Real Yoga: No Chanting. No Granola. No Sanskrit.

Via on Oct 24, 2009

Good God (Shiva?).

Regretfully added Clarification. Since this post as originally published (without comment) continues to illicit violent (!) reactions from yogis (?!) everywhere, here’s what I thought when I saw the below. Thought it would be self-apparent we’re not fans of this sort of anti-yoga yoga, but… ~ ed.

We here at elephant laughed out loud (yes, literally) when we saw these posters in LA…while it’s fine for those uninterested in the spiritual roots of yoga to practice without sanskrit, yoga, or “granola” (!), it’s still a little sad/scary/silly that they’re so loudly, proudly rejecting yoga’s roots.

As seen in Venice, California, at YAS Yoga.

Picture 23

Picture 22

Picture 21

Picture 20

Picture 19

[galleria]

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com

5,063 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

63 Responses to “Real Yoga: No Chanting. No Granola. No Sanskrit.”

  1. This will certainly add fuel to the fire of the great adidas/Rainbeau Mars debate raging in the Yoga blogosphere (http://bit.ly/3HqEjY) about the despiritualization of Yoga. Here was my suggestion:

    I have come up with a modest proposal for solving all these problems with what is or isn’t Yoga.

    Let’s require that any Yoga that doesn’t meet whatever standard we set be called “Yobo” instead of “Yoga”.

    All Yobo studios and their corporate sponsors would be required to prominently display the following language on all their marketing material:

    “We practice Yobo here. While Yobo is inspired by certain limited aspects of Yoga, it does not include enough meditation, breathing, spirituality, and study of ancient texts to qualify as Yoga.”

    (There would, of course, have to be a certification committee that would set the rules and determine what is Yobo and what is Yoga.)

    Problem solved! No more inappropriate use of the word “Yoga”.

    I tried to sell this idea to YogaDawg, but he refused to pay my asking price.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  2. [...] perfect illumination.” Swami SivanandaRT @elephantjournal Real yoga? No Sanskrit! Photos: http://bit.ly/2Sprx4 as seen in Venice, CA“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but [...]

  3. Chris Courtney Chris Courtney says:

    I agree with Bob's proposal.

  4. pavanatanaya says:

    Sorry Bob, I own the rights to the word "Yoga".
    And like the vain who suggest nude yoga, you are paying attention to the wrong thing/ things.
    Yoga cannot be said, only experienced.
    And you may only experience by the express written permission of God.
    Spin yer lil hearts to pieces.
    Namaste,
    BTW I own the rights to "namaste" as well

  5. Doreen Hing Doreen Hing says:

    as Waylon knows, my position on all subjects is for ALL purist to back off… If the de-spiritualisation is an entry point to a yoga practice then so be it, at least the individual is getting some of the health, fitness & de-stress benefits. If they like it enough they will take their new learnt activity further, go on an ashram, open a studio, practice yoga every day, if not no biggy, at least they spent a few precious minutes of the day on themselves in active relaxation & moving meditation…
    I used to be a fashion purist…. I used to bemoan how in the US there is less interest in fashion or clothes, no one made an effort etc, but have since given up. For me, I still am a fashion purist, I love the craft and creativity of the Fashion Industry but now I am content to encourage individuals to think about how good fit & the right colour combos can be uplifting and thus inspire confidence and enhance their outlook….
    I personally thank ALL hard core yogis for their journeys to bring their knowledge & insight to others but again like any learned skill that is taught to others, why do yoga students have to follow it word for word, why can't they be happy with the reiterations and transformations. Yes some are crap, some are on the yoga money making bandwagon, some are pure to the spirit of yoga origins and some just help others enjoy the practice of yoga in a way that resonates with their lifestyle…
    Yoga purist can you please walk the walk and talk the talk and just breathe… and let it be…

    • Hi, Doreen. I agree with you. My Yobo suggestion was actually a good-natured spoof of the purist point of view, in case that wasn't obvious out of context! I always come down on the "embrace diversity" and "live-and-let-live" side of this debate.

      Like you, I feel workout yoga is great in it's own right, and is the place where many philosophically-minded Yoga people, like myself, get introduced to Yoga. I started Yoga at my tennis club for greater flexiblity.

