The Value of Yoga (in an over-scheduled world)

I want to share an article with you, about the value of yoga, that has stuck in my head. Yoga Classes Should Be Shorter by Olga Khazan, of The Atlantic (to which I subscribe).

As a yoga teacher, I’m angry that she’s devaluing my work and insulted that she’s backseat teaching. As a yoga student, it’s bewildering that she had such a different experience from my own.

Her view on the intention of “most yoga studios” notwithstanding (“monetizing relaxation” – ha, she should see my paycheck). She has missed the primary function of yoga. From the first Sutra, “yogas chitta vritti nirodha” – yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. I argue that Ms. Khazan needs this cessation more than most to find the true value of yoga.

We live in a world full of “20-minute yoga session” and “12-minute yoga routine” studies/articles/videos. When looking for an in-person yoga class, you may see options for yoga dance, Pi-Yo, and aerial yoga. What these mini-sessions and Ms. Khazan’s own experience seems to be lacking is the non-physical aspects of the yoga class.

The regular, enthusiastic practice of yoga leads the practitioner to a place of enlightenment, or spiritual serenity. 108 sun salutations alone won’t succeed. Let the body rest, guide the mind within. Classical yoga uses chanting (sorry Olga), relaxation (without a smartphone in reach), and meditation (which I’ve taught my own one-hour class versions of).  

The author could satisfy her true intentions with a gym membership, rather than a thirty-minute postural practice. My intentions, as a student, are to calm my anxious mind and shine a light on the darkness of my own depression and this is NOT accomplished by just working my body to its limit.

I’ve taught 45-minute and 60-minute classes, in gym settings where there is an emphasis on physical fitness over spirituality. Even here, my students often request LONGER classes and insist that their final relaxation, in shavasana, is not to be skipped. In my 90-minute classes, I need not pad or stretch things out. With a complete practice of spiritual, postural, breathing, and meditation, I find 90-minutes isn’t always enough.

I would love to know how other yogis feel. Does the value of yoga exist in drive-thru speeds? How much time supports the value of yoga in your life?

P.S. If Olga Khazan reads this, please come to my class, it’s on the house!

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