Why It’s Not Important to Choose a Yoga Style.

Via S. Brooke Bailey
on Mar 9, 2016
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Author's own (S. Brooke Bailey)

As a Yoga Alliance Registered Teacher who has spent hundreds of hours learning the specific nuances of certain yoga styles, it may seem shocking for me to say that it is not important to choose a yoga style.

After all, when we start practicing yoga for even a few months, people get curious and ask what style of yoga we do.

Depending on our familiarity with our studio or yoga teacher, we may or may not be able to answer questions about the style of yoga we practice. In fact, the group classes most of us take are an amalgamation of many different yoga styles.

When I decided to delve deeper into yoga in 2006, I was researching teacher training programs and asking certified teachers for advice. All of a sudden, the question of which yoga style I should study became more important because I was about to spend a few thousand dollars, along with numerous days and nights, studying and practicing yoga. But which yoga exactly? Wasn’t it all the same?

I ended up finding the perfect teacher training for me. In the program we studied three different styles of yoga: Iyengar, Sivananda and Ashtanga, and then pulled from each of these styles to teach a well rounded Vinyasa yoga class.

That’s right…four styles of yoga in one training!

The number of yoga styles has exploded in recent years as people begin to brand their own forms of teaching. It can take a bit of time to wrap our heads around the ancient lineages of yoga that have existed for thousands of years. Not to mention trying to filter the influence of each lineage on modern yoga, based on who has studied with whom and under what tradition or combination of traditions.

With so many individuals and yoga schools promoting their own styles of yoga, how do we know which one is the right one?

This is where the experiential nature of yoga is so critical. It’s not super important to choose a particular style of yoga, because if we practice and study with different teachers, gradually the right style will choose us. Our intuition will be drawn to a particular teacher or group of people (called a sangha in Sanskrit) that supports our whole being.

It’s not that we should blindly follow the next guru that walks into our local studio. Rather, there is an element beyond our logical minds that we need to pay attention to. It puts us in the places we need to be to make the best decisions for ourselves. In the end, we make the best decision we can based on the information we have and our own intuition.

I needed to study a wide variety of yoga styles with a number of wonderful teachers before I began to feel drawn to study just one style. Others know very quickly which yoga style they want, and need, to practice.

When we are curious about the type of yoga we are practicing, it means we are beginning to peel back the layers and move deeper into the practice. This is a great time to talk to our teachers and fellow students. Most yoga teachers, myself included, would love to know that their students want to go below the surface and learn more about why they are being guided to practice yoga in a certain way.

It took years before I began studying with my current yoga teacher, Rod Stryker. Then it took me two additional years of practicing his style of yoga, ParaYoga©, to realize that I wanted to commit to studying this particular style because it resonated with me and helped me consciously change my life for the better. Through the practice of many different types of yoga, I cultivated a better awareness of my own intuition and began to allow my intuition to guide me where my logical mind could not.

This is why I feel that we can let go of the focus on what style of yoga we practice. Having faith in the ability of the practice itself, no matter the particular style, to enhance our discernment to know what truly supports us.

It may happen quickly or it may take years, but as long as we are growing through the practice of yoga and becoming more aware of the habits that are not supporting us, then we can feel confident that we’ve made the right choice.

Gradually we begin to experience a correlation between practicing a particular style and moving beyond our limitations. If we don’t feel this shift, that is a signal that it’s time to make an adjustment and look for a practice that challenges us and gives us the tools to break free of old patterns and become the best version of ourselves.

Now let’s get a conversation going in the comments below. Do you agree with my perspective or do you feel that it is necessary to choose a yoga style early on and stick to it? I’d love to get your thoughts.

 

Author: S. Brooke Bailey

Editor: Cat Beekmans

Photo: Author’s own


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About S. Brooke Bailey

S. Brooke Bailey is a ParaYoga© Level 1 Certified Teacher and personal coach. Brooke builds a strong foundation for her clients to transform their lives through daily self care, mindfulness and yoga. Working with Brooke opens more than just your body, she opens your mind and spirit to its greatest potential. Ready to thrive? Get Brooke’s Passport to Thrive video series for free here. Connect with Brooke at SBrookeBailey.com or via Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

26 Responses to “Why It’s Not Important to Choose a Yoga Style.”

  1. karin giger says:

    brooke's style of teaching is very accepting and low key. classes vary, so it's interesting to see that her own openness to all sorts of learning, rather than forcing students into narrowly focusing their practices, is why her classes are so welcoming.

  2. yogibattle says:

    I'm a bit confused about your message: "I didn't choose a style so I can be a ParaYoga© teacher." Isn't that choosing a style? One that requires a copyright nonetheless. Just checking.

  3. Hi yogibattle, I can see how it seems contradictory that I am certified to teach a particular style of yoga. The message I would like to get across is that it depends on you and your practice. Trying to choose a style can end up feeling artificial. When I was researching teacher training programs it felt like I was being forced to choose a style of yoga when there wasn't one at that time that felt comprehensive and right for me. It took many years of practicing different styles until I genuinely felt drawn to study and become certified to teach ParaYoga – copyright and all 😉 That was my experience and I would like to open the space for students and prospective teachers to feel comfortable with not being bound to a style until they feel they've truly found the right fit for themselves.

  4. Hi Karin, Thank you for the feedback. I'm glad you find my classes welcoming.

  5. Pat says:

    There is an old proverb that states: "there are many paths up the mountain and they all lead to the same summit." Which path is not important so long as it is the one that leads you to the summit.

