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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Spence

Yoga Back to Basics

Simply because yogis on social media are shown doing exotic poses does not mean they are safe nor that they are anatomically correct for the human body.

If I see one more photograph of a head twisted to look at the camera in a pose where you should NEVER turn your head, or a compressed spine that should be elongated, or with an anorexic looking person trying to out pose someone else in a Cirque du Soleil gymnastic move calling it yoga I’m just going to scream. You may be thinking, “take a chill pill lady”… If so, read on.


Yoga poses have always been around.



In only the last 100 years or so this 1000’s-of-years-old-science of living have the physical asanas been added. Although yoga philosophy dates back five or six thousand years, recent academic research* shows that many yoga poses originated in the first half of the Twentieth Century, and are more European in origin.

The Yoga Pradipika, written in the fifteenth century, showed 32 yoga poses, half of them seated, and did not include sun salutations, inversions, revolved triangle, downward dog or pushups. In the last hundred years, yoga poses as we know them today were created as part of a global movement that combined religion and spirituality with western ideas of Athletic and physical training.  Many modern yoga poses were created from a mix of western contortionism, military drills, and women’s gymnastics, combined with ancient yoga philosophy texts such as the Yoga Sutras and the Upanishads.

The Indian yogis Krishnamacharya and Kuvalayanda, influenced by the western ideas of exercise and athleticism, established the health and fitness regime that dominates the yoga industry today.

Yoga, as practiced today more and more in studios across America, is simply a product of that “physical culture” movement. My fear is that this yoga, this “exerciseasana”, is going to be a fad when the next fitness craze comes along and all those who could have benefitted from this amazing life enhancing tool will lose out. It’s a body, mind and spirit practice. If you’re only doing the “body part” you’re missing out on all the real magic: all the things you heard about that you REALLY want. The strong and flexible body is the bonus. So, what to do? I’m working on my second book to address this problem. Stay tuned Yogis. It’s not a fad, yoga is a way of life.

Some are debating if yoga is being ruined by classes with titles like beer yoga and goat yoga. “One valid criticism is that it’s currently rather selfish and narcissistic so people are adding a socially compassionate dimension and trying to combine it with social work. That would be a nice development: it’s not all about you, but trying to use a practice to develop compassion rather than make yourself beautiful.” Dr James Mallinson, a senior lecturer in Sanskrit and Classical Indian Civilisation at SOAS University of London, who co-authored a book on the topic entitled Roots of Yoga

For an inspiring look into combining yoga with social work, check out this academic paper; “Yoga, Meditation in Social Work: A Journey from Edges to the Mainstream”

Namaste - Stephanie

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