My Yoga is the Right Yoga
Have you ever come across a yoga teacher, or a school of yoga that claimed, or implied that 'their' yoga is the only true yoga? That any other way will lead you astray? That all other styles or yoga, schools of yoga and/or teachers are fake; impersonators? If so, I suggest that you watch out.
The more I know, the more aware I become of the vastness of everything I don't know.
And how words incapsulate an experience. But the same words may resonate differently with different people.
I think it would be ridiculous and preposterous even, to claim that yoga is the only way.
If we talk about the physical benefits we get from practicing hatha yoga (meaning vinyasa flow, jivamukti, ashtanga as hatha yoga isn't a style but the branch of yoga that deals with the body), there are many other sports that can do the same. If we talk about the 'superficial' mental benefits we get from our asana practice (or our hatha yoga if you will): better mood, less anxiety, better sleep, more confidence is also something we can get from other physical activities. I believe that just by getting up out of our chairs and moving, we come closer to our true state of mind, how most of us felt just a few decades back, when we used our bodies for work, to live, instead of spending it in chairs and cyber-space where we are (in the words of Yuval Noah Harari) "two eyes, two ears, ten fingers and a credit card."
What I think yoga (as well as Tai Chi, Qigong etc) does better than for example cross-fit or football is to create a framework for bringing the awareness to the present moment. The encouraged breath awareness. The attention to detail. And by training one's capacity of being present on the mat, hopefully we can get it to spill over onto our life off the mat too. So that life doesn't pass us by. Of course you need to be fully present to be a great football player too, but it's not a philosophy within the context of the game.
At this point, when yoga has become a 'sport' for the masses and not a chosen elite few, there are so many styles to choose from. We have the 'old school' styles like Iyengar, Ashtanga and classical Hatha yoga. The middle-aged ones; Jivamukti, Anusara (both slightly bruised and battered by recent sex scandals), Forrest Yoga, Power Yoga and Bikram Yoga -- a name I find it mind-boggling that anyone even chooses to attach to their studio ( simply google Bikram Choudhury to read about a yoga teacher who behaves insanely un-yogic on so many levels) And then we have the newbie styles and hybrids: Yin Yoga, Shiva Shakti Yoga, Shadow Yoga, Yogalates, Voga, and Beer Yoga to name a few.
I guess it's about finding a style and a teacher that resonates with you. So first you need to find out what you want out of the practice. Do you want to look good naked? Be able to wrap your legs around your neck? Reach enlightenment? Or something in-between?
For me, warning signals go off when a school of yoga promises too much. Or when there is too big of a discrepancy of what they preach and how they act. Like when a school of yoga loves to say that 'yoga is the state when you don't need anything' but still peddles yoga mat bags, tote bags, t-shirts, tank tops, massage lotions, incense -- even perfumes with the school logo. Warning signals also go off when a teacher has too many pictures of themselves on their instagram account. But that may just be me.