      Bob Weisenberg
      http://YogaDemystified.com

      • Doreen Hing Doreen Hing says:

        Bob, I'm British, so the drier the humour the better… A friend wanted to call my project YogArt, but I knocked that one and him on the head.
        I'll check url and you can check out mine.
        My entry point into yoga is my passion for fashion and now my passion is to make the entry point for yoga feasible for all in their own terms & then who knows what rolling out a mat can start…
        http://www.plankdesigns.com

        Thanks for your reply, smxs I feel ALL alone out there being a yoga deviant…

  6. kia says:

    I went by there last month and giggled when I saw it. By any chance is it refreshing to see a wider range or athletes in Venice compared to Boulder? It was refreshing to not see so many sponsored folks out on the boardwalk by the beach.

  7. YogaDawg says:

    This is a great place to do yoga and Kimberly Fowler is a friend who has a very compelling story. I recommend her studio if you are in the area. No Chanting, No Granola, No Sanskrit still cracks me up though I would have added No Bullshit.

  8. pavanatanaya says:

    I wonder if Patanjali would have looked at the pradipika and said "Thats not yoga". Sorry Yogadawg. If the roots and traditions of yoga are bullshit, why have they been preserved? Rigidity and belief are the same thing. If you dont like the traditions of yoga, dont observe them. Dont demean those who would practice diligently though. Bitchin fotos and rock hard asses arent any closer to yoga than an alchoholic on a park bench. One is not better or worse than the other. The signs in the window are meant to diminish, not enhance. I teach spin. I teach yoga. I dont call one the other and I dont see ant practitioner as better than any other. The reason we are on the road is because " It takes you there" Namaste" TM

  9. pavanatanaya says:

    Rosanne, Thank you for the advocacy of yoga for all castes. I have taught chair yoga to 90 yr. olds who could barely open their hands. It was one of the most rewarding days in my life. I know that I am preaching to the choir here but the hard body, egoic hijacking of the name yoga really needs to subside. In time I am sure it will. When the gloss wares off of the yoga brand.
    Priceless freedom,
    Pavanatanaya

  10. Hi, Roseanne. I'm so glad you're here to express the other side of this issue so clearly.

    As you know from all our other discussions, I believe the Yoga pie is infinitely expandable and so one style doesn't detract from the other in anyway. They all rise together in the sea of overall Yoga popularity. Traditional spiritual Yoga will rise or fall on its own merits unaffected by any new directions, helped by them if anything.

    I personally believe that traditional spiritual Yoga, by any definition you want to use, is growing rapidly in the U.S. right along side the much faster growth of workout Yoga. And I think they support each other, not compete.

    There's the obvious example like my own–from yoga for tennis to the ancient texts. But I also believe people who start on the purely spiritual side benefit greatly from being pulled into the physical side, in a way that would never happen with Buddhism, for example.

    But I know and respect your and others' opposing point of view.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  11. Just the truth says:

    Ahh the arrogance of ignorance.
    Or is it the ignorance or arrogance.

  12. satya says:

    Claims of arrogance from one hiding behind the name "Just the truth"
    I am sorry. I didnt realize your omniscience.

  13. Produce says:

    Ah yes, none of that "crazy eastern nonsense!"

  14. Chris Courtney Tom D. says:

    So its like going to Catholic Church to sit, kneel, and stand over and over…just no praying, singing, or spirituality. Can you still call that going to church? Hmmmm.

  15. I haven't heard anyone object to the workout activity itself, just calling it "Yoga".

    The power of the Yobo idea, even though it's a spoof, is that is shows clearly that this particular discussion is entirely about terminology not substance. Everyone readily agrees there would be absolutely no problem at all if this were just called "Yobo" and not "Yoga".

    I get a lot more excited about trying to fix things that are substantively wrong than debates about what something is called.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  16. YogaDawg says:

    Thanks for confirming my point pavanatanaya…

  17. Chris Courtney Chris Courtney says:

    May I point out that if they are posting signs which say "no sanskrit" – that means they don't want to use the word yoga (a sanskrit word itself) either, n'est pas?

  18. Tah Groen says:

    Interesting conversation…
    I have been teaching yoga for a long time to fragile seniors and to the strong athletes, and when it comes down to it the other yoga fluff …i.e. granola, chanting and sanskrit is not what the basic student needs.

    It is a deep awareness of breath and body that opens doorways to self discovery, not knowing all the sanskrit names for poses. After basic stillness with breath and focus we can then delve deep into spiritual reflection (if so inclined) Yoga's basic premise is to clear the body of stagnation, enough so that stillness in meditation can become a comfortable experience.

    In meditation the deep dissolution of old outdated egoic patterns can then be addressed…. so keeping it simple is great! Then when the student is ready they will find that special Granola like guru (webpage, book, retreat) that satisfies the internal longing for something more.

