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Why Modern Yoga is NOT a Failure

I am a modern yoga success story.

Recently, some articles have gone viral about the failures of modern yoga. They discuss why people should stop–or never even start–practicing. They criticize the new meaning of teaching yoga and the potential disservice in posting pictures of poses. These articles site ancient texts such as the Upanishads and Patanjali’s Sutras as examples of what yoga really is. I stopped reading these articles because I disagree with their titles and some of their content. I am protective of the practice that saved my life.

I practice, teach and manage a hot power yoga studio. My studio, Powerflow Bloomfield, is a place where people come to do faster-paced, physical yoga poses in a heated room. These failures of modern yoga articles–and their readers’ comments–belittle this type of asana practice. It’s as if a meditation, bhakti, karma or other practice is more respectable. Many of the comments are made by yoga teachers–those who teach a “more respectable” form than hot power.

Why is your yoga better than mine?

I started Bikram yoga in college when I was severely anorexic. For me, a structured 90-minute practice gave me peace as my mental and emotional world was in upheaval. Bikram yoga kept me alive.

After my second 3-month stay in an eating disorder rehab, I started practicing hot power yoga. The physical aspect of it allowed me to appreciate my body for what it did and how it worked. It made me want to stay healthy so I could keep up the intense practice. With my body moving quickly, my mind got quiet. The community of modern yogis kept me straight without even knowing my story. Modern yoga saved my life, and though my life hasn’t needed saving in many years, it continues to change my life.

In Western culture, if you were to hand someone a copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, they wouldn’t make it past the first page before putting it down. The physical aspect of yoga is what opens them up to a practice that can deliver a life that they are longing for. The people that keep coming back to move their bodies, maybe unknowingly, have accessed another layer of yoga. Not a better layer. Just a different one.

I have so much respect for the practice of yoga because of its openness to evolving.
Of course yoga today is not what it was hundreds of years ago! It was a practice only taught by men for men. Nature evolves and so must we: Personally, societally, spiritually, and yogically. Without this evolution, practices, ideas and beliefs, fizzle out.

Lorin Roche wrote the following in The Radiance Sutras: “If we have come to yoga for healing, we may have needed our practice to be a cast or cage so that the bone in a broken wing can set. Now it is time to stretch our wings and fly again, so our practice needs to change. We feel an inner urge to abandon the cage of the practice that got us this far. This is not a failure of yoga; it is the success”
I am a modern yoga success story, and I am proud of what I practice and the field that I work in. I want to continue practicing my yoga–and encourage others to practice theirs, whatever form it may be. Yoga can have such a positive impact on all of us. No yoga is better than any other.

–by Kristen Brunello, pictured in a handstand pose that is 10 years of consistent practice in the making.
–photo credit: Joe Longo of The Tattooed Yoga Project

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