I’ll Take One Yoga Class, Please. Hold The Gimmicks.

Via Heather Dawn
on Feb 23, 2012
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*Warning: Article contains partial nudity.


Naked Yoga, Hip-hop Yoga, Acro Yoga, Partner Yoga, Yogalates, Fit Yoga, Rock and Roll Yoga, Yoga competitions, Cirque Yoga, Hot Yoga, Chocolate and Yoga??

photo by asterix611

Who knew when I finally took my yoga teacher training so many years ago that in order to keep up with the changing times, I’d also have to become a DJ!? (A career I have no interest or talent in whatsoever.)

I’ve been challenged to do yoga floating in the air, suspended by tiny little straps that from my aviophobic eyes looked as durable as a toddler’s wrist watch. The pressure to become an Olympic level gymnast in the yoga room, like Nadia Comaneci is insane. Especially when I’m an aging 35 year old trying to do the dynamic moves of a professionally trained 10 year old.

And now I’m faced with students who want to do…

Happy Baby Pose, naked?! (Good luck hiring staff who will clean those mats after class.)

Are all these trends really necessary on the path to enlightenment?

Photo by Curlybird (Judyth Greenburgh)

As a yoga student, I suddenly feel a little old-fashioned. I’m all too aware not everyone has the same motivations and goals to practice yoga as I do.

I’m beyond thankful to have studios like Dancing Shiva in L.A. or Dharma Yoga Center in N.Y.C., where I can practice the basics of “plain-ol’-yoga,” which focuses on the bare minimum.

Just give me a mat, blanket, cushion, and a quiet space—I can practice my asanas, pranayama, mantras and meditation. That makes me one happy yogini!

As a teacher and businesswoman, I certainly like to keep up to date with the ever-increasing yoga trends (whether I like them or not). Continuing education is important to both students and myself. It helps to keep my class fresh.

However, repetition of more traditional themes, such as remembering to breathe slowly and deeply, are also important. Repetition helps to bring knowledge out of the mind and into a place of action.

Being a teacher is about listening, caring, educating and communicating. At times, it’s also about discernment. With all the yoga variations out there, as teachers, we must consider wants versus needs of our students.

At some point I have to ask myself, “If the Yogini in me aspires to Pantanjali’s Eight-fold path on yoga, where the ultimate goal is Samadhi (a state where you and the universe are one), don’t all these yoga gimmicks and trends just add more distractions?

No yoga this night, but I got a t-shirt!

I saw several concerts this past summer. And you know what? I wasn’t motivated by Anthony Kiedis and The Red Hot Chili Peppers to do a single Warrior 3 during his concert. Also, I never got the urge to practice Nadi Suddhi (alternate nostril breathing) during Janet Jackson’s performance of Rhythm nation. As for yoga competitions…really?

Yoga Competition is an oxymoron. Those two words shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

I am by no means a yogi purist in any sense of the word.

After being a very strident, ill-suited vegetarian yogini in my younger years, I now happily eat meat, meet friends for drinks and couldn’t recite a passage from the Vedic Scriptures if I tried (Yes, I have tried).

I read lots of new-age books, take workshops and give help to people as often as I can, while also relishing my fiery imperfections. I love meditation, pranayama, asana and kirtan. I think the Yamas and Niyamas are an inspirational “schnizzle” I may never fully embody.

I am always happy to try some new version of yoga in the market…

As long as I don’t have to see some dude’s schlong hit the floor during Chaturanga and pretend like I’m not giggling inside about the absurdity.

Photo from RonSombilon Gallery

Call me old-fashioned, but I was never the yogi who wore labia-level shorts and a bathing top in the classroom either.

For me, yoga is a look into my mind. I like to discover what habits I’ve developed over the years. The goal is to apply brakes to the habits that act to only increase suffering.

Finding a trend filled yoga practice is a great place to start. But, as time goes on, try to stay open to exploring your inside world. After all, an unhealthy mind truly is the root of all our suffering and the one element we can learn to have control over (excluding those who suffer from mental illness).

The next time you get to your acro-hip-hop-chocolate infused-naked yoga class in a sweltering 105 degrees ask yourself,  Why am I doing this?

What is my goal? Besides external motivations like six-pack-abs, a yoga butt and flexible hamstrings (all of which will deteriorate for every yogic and non yogic human being on the planet as we age), what quality of mind am I developing? Start asking yourself how deep can I surrender into these asanas rather than wondering how many more things can I add to my practice.

I wonder what the ancient yoga Guru, Krishnamacharya, who taught all the yoga greats like B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabi Jois and his first Westerner Indra Devi, the foundations of the yoga most of us practice today, would think of these ever-expanding Westernized versions of yoga?

I can only imagine Krishnamacharya in a Yogalates class…


About Heather Dawn

Heather Dawn is a life coach, meditation and yoga therapist. She specializes in self-empowerment and personal transformation with her clients and students. She is the co-host of a weekly sex, love and relationship show and podcast called, “Getting it On with James and Heather.”