  6. That's a great one Pat. Thanks for sharing it here.

  7. Sarrah says:

    I like this perspective as I've always felt it is somewhat restricting in the yoga community when people's automatic response is to ask what type of yoga you practice (though the question is well intentioned), mostly because I like to move through several practices depending on how my body is feeling (yin – hatha – vinyasa flow).

  8. For years I told people that I practiced and taught Hatha Yoga. Since then, I've sampled lots of different styles, but I still keep my relationship with even the more "strict" styles of yoga, like Ashtanga, rather light and fluid. What can I say?–I'd rather sip on the kool-aid.

  9. Thanks for your comment Sarrah. I agree that it's important to check in with how your body feels and what pace and sequence of postures, breath work and meditation will bring you closer to balance at that particular time. The power of yoga amplifies when we customize our practice for our current state, as opposed to moving through a set sequence without understanding the aim of that sequence. Keep enjoying the exploration of a customized practice.

  10. Nice one Sharon – light and fluid. That sounds like a wonderful way to approach yoga! Thanks for sharing and keep sipping the kool-aid.

  11. Debby says:

    When a teacher relates to her class and they have that connection, that you called sangha, then the style of yoga that is being taught is what is important. Hopefully, it is a collection of several styles that brings it to today's expectations and needs of the students. Brooke Bailey is one of these teachers who make it relevant.

  12. That is very kind of you Debby. Thank you

  13. Jamee says:

    Hey Brooke, I love this post – I have taken many different kinds of yoga and for me, it is all about the teacher. If I feel I am getting good instruction in the poses and that the teacher is truly happy to be there teaching the class, it makes all the difference. I know very little about different forms of yoga, but I do find a gravitate toward certain types depending on how I am feeling on any particular day. Perhaps for some people choosing one kind of yoga and going deep into that style is most important – for me, I like to dabble. Thanks for a great article!

  14. Eve says:

    Thanks Brooke – very helpful. I admit to being a person who likes to try many styles. But sometimes I will do one that I liked with one teacher, but didn't like the style of another – even though they were both teaching Iyengar. So I think there needs to be a connection with both the style and the teacher. And really does it matter if we mix and match? As long as we are getting what we need from yoga.

  15. Hi Jamee, I think a lot of people have a similar experience to yours and I hope this post makes them feel more comfortable with "dabbling" in different yoga styles. The key is to look for what supports you based on your present needs. Thanks for the comment.

  16. Yes, the teacher is an integral part of creating a solid connection for students. Everyone is unique and each teacher interprets the style they are teaching based on their own experience. If you have narrowed it down to a style that supports you, such as Iyengar, certainly try different teachers. You may even find a handful that help you delve deeper into the style because they each bring something unique to their classes. Mix and match as long as you are growing from your yoga practice. Enjoy!

  17. Charles says:

    Great column about retaining you individuality in the world of Yoga.

  18. Thank you Charles.

  19. hummingbirdnola says:

    Love your article. I found that my favorite style is kripalu, but it is difficult to find an instructor who teaches that style. That said, I think that you have to try different styles and be open to the possibilities. I also find that mixing up the style of yoga that you practice from time to time helps develop your body and soul. It is good to stretch out of your comfort zone. It is your individual practice – it can be composed of bits and pieces of any style of yoga that appeals to you. Move your body the way that feels best.

  20. Thanks for your comment. It is good to stretch out of your comfort zone. If your yoga practice isn't helping you see where you can grow and helping you take the action necessary to do so, it's a good time to mix it up. I like your emphasis on an individualized practice that feels best for each person.

  21. Steph says:

    Interesting and thought- provoking article.

  22. Great article, Brooke. I also discovered that the yoga style "will find you", and then I think it continues to evolve and shift, over the years.

    My yoga practice as a student and teacher has been hugely influenced by Anusara and Iyengar yoga, and yet I couldn't commit to just one style when I did my first yoga teacher training. I chose "non-branded" yoga for both of my teacher trainings in the US and then alter on, in India.

    I continue to explore the styles that interest me and I add their sparks of light into a yoga kaleidoscope of teaching. As long as I feel authentic and joyful when I teach, I know I am doing the "right style".

    Thanks again!
    Julie

  23. Isabel says:

    Just what I need to reassure me! I’ve been practicing yoga for 35 years and in teacher training for 2. I’ve just qualified. I’m do excited!

    Around me are the obsessives…… To be ashtanga or not to be….. Personally it’s not my bag, I like the creative ability to choreograph my own Hatha class. I count bear to stick to Ashtsnga’s series…. Too prescribed and unfortunately for me I suppose I’ve met too many of its “followers” doing just that….. Blindly following like a religion or a cult!

    I’ve a multifaceted life and yoga is my thread of strength that stays a constant but gives me infinite creativity and choice! I can celebrate my life with it not close off to all the other ways to practice!

    Thank you for this tap on the back! I am doing ok aren’t I .

  24. Julie I love your comment – "As long as I feel authentic and joyful when I teach, I know I am doing the 'right style'." Thanks for your feedback.

  25. Hi Isabel, It sounds like you are doing great to me. Practicing yoga for 35 years means you've made it a part of your lifestyle. I love that you said "yoga is my thread of strength." When we weave yoga into our lives it makes us stronger.

    Congratulations on qualifying for a yoga teacher training program. It can be a mixed bag of emotions when we study to become teachers or simply deepen our own practice. On the one hand we want to learn a safe and structured approach to yoga that will be understood by our students. On the other hand, we can find ourselves battling the chatter of others about how great one yoga style is versus another.

    Here's a quote that I think delivers the point: "The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases." ~ Carl Jung

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