    I love the no sanskrit, no granola, no chanting…I find it refreshing…giving yoga (or Union) the lightness of being…a bit of humor and adding a grounding element to it. We are not in India …our culture has different needs and behaviors that need a gradual approach to spirituality. It is simple, starts with the body and move off from there.

    Tah Groen
    http://tahgroen.blogspot.com/

  19. I hate to have to disagree with my fine friend Roseanne, but on this issue I'm with Doreen 100%.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  20. CHRISTOPHERAY says:

    is that a foto of a 'REAL' virabhadrasana l…..?…

  21. Doreen. That's a very interesting analogy, and you know I personally agree with you on this issue. I embrace Yoga in all its forms, commercial or otherwise.

    But you should be aware that Ashtanga is hardly what traditionalists (rather than "purists") mean by spiritual Yoga. Ashtanga to some, in spite of its "eight limbs" name is highly competitive, ego-driven, and emphasizes asana at the expense of meditation and breathing and spirituality.

    Even though I embrace diversity, my own practice is on the other end of the spectrum. Linda-Sama recently coined the term on her blog "radical yoga traditionalist." (Linda's Yoga Journey http://lindasyoga.blogspot.com/ ) I wrote the following in response, which will give you an idea of just how different the other end of the Yoga spectrum is: (Continued in next comment)

  22. Hi, Linda, and thanks a lot. Your last comment above got my subconscious mind thinking about what is this "radical yoga traditionalist" you refer to? I woke up at 3:00 in the morning with the answer and couldn't go back to sleep until I wrote it down. To me the true Radical Yoga Traditionalist is:

    –One who thinks everything after the Yoga Sutra is an unnecessary modern innovation.

    –Who constantly reads and rereads the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutra, and all the commentaries he/she can find.

    –Who thinks later Hatha and Tantra practices are filled with as much distracting ritualistic excess as the Vedic rites the original Yogis were rebelling against in the first place.

    –Whose idea of Yoga practice is living each and every moment in the realization of the wonder of the universe.

    –Who believes Yoga is not hard work but rather ecstatic enlightenment.

    (continued in next comment)

  23. –Who does asana, but only in limited form and only as an aid to deep meditation on the divine.

    –Who believes the Upanishads and Gita represent universal truths that can be found in any religion and any life, just as they themselves proclaim.

    –Believes everyone is already wondrous (equals divine) and Yoga consists of simply realizing that fact, through whatever method works for each individual.

    –Is deeply indifferent (but not antagonistic) to the established Yoga hierarchy, and has not the slightest desire to become a Yoga asana teacher.

    –Who spends most his Yoga life simply contemplating and writing about the wonder of the universe rather than refining his "practice".

    In other words, me! (Uproarious laughter ensues.)

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  24. My "fake" virabhadrasana was meant to go along, best I could, with the raised green silhouette on the studio door. Not true to form!

  25. Look, I'm all for whatever gets you onto the mat, be it Bikram's craziness or otherwise, but getting onto the mat doesn't mean demeaning the rest of us that are practicing actual yoga. You know. The kind that unifies you. Yoga meaning union, to yoke. Unifying body and mind, self and Self, self and community. Those kind of connections are what creates the therapeutic benefit of yoga. And we know that those therapeutic benefits exist – there's fantastic yoga being done for our vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Its the same fantastic yoga that is offered to rape survivors and battered women by groups like yogaHOPE and its the same yoga that helps heal eating disorders (http://www.sproutyoga.org) , and work with street kids (http://www.streetyoga.org) and its the same yoga that keeps kids in juvie from going on to a life of crime (http://www.niroga.org) and (http://www.artofyogaproject.org).

    I've seen the research. Hell there is even an entire SET of journals devoted to the therapeutic effects of yoga – http://www.iayt.org.

    So to those that say "Hey man, if you're so yoga'd up why are you freaking out when places like YAS call themselves yoga" its because they call themselves yoga while denegrating what those of us with actual lifetimes of yoga experience are doing with our yoga. I could give a rats ass what kind of bum my students have, but I'm available by phone for a midnight yoga class if it keeps you from shooting up, binging & purging or feeling like your PTSD has gotten so out of control that there's nothing left but suicide.

    Yes, yoga heals. It sometimes heals by involving sanskrit words and ideas. Sometimes chanting works for mediation for people who can't meditate otherwise (due to issues of dissociation). Don't fart on someone else's method of becoming whole just because you want to be seen as tough or hard or "real."

    That's my issue with "Yobo" as Bob Weisenberg nicely put it.

