April 23, 2018

“You can’t do Crunches in a Yoga Class. That’s not Real Yoga.”

As a yoga teacher, I’ve heard people say “You can’t do crunches in a yoga class. That’s not real yoga.”

But the truth is, you can be doing nearly anything and practicing yoga as a philosophy.

The Yoga Sutras define yoga as the “control of fluctuations in the mind.” Literally, yoga means “to yoke” or “union.” And here, we are referring to the union of mind, body, and soul.

Running, hiking, biking, singing, painting, cooking, and many more processes and activities can still the fluctuations of the monkey mind and bring balance to the mind, body, and soul. Many individuals I know are not drawn to a yoga asana (pose) practice for varying reasons, but to the philosophy of yoga, which is extremely rich and can indeed be practiced by anyone.

According to the Bhagavad Gita there are four kinds of yoga: Karma yoga (the yoga of action), Jyana yoga (the yoga of knowledge and wisdom), Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion and service to God), and Raja yoga (meditation). Most people are predisposed to one or two paths that they tend to focus on in their lives. These dominate, while the others remain in the background. However, life changes can cause an individual to switch which paths they focus on.

As a practice, we tend to think of a yoga asanas, or yoga poses, and it is a fact that crunches were never a part of Krishnamachari or Desikachar’s yoga asana practice.

I tend to be a purist yoga teacher for the most part, and start nearly every yoga class with a short pranayama and end with a short meditation. I bring up yamas and niyamas, and focus on the mindfulness of the practice. I tend not to do crunches in my yoga classes. I will hold a forearm plank or a boat pose quite frequently in my sequences.

However, from time to time, if the energy of the room demands it, I’ll do some core work, and might add some crunches in the mix. It’s okay. This is yoga too—it just depends on how one wants to look at it.

One size does not fit all in any aspect of life.

So instead of judging anything as right or wrong, let’s truly be yogis: free of judgment! Live and let live.


Author: Shruthi Krishnaswamy
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron

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Shruthi Krishnaswamy