by Suzanne L. Beenackers
For May I designed (click to get the schedule)
1. a home sequence Real Yoga
based on my first yoga book, which I borrowed from my mother.
2. a Fitness Routine
based on the latest book I bought with the militant title Yoga Fights Flab.
Yoga is different from bench pressing 20 kilos, running half a marathon or even from pilates. This is something most of us will agree on. But what about doing an extra push up in your Sun Salutations? Or two or three? What if you hold Chair Pose or work through all four Warrior poses to firm your thighs? Is that still yoga? It is a thin line between yoga and fitness, and one that I ve crossed more than once. With unsatisfactory results.
Before getting into the do’s and probably-not-a-good-idea’s, let me first clear up something about Yoga (capital Y): it is not what you think. Assuming you think it’s an ancient system leading to Enlightenment.
The word “yoga” is very old, and used in a way others talk about God or Oneness or The Way. Doing Yoga Old School would mean meditating in your cave on top of a snowy mountain. You would not work, nor have children, Wifi or a vagina.
That rules most of us out.
So this leaves us with Yoga As We Know It: Hatha Yoga, the yoga of the body. The oldest text on this type of yoga is the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which includes seated poses, and inversions. Standing poses can be dated back to beginning 20th century, late 19 century at best. The Origins of Yoga by Mark Singleton, explains how yoga was derived at the beginning of the 20th century during an environment of Indian neo-nationalism and infused with doses of European gymnastics, bodybuilding and the Christian agendas of the YMCA.
Ergo: the question what is or isn’t yoga is as arbitrary as discussing the correct chronological order of Star Wars.
So if history doesn’t explain the difference, then who can?
Does it feel like God? Like The Way? Does it feel like Oneness? Then you’re doing yoga!
Or does it feel like you’re making up for eating too much calories and preparing for your bikini?
Personally, I don’t mind doing fitness, and love doing yoga, but I’ve more than once made the mistake of mixing the two, using yoga as after-fitness stretching or a vigorous yoga practice to tone and slim. Bad idea. Always dropped out.
For me, yoga is best practiced just for the sheer joy of doing it, without looking or hoping for any results. Sans push ups, abdominal strengtheners, long plank poses or other “gymnastics”. And fitness is best practiced with the tv on, my dumbbells ready, and a timer to clock me twelve minutes.
Because yoga is bliss, God, yoga is love. But fitting into your bikini is lovely too.