  26. Look, I'm all for whatever gets you onto the mat, be it Bikram's craziness or otherwise, but getting onto the mat doesn't mean demeaning the rest of us that are practicing actual yoga. You know. The kind that unifies you. Yoga meaning union, to yoke. Unifying body and mind, self and Self, self and community. Those kind of connections are what creates the therapeutic benefit of yoga. And we know that those therapeutic benefits exist – there's fantastic yoga being done for our vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Its the same fantastic yoga that is offered to rape survivors and battered women by groups like yogaHOPE and its the same yoga that helps heal eating disorders (http://www.sproutyoga.org) , and work with street kids (http://www.streetyoga.org) and its the same yoga that keeps kids in juvie from going on to a life of crime (http://www.niroga.org) and (http://www.artofyogaproject.org).

  27. Look, I'm all for whatever gets you onto the mat, be it Bikram's craziness or otherwise, but getting onto the mat doesn't mean demeaning the rest of us that are practicing actual yoga. You know. The kind that unifies you. Yoga meaning union, to yoke. Unifying body and mind, self and Self, self and community. Those kind of connections are what creates the therapeutic benefit of yoga. And we know that those therapeutic benefits exist – there's fantastic yoga being done for our vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Its the same fantastic yoga that is offered to rape survivors and battered women by groups like yogaHOPE and its the same yoga that helps heal eating disorders (http://www.sproutyoga.org) , and work with street kids (http://www.streetyoga.org) and its the same yoga that keeps kids in juvie from going on to a life of crime (http://www.niroga.org) and (http://www.artofyogaproject.org).

    I know it because I've seen the research. Hell, there's even an entire SET of journals devoted to research on therapeutic yoga – http://www.iayt.org.

    So the point is not whether bikram, or YAS or whatever new spin on yoga has come out is acceptable or yoga or whatnot, the point is that YAS saying that its "real" yoga demeans the rest of us. Which is really harmful for those of us that are bringing yoga to communities that are actually healing from it.

    Saying that YAS is "real yoga" will prevent yoga from getting into more eating disorder clinics where people with chronic, life threatening eating disorders can benefit from yoga. So yes, there is a harm to this "no sanskrit, no granola, no chanting" we are real yoga which is more than just commercialism. Call yourself whatever you wish, but don't drag down what a lot of us are working to achieve.

  28. Good points, all, Sarah.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  29. Doreen Hing Doreen Hing says:

    Cheers Bob for some additional clarification that has also left me confused too. That Ashtanga class was the most traditional class I've encountered… I enjoy my practice & I enjoy sharing & encouraging the unitiated to consider a yoga practice. Two days ago, I was on my loading dock, accepting Plank yoga mat delivery finally (woo hoo), showing the truck driver how Plank pose, not necessarily in heels, can improve his push ups… So sad when traditional = blinkered
    I heart Yobo, unfortunately it would cost me too much to change all the copy and text on my marketing materials & merchandise…

  30. Thanks, Doreen.

    I hope it's clear that I embrace all forms of Yoga, including Yobo (Do you really think it might catch on) and certainly including Ashtanga, which has a rich, direct, illustrious, and admirable history.

    I am trying to make the point that the Yoga spectrum extends much farther toward the pure spirituality side than most Yoga practitioners are aware of. This is just an interesting point of information, though. I'm not urging anyone to change in that direction. Those for whom it is right will find it.

    I happen to be one of those people who experience Yoga almost entirely from the standpoint of the ancient Yoga texts, That happens to be my passion. That's what's right for me, even though I started with workout Yoga for tennis.

    This has been a great discussion. Happy to continue with you anytime, here or through e-mail.

    Thanks,

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  31. Brenda P. says:

    What do they have against granola? Surely those spinners have eaten Cliff bars or trail mix and, technically, isn't that the same thing?

  32. [...] may have heard of Yobo, the un-Yoga. It was my modest proposal for resolving the debate raging here on Elephant Journal and in the Yoga blogosphere over what is, or isn’t [...]

  33. [...] traditions and countless influences. Defining its age necessitates defining just what yoga is—and what it’s not—and that’s tough to [...]

  34. It's all good. Practice peace.
    Jai Ho!

  35. Catrina says:

    Even if all people are doing is yoga to be an athlete, the essence of self control and the purpose of yoga can not be escaped. In fact many athletes have more yogic knowledge than many people I know who practice "yoga".

    Yoga is what ever you make of it and is for every level of consciousness out there. Name or not, if you practice anything with awareness, you are doing yoga in my books. I think our society is too overly critical of themselves and others so often. Lets get down with everyone being ok with where they are and growing in that space. Self acceptance, and real people being themselves acceptance.

