Re-defining yoga

18 hours, 45 minutes!

There is a lot of talk out there about what yoga is and is not.

Yoga is not a religion for me, but in a lot of ways the contemporary yoga discourse is very similar to contemporary religious discourse: there’s a lot of “my way is the only way” going on. The good thing about the internet, of course, is that you can choose what you read! : ) And for every blogger or teacher who is adamant that they have defined yoga the “right” way, there are five others who are open-minded, willing to try new things, and are consciously refraining from judgment.

As my dear loyal readers know, in January I challenged myself to practice yoga daily for at least 30 minutes. I think I did a pretty good job.

This experience opened my mind because it not only challenged me to get on my mat, it also challenged me to define yoga differently. My definition now is much broader and forgiving. Before, my practice consisted primarily of vigorous Vinyasa classes – but, believe it or not, there are many times one is just not in the mood for 8 sun salutations! For instance, when it’s Friday evening at 11:30 pm.

So here are my “notes” (so to speak) from the month of January.

Yoga does not necessarily have to

  • include sun salutations
  • include any warrior poses
  • make you sweat

Yoga can be

  • one pose or a hundred poses
  • energizing or calming
  • empowering or humbling
  • spiritual or silly
  • meditating
  • supta baddha konasana for 15 minutes, then child’s pose for 15 minutes

While practicing yoga, you can

  • play music, but only if you want to
  • use nothing, or use lots of props (blankets, straps, blocks, bolsters, dining room chairs)
  • follow the rules or make up your own
  • belly laugh at your laptop when your yogaglo instructor suggests you jump into crow pose from plank
  • sing at the top of your lungs to a Brandi Carlile album – if that is just the kind of day you had
  • let your dog in the room to give you kisses while in savasana

What about you guys? What practices have you had that break the rules and defy conventions?


Have you seen this calendar? It cracks me up! My sister got it for me for Christmas.

I also read these books in January! Busy month!


7 responses to “Re-defining yoga

  1. I love your blog, Jamie, and I love your insights and honesty! Plus, I have the same calendar as you. I just don’t have the writing all over it! Congrats on your 30 days. It sounds like you learned a lot about yourself and your yoga. And you are right, in my book, yoga is different for different people. Hope you are enjoying your Sunday. We are snowed in and loving it!

  2. i love your ‘yoga rules’- they are perfect and exactly what i would choose. it would be great to have them in poster format- seriously. so i can read them and remind myself when i read other spaces that aren’t as open. :)

  3. Yesterday I did my practice with my eyes closed as a way of honoring the unknown. My practice was dedicated to a friend who may be close to death and is scared. But goodness knows there are times in all our lives when we just don’t know what is going to happen and have little control over outcomes. The closing of the eyes was a way both to tune in and to trust.

  4. Heather- Thanks! I’m really enjoying your blog too. Here’s to the cute calendar!

    Eco- Thanks! Feel free to print them out : )

    Cami- Practicing with my eyes closed is always very challenging to my balance. So sorry to hear about your friend.

  5. I love doing yoga with pets. It makes me think about how it was said that Picasso was very strict with adults in his studio, but animals and children were allowed to touch and move anything they wanted. I think about that when I hit the mat at home and have various furry and/or short assistants during Down Dog.

  6. Great post! I used to believe that my yoga practice had to be intense, until I learned to surrender. Now viparita karani can be my practice for the day! Congrats on 30 days of yoga. What a great thing to do for yourself. And, I love your “rules”. I find that my yoga is different every single day and your “rules” allow for that!

  7. Wow, Jamie, thank you for this post! I love it and your “rules” of yoga. Very good reminders for me as I try to honor this same flexibility and balance in my yoga and my life.

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