Some say the popularity of #yoga is watering down the ancient art (Picture: Prostock)
Chances are you’ve done a yoga class.
But what kind did you do and for what reason?
Yoga is an ancient practice thought to have originated in India.
Sessions incorporate physical, mental and spiritual aspects to promote health, fitness and wellbeing, and since its inception thousands of years ago, it has evolved into a popular form of exercise.
There are now lots of different types of yoga, with classes ranging from deeply spiritual practices such as Kundalini to more mainstream forms, including aerial yoga and Doga — yoga with dogs.
The Pilates and yoga industry was worth £926million last year, according to comparison site Finder and up to 460,000 Brits take part in a yoga class each week.
However, does this diluting of an ancient art mean yoga has lost its spirituality?
We asked two experts to weigh in on this debate.
‘How many Insta-yogis even know what it really is?’
Brian is unimpressed by the yoga trends he sees online (Picture: Brian Cooper)
Brian, founder of Yoga Alliance Professionals, the UK’s leading professional body for yoga teachers and trainers, says: ‘Search #yoga on Instagram and millions of images and videos pop up.
‘The vast majority display a wide variety of impressive postures or offer yoga classes. The quality is variable, but they all have one thing in common: they show yoga as something of an exercise routine.
‘There is nothing wrong with using postures as exercise but this is only a part of what is known as yoga. Yoga embraces what could be described as a “lifestyle” which covers a wide range of approaches to health and wellbeing.
‘Diet is important for good health, and yoga philosophy describes in detail what a good diet consists of. Yoga also places a lot of importance on keeping the digestive system in top condition and has a range of easy-to-do exercises for this purpose.
‘Breathing is the key to a resilient and strong nervous system, and there are a host of breath techniques available. I wonder how many of these insta-posts could tell you this?
‘Most important is that yoga is the science of the mind. How can we gain a sense of balance and peace in today’s stressful world?
Yoga is more than a exercise routine to pop on your story, says Brian (Picture: Getty Images/Westend61)
‘The practices form the support for meditation which has been shown to increase the feeling of wellbeing and contentment, and lower rates of anxiety and depression.
‘Traditionally, yoga was taught on a one-to-one basis by a guru, or teacher. The student lived with the teacher and absorbed the teachings on a daily basis, but it was up to the student to put the teachings into practice.
‘Clearly this is not feasible for most of us, but yoga is from a place of knowledge and training. The student has to “live” this through practice. And the teacher has to teach from a place of experience, having practised all the various techniques. Is this possible on Instagram?
‘Are the insta-yogis aware of what yoga consists of? To really benefit it is important to have an experienced a top quality teacher, who can instruct and guide you through the many facets yoga has to offer.’
‘Yoga in all its forms is a fantastic tool to have’
Kat thinks the more people on the mat, the better (Picture: Karen Yeomans)
Kat Farrants, founder of Movement For Modern Life, says: ‘I love that yoga is everywhere and for everyone.
‘I also love the diversity of practice in yoga as when I first started, it was something very niche with forms like ashtanga and iyengar.
‘As much as it may annoy me to see yet another “yoga with goats/llamas/dogs video”, it’s great that people are just getting on the mat, whatever form that might take.
‘If folks come to yoga after watching yoga for goats and then learn the amazing tools to feel happier, healthier and more connected, then that’s great. What’s even better is if they can take the yoga they have learnt on the mat and translate this off the mat to live a more compassionate, connected life.
Yoga should be all about inclusivity and accessibility, says Kat (Picture: Getty Images)
‘People talk about sharing “authentic” yoga practice and for me, yoga in all its forms, is an amazing tool to have. I think that the spiritual aspect of yoga can put people off.
‘This is why I named my site Movement for Modern Life as I wanted the practices to be welcoming and accessible to everyone, not just to those who already have an interest in spirituality.
‘There’s no doubt that certain moves, breathwork and intentions can make us feel very magical and I certainly feel spiritually elevated by my personal yoga practice.
‘It’s a feeling that can lift us from living an overwhelmed, busy existence and help us poke our heads above the parapets, to feel more connected to our own breath, to our own selves, to each other and to our planet.
‘Whilst I think it’s important to learn about the ancient and spiritual roots of yoga and respect and honour those who came before us, making the practice more accessible and inclusive can only be a good thing.
‘Yoga in the West used to be about overprivileged young, bendy blondes clutching mala beads -and that put everyone off! What I love now is that yoga is for everybody, no matter your size, age, mobility or background.
‘So, to make a start, we just need to get people on the mat. Let’s celebrate the inclusive, accessible yoga revolution, as that’s really what yoga is about.’
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected].