to change. You will evolve.

Just as there are many many forms of yoga, and many different ways of teaching and learning yoga, there are different paths to follow. Ultimately, and perhaps especially into today’s fast paced modern life, if practicing asana and pranayama can allow us to connect to ourselves, even if it’s just for a moment on the mat, to experience the sensation of unity between mind and body, then modern yoga is indeed still yoga.