We are in a golden age of rethinking classical yoga. I love this, as I believe yoga was never meant to be stagnant. As physiology and movement science make their way into our shalas, we can better meet the goal of a lifelong practice. But, let’s make no mistake, it’s all yoga.
For years, I felt the pressure to brand myself as something other than “just a yoga teacher.” I wanted to wear a shirt telling people about my degrees, my trainings, my life as an athlete or my half marathon time. When people asked me what type of yoga I taught, I said, “Flow, but not like you’re used to.”
When I opened The Yoga Harbor, I originally called our classes Vinyasa and Hatha. I had to rethink these names, because most of our students are new to the practice, and they had no clue what we were talking about. So, I branded our classes. I tried to make the distinction of how what we were teaching wasn’t “just yoga.”
That word – just – is now one of the silliest things I could imagine saying. As I explore new teaching methodologies, take new trainings, read and read some more, I’m reminded that there is no such thing as “just yoga.” Yoga leaves space for growth and evolution. Despite how much we try to cling to the roots of yoga, the truth is that it has been sprouting branches since the day the Vedas were written.
Yoga as a word and a practice can be used to describe everything in existence. It is a bigger brand and classification. It is bigger than you.
So why do we have to rebrand and reclassify ourselves as “not just yoga teachers?” Why can’t we call our classes “Yoga” and “Yoga” and “Yoga?” Of course, we need to clarify when you can expect to move, when you can expect to lie on bolsters, and when you can expect something in between. But anywhere you fall on that spectrum, whether you use all the props or no props, Sanskrit or plain English, instruct Ujjayi or plan breath awareness, teach sun salutes or pistol squats, you are teaching yoga.
Please, let’s keep adding and subtracting from this ongoing conversation of how to move in mindful alignment through life. Bring your voice, innovate, and make your contribution. But, know that whatever you contribute will never be larger than yoga itself, and you will, at the end of the day, be “just a yoga teacher.”
And that is the highest title I can imagine ever earning.