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Five Ways I Rebel Against Mainstream Yoga

Let’s face it. The ancient practice of yoga has been transformed into the art of selling women exorbitantly-overpriced leggings that tell the world, “I am bendy, mindful, and love wheatgrass in my smoothies.”

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true, but it was one of my early impressions of yoga and what being a yogi is all about. When I finally did get around to trying it, my favorite part was simply moving my body and surprisingly, my failed attempts (belly flops and nose dives) at several poses did not discourage me. Once I had experienced classes taught by a variety of instructors (in-person and online), I made choices about what I wanted to incorporate into my personal practice and what I could do without. I believe that yoga is personal. Your practice is YOURS. Don’t spend your time doing what other people say you “should” be doing. “Should” implies judgment. Here are five ways that I rebelled against mainstream yoga culture.

  1. I don’t have a routine. I practice when I feel like it. That is generally between workouts for recovery. Sometimes I do yoga because I am stiff from sitting on the couch and eating ice cream all day. It just depends on my mood. I don’t do the same flows every time either. I mix it up. Sometimes I work up a sweat, sometimes I want to relax in child’s pose and corpse pose after a simple sun salutation. I do what I want.
  2. I do short 5-20 minute flows. Again, this all depends on how much time I have or how much time I feel like spending doing yoga. A five-minute flow between brushing my teeth and running out the door in the morning can be just as satisfying as a nice twenty-minute recovery flow. Unless I’m really sore or feeling very active, I don’t ever feel the need to do more than twenty (sometimes thirty) minutes. My personal philosophy is that anything is better than nothing.
    DownDog1
  3. I don’t just do yoga. I do some pretty intense, hour-long workouts 4-5 days every week. I generally feel destroyed and pretty sore afterward and I like it that way. Since I can’t do these workouts every day without facing near death, yoga is the perfect way to supplement to my active lifestyle. It’s fun, relaxing, and allows me to keep moving.
  4. I don’t meditate. I am aware of the benefits of meditating but I really have no patience or desire to practice meditation. As a good friend of mine would put it, I am really good at “reverse meditation.” I think quietly think about EVERYTHING… gleefully! Keeping my breathing in sync with my movements is about as far as I take the meditation piece.
  5. I practice solo. I don’t know if this is actually “rebelling” as much as it is just my preference. I practice solo with YouTube videos (on my big screen!) and visualize all the millions of people who are struggling through tree pose and inversions in front of their TV just like me! It’s quite empowering to be able to laugh at myself.
    HAIR

Maybe you like to meditate and do hour-long flows to heavy metal music. That’s great! Your practice is unique to you and that’s exactly how it should be. In what ways is your practice unique and different from mainstream yoga?

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14 Comments

  1. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    April 13, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    This is exactly what people who are interested in “dabbling” in yoga need to read! I love your taking on yoga rebellion! I hear it time and time again, people associate yoga as a life commitment. That works for some, and for some it doesn’t. I personally have made a commitment to yoga and I practice yoga everyday, in one form or another. Sometimes that means solely practicing headstands in my living room while my husband is trying to play X-Box and I topple over knocking two glasses of merlot on the beige carpeting (I’m a clutz). Sometimes that means 2 hours of intensive vinyasa in the middle of a park surrounded by scowling on-lookers. I even take some time while sitting at my desk at work to stretch it out, because some days I need mindfulness more than others. Although I’ve made this daily commitment to my practice it’s not rigid, and I am by no means a “mainstream yogi”. I LOVE meat. I drink a glass of wine a night. I HATE kale. And what separates me the most…I’m a Christian. When did yoga, Christianity, gauged ears, and tattoos coincide? Well, for me they do. It may just be me, but being a “Bad Yogi” is more my style then fitting into with the mainstream view.

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      Anne

      April 14, 2016 at 1:17 am

      Thanks for your comment Megan. I am also a Christian and have been having a lot of trouble with my church because of my yoga. I would love to hear from you, or others, how you are able to integrate these aspects of your life in a healthy and respectful way.

      1. Megan Reddix

        Megan Reddix

        April 14, 2016 at 11:41 am

        Hi Anne! I get a lot of criticism not directly from my church family, however from people I am actually close with (family, friends, etc.) I am very respectful to their opinions, and to further understand their negative feelings I always ask why my being a Christian and practicing yoga is troublesome to them. Most of the time people associate yoga as a particular religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, but NOT Christianity). I express that I’m thankful for their concerns, however, yoga is NOT a religion. Some people (me included), use yoga to get deeper into their faith. I mediate on bible verses and I spend a few minutes on my mat before or after my practice to read my devotional (I’m currently reading the devotional “Finding Jesus on the Mat”). Many people are also troubled by my use of Om and mala beads in my practice. Yes, Om does derive from Hindu beliefs, however the meaning is universal. There is a great article (http://www.christianspracticingyoga.com/meaning-of-om/) that explains it’s connection with Christianity. I know not everyone will agree with my choices and my lifestyle, however I try to provide as much information as I can to those that question it. More times than not people are just confused on what yoga really is. Yoga is different for everyone, and for me it started out as being something purely physical. Over the past several years I developed a spiritual practice to connect me deeper to my Christian faith. My intention is always to promote love and happiness and to NEVER project judgement onto other cultures and beliefs. I have a couple blog posts being published in late April and throughout May regarding my lifestyle choices. If you have any questions, please feel free to find me on facebook and send me a message!