    Lets go Yogis, Lets GO!

  36. [...] will all of yoga be about fitness, with a side (if that) of Chanting, Sanskrit, all that Namaste Granola Hippie stuff? A few years back, I asked Richard Freeman that same [...]

  37. While I do have to agree that sanskrit does get in the way, we as a society have no problem with adding foreign words into the English language, like Rabbi, Qi or Qibla.

  38. Emily says:

    I never understood this No Sanskrit thing. What is the big deal and why does it make it more spiritual or less accessible. It is simply the language of yoga. I am a dancer and ballet exercises are in French wherever you go. A plie is a plie not deep knee bend. I never knew anyone getting bent out of shape about that.

  39. yogadivina says:

    Dont want the ancient bullshit. try Yogo and go

  40. [...] Guess what? Your students don’t speak Sanskrit; they speak English (or Spanish, or whatever language they speak, but probably not Sanskrit). Teachers who talk in a foreign language come across like showoffs. This is a sure-fire way to disconnect from students. This disconnect is annoying and easily avoided—use your Sanskrit sparingly. [...]

  41. akismet-e8d7c971ae4b6e7d6aeeaf26d33b98c8 says:

    A new blog devoted to a fresh look at Yoga-type issues and Buddhism in the West: http://speculativenonbuddhism.wordpress.com/2011/

  42. akismet-e8d7c971ae4b6e7d6aeeaf26d33b98c8 says:

    A new blog devoted to a fresh look at Yoga-ish stuff and Buddhism in the West: http://speculativenonbuddhism.wordpress.com/2011/

  43. Nice and informative.Thanks for sharing.

  44. TroyA says:

    Thank you all for your comments. I have this conversation and tend more toward the traditional. What I want understand is how did yoga make its way into the fitness industry? That is part of the problem. Somewhere along it’s evolution it got mis-classified. That said, if something evolves far enought, at what point does it actually become something else? Yoga without it’s spiritual roots isn’t yoga. Yoga poses aren’t yoga-any gymnast could come to a yoga class and school everyone on every pose, right? Would you say they had , then, just done a yoga practice? Probably not. So what makes yoga, yoga? It’s roots and inherent design as a spiritual practice. Without that, it’s become something different.

  45. Vickie says:

    once upon a time there was a man who watched how the animals moved and decided to copy those same movements so he could become strong, agile, balanced, and beautiful. Yoga, and then some others took those animal poses and added spiritual rituals to them. So going back to the original intent … To become strong, agile, balanced and beautiful. English is an easier and more effective way to convey the function and expectation of the pose while working in a non traditional environment such as a fitness center. Teach to the members, to the audience, in the way in which they receive. America is rich in diversity, something for everyone…. No judgement.

  46. Mike M. says:

    Meh. It is obnoxious and ignorant. But yoga is thousands of years old born from a culture that has withstood many conquests and changed the conqueror far more than the conqueror changed them. We can't break yoga. We overestimate our power as the youthful often do. We need only practice yoga as best we can and spread its full story to those who are open to it. If a person earnestly practices the physical side of yoga long enough, they will want more. After all, this stuff really works.

  47. [...] say that Yoga for Weight Loss, Disco Yoga, Bikram, Adidas Yoga with (my friend) Rainbeau Mars and Yoga without all that annoying Granola, Chanting or Sanskrit may not be “traditional yoga” (a moving target in and of itself)…but nevertheless may help [...]

  48. Alden says:

    Sanskrit is an engineered language, designed with an understanding of how the body works. It's a system of sounds whose vocalization positively effects the tissues. Sanskrit is a beautiful jewel, one of the most fantastic inventions of human beings. This "fuck sanskrit" attitude is frightening. What sad, pathetic people.

  49. elephant journal elephantjournal says:

    I'm down with it if it's opening the gate wider to those who might otherwise be un-interested in a more "spiritual" path of yoga. It just seems like macho posturing, the way it's put–but perhaps it's just tongue in cheek humor.

    But, still, what's wrong with granola in the morning?

  50. Which book are you talking about here, Scott? I couldn't find the reference.

    Bob W.

  51. YogiOne says:

    I assumed that the revival of this topic is because the studio owner has a book out called "The No OM Zone: A No-Chanting, No-Granola, No-Sanskrit Practical Guide to Yoga"

    Maybe she thinks no-granola is funny, but people like her used to think the word jiggaboo was funny too.

Leave a Reply