Here’s a Yoga Secret



It’s okay to not love power yoga. It’s okay to even hate Baptiste flow or sweaty high temperature styles of asana.

The thing is, it’s easy to think you must be a buff, super flexible yogi when you see pictures of incredibly fit attractive asana practitioners on Tumblr or next to you at your studio, but yoga really is just about surrendering and feeling. It’s about acceptance and self-discovery.

This sounds so old, so cliché—do what your body loves and listen to you and no one else! We’ve all heard this before. But coming to Paris has really given me a new perspective on what this means.

In the States, especially because I myself am a teacher at Brown, I often feel compelled to physically “master” advanced poses, to be into the most hardcore workout styles of yoga, and to do them regularly and LIKE it. But the thing is, I don’t. I tried. For a while, I tried to just get over my aversion to tough, sweaty, hardcore physically strenuous yoga because I thought that’s what I was somehow *supposed* to like, that I wasn’t a dedicated yoga practitioner or a real yoga teacher if I didn’t suck it up and force myself to have rigorous flow for an hour every morning for breakfast, casual.

But I’ve always been into moderately dynamic but still somewhat gentle, stretching kind of flow. I like to hold poses. I like to feel my psoas open over time as I hold Lizard pose or low lunge. I can’t get enough of Pigeon or Cat-Cow. And whenever I practice in Paris, this is pretty much the norm. The whole phenomenon of turning an endlessly deep and broad style of hatha yoga into essentially a physical workout routine is largely absent in France, and I suspect that it’s similar in other countries as well.

I don’t like Bikram or Baptiste. And if you do, that’s great! Work it and own it and love it because what makes you feel delicious in that moment is exactly what you need. But it’s different for everyone, and I suspect that I’m not the only one who sometimes feels obligated to like physically super rigorous styles of yoga. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a lot of people, especially younger yogis who are “supposed” to be super fit and have great stamina, who actually do prefer yin or restorative or just more moderate vinyasa.

I’ve learned to just embrace my preferences, to let them teach and nourish me like they’ve been wanting to. But to do that, I had to first acknowledge that my preferences weren’t necessarily what I initially thought they were—or were supposed to be.

I encourage you guys to figure out what you love, which poses light up your life, and what style, duration, elements of yoga make your heart sing. I encourage you to do what Mary Oliver, with her impeccable poetry, implores us to do: let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Peace, yogis.