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          Anne

          April 17, 2016 at 12:37 am

          Thank you so much for taking the time to answer. I am in a really tough spot right now and just looking for encouragement and direction. I would love to look at your blog. Are you able to post a link here?

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        Lauren

        April 25, 2016 at 6:36 pm

        Anne, I’m a Christian too. I do yoga just for the physical aspect of it – the stretching and strengthening do so much for my achey back and scrawny arms. I don’t practice any of the “spiritual” stuff and I don’t try to integrate Jesus into it either. To me, it’s no different than running, doing pushups, or swimming. It’s exercise, and exercise is good for the body and the mind (endorphins and confidence boost!) and yoga can be simply exercise for anyone. If that’s your take on it, it’s really just stretching, bodyweight exercises, static holds, and isometrics. Maybe that will help you explain it if that’s all it is for you too. I haven’t had anyone from my church say anything to me about yoga, but if they did, that’s what I would tell them. Some like going to a gym and lifting weights, I like trying to lift myself while balancing on one foot and putting the other one behind my head for free 🙂

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    Ruth

    April 13, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Great post! I also keep my practices short – usually 10-20 minutes a day. I run and lift weights as well, and the combo seems to be working for me. I love yoga to get me moving in the mornings and as a cool-down after a run.

  3. Amanda

    Amanda

    April 13, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    The greatest gift I ever gave my practice was telling myself there was no time regulation. I just had to get on the mat. Sometimes that more than an hour (and I admit, I do love those) and sometimes it’s 15 minutes, but both are beautiful and I’m grateful for the time.

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    Tori-Leigh

    April 13, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Great post! I’ve been getting very turned off to the judgement in a lot of “western” yoga studios and classes. I still go to certain classes where I did my YTT because of the friends I’ve made, but I’ve been feeling like such a rebel lately with how little I’ve gone to classes to practice. I practice much more at home now and I find it’s so much better for me. I think we forget that traditionally, yoga is a path to self discovery, not self-judgement.

  5. Kat Fraser

    Kat Fraser

    April 13, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    Nayda, I loved this piece! Good for you for doing your own thing! I frequently repeat “It’s your practice” to myself throughout the day: in yoga, at work, when I’m cooking. I love that you hold true to that. Thanks for sharing your rebel story!

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    Jane Eccles

    April 16, 2016 at 3:32 am

    Well said. I was in a wheelchair with not much hope of getting further than a zipper frame. Determination said other wise. My husband trained as a sports science yoga coach and he gave me the confidence and understanding of my body to show that yoga is accessible to everyone. Even people like me (abdominals were taken by illness and life saving surgical procedures) He has worked with athletes with all kinds of disabilities and all now see the benefits of yoga. But it’s #notperfectyoga but #myperfectyoga that we use as our hashtags. It’s lovely to see beautiful pictures of beautiful bodies in yoga poses but it’s happiness to witness strength and determination of those who try yoga and adapt it to be what they need it to be. @velvetcherries @gingerspyoga shall follow you with interest 🙂

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    Kandi

    April 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I loved this! I’ve had many of the same feelings you expressed and some days hitting the mat just isn’t appealing. Other days I just don’t want to stop. I really had to laugh at the part about doing hour long flows to heavy metal music because my husband still thinks that it is the strangest thing I do!

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    ShawnMarie

    April 16, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    I loved this article! I can totally relate! The “I do what I want” comment is totally me! Haha!

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    Lennae

    April 28, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks for a great article! I also love practicing at home. I can control the music which led me to a flow where I was serenaded by blink-182. When I put it on, I was sort of questioning myself but I did what I wanted! =)

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    JEN

    April 29, 2016 at 7:39 am

    I am a real bad yogi. I have a regular ashtanga practise with cert teachers, many years now. But im 45 and a tiny bit overwight so I cannot do tittibhasana, marichyasana D at all. Baad baad I do full primary and sometimes second series too. Thats so bad. Then I never went to mysore and probably never will. I am notvegetarian! I almost never drink alcohol, take drugs or smoke never. I practise brahmacharya. But good yogis practise ahimsa and pranayama. I could not afford to finish Ryt 200 but I am so bad I teach yoga anyway. Being 45 Is also bad yogi

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