23 Responses to “I’ll Take One Yoga Class, Please. Hold The Gimmicks.”

  1. Maria Mensen says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you about this. All those “latest” trends actually have me doubting about the purpose of practicing yoga, specially the “naked” version… I mean really? Can people really concentrate on their bodies? or are they only looking at the other bodies? I find that vulgar and cheap… And you are right, competitions only feed the ego… Isn’t the practice of yoga suposed to help us become part of the whole and get rid of the ego? Great read!

  2. Stella says:

    Heather thank you for writing this, damn it. I feel old fashioned because I actually teach Sun Salute C! WTF! I think these stupid trends are just stupid. The latest I heard is Karaoke yoga. Please, give me a break. Call it a fitness class, call it what you will, but yoga, NO! Americans, once again try to reinvent the wheel for momentary pleasure, then they get bored because unbeknownst to them, it's not deep enough and then they and move on to Booty Blaster. Blast me the hell outta there!

  3. Alana says:

    Thanks for the warning in the begining of the article pertaining to nudity! Needed a heads up on that! 🙂 Love the article…and I think you got your point across clearly. In my opinion, there is alot about this world where we as people need to come back to the basics and simplicity of things. Yoga is just something else for our society to "glamorize." Funny…and so are you! You made me Laugh out Loud at several points! Keep it Up!!! 😉

  4. heather says:

    House rules hon! Have to put that warning…a toosh is a toosh ya dig? thanks for the love!

  5. heather says:

    There is a sun salute C? Wow. Funny commentary Stella! "blast me the hell outta there! hahaha

  6. heather says:

    I think ego like all aspects of self have its lighter and darker sides…..A healthy ego can be beneficial and protective in the right circumstances…but it can also be tyrannical, child-like and selfish…..and yes Maria, if one follows Pantanjal'is 8 fold path Samadhi is the goal…but not every Yogi's goal.

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  9. Very funny article, Heather – you are a yogini-comedienne! I am so glad that you, as a yogini-expert, pointed out the absurdity of yoga in a 105-degree room! I was hoping I wasn't being close-minded by never trying that, because it always seemed to me like such a gimmick! And you confirmed my intuitive judgement that yoga was never meant to be trumped up by gimmicks. It is wonderfully-challenging and sweat-inducing even in a normally-heated room, especially when filled with hot bodies. I live in Phoenix now, after sadly leaving the Mecca of LA-yoga, and 105-degree rooms have always seemed to me to be not healthy! As a former professional athlete, I know that a workout is not "better" in a sauna! Anyway, thanks for keeping the yoga world on its toes, Heather! Keep up lol-writing-style, I think you're quite brilliant!

  10. heather says:

    Thanks Gregory. Thanks for the compliments! I have written a few articles for EJ. Check out Yoga Bully, Unlimited Texting and Yoga, Yogi master or spiritual disaster..i try to keep it light on the toes indeed. My new york sarcasm has stuck with me here in LA. I have done yoga in hot rooms a few times and have enjoyed it…from time to time that is…after all heat has an analgesic effect for the body. That said, my day to day yoga is more flow and meditation… Arizona is hot! but at least you are only an hour from Sedona! its gorgeous up there and much cooler! Be well! thanks again for your kind words..

  11. iloas says:

    Hmmm Food for thought…….

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  13. findingyoga says:

    Your article oscillates between talking about your personal experience and asking the general "you" to look closely at trends, which I would argue you have not closely looked at yourself. If you are supporting or being supported in a partner hand to hand (as in the photo you show above) I will guarantee there is absolutely no level of distraction in your practice.

    Before asana, pranayama or meditation, I believe the most important aspect of yoga is in ahimsa, non-harming/non-violence. Your article to me reads quite condemnatory and I must question where that could find root in any aspect of yoga.

    Have you seen the videos of Krishnamacharya doing partner yoga/ AcroYoga moves with his grandchildren?

  14. heather says:

    wasn't condemning gimmicks at all, just stating what I prefer having tried many things. I even dated a guy who only played loud rock music during his classes..whatever floats your boat. I could see the fun in what he was doing. But for ME it wasn't what I'd choose to get my dose of spirituality in…but it was fun!

    We all bring our own eyes, our own perceptions, our own experiences to the written( and visual) word. That is when the authors intention melts away and interpretation of the one who is reading takes over. For example: you can watch the krishnamacharya video and see one thing, I see another….

    Developing right mind is always key at the end of the day…

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  19. Sarah says:

    OH MY! who on earth would attend NAKED yoga?

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  21. Shawn says:

    I'm all for being naked, but why distract from the beauty of it by doing yoga at the same time. If you want to get naked, go to a hot spring (or if you live in Portland, Oregon, for a 5K run or bike ride).

    Teaching yoga is all about the effect that you want the yoga class to have on your students. Unfortunately, when you start adding in nakedness and ropes (or whips and chains) and loud music, the effect becomes less about focusing the mind and more about those other things. If you want the effect of your classes to be a rockin' kick-a#$ good time, then go for it.

    However, I think there are still many people who enjoy doing "basic" yoga (hold the gymnastics and mayo, please). As a yoga teacher, I don't even use music in my classes and I've never had a complaint. Of course, the people who crave MC Yogi Leppard during savasana don't show up at my classes. But that's okay. It's better to teach authentically than to try to please your students by becoming something you aren't comfortable with.