Is there a Modern vs Traditional Yoga argument?

There was a fascinating article in The Guardian this week looking at the development of “modern” yoga classes which are abandoning the spiritual and the mental elements and focusing on entirely on the physical. The headline posed what seems like a simple question.

Is this still yoga? A new generation of teachers is replacing traditional spirituality with plain-spoken simplicity.

Of course the answer is far from simple.

Having qualified as a Level 3 Yoga Teacher last year – I experienced quite a bit of snobbery on my journey. There are those who insist that Yoga has to be the full Physical, Spiritual and Mental experience – and in extreme cases will not tolerate dissension. In answer to that view we know that from the success of Freestyle Fitness Yoga and Body Balance that there are many people who simply want access to the physical side of yoga. Indeed for those people the Spiritual and the Mental aspects can be barriers to them trying traditional yoga out.

modern vs traditional yoga

I’ve seen some church halls ban yoga classes because they perceive the spiritual side of it to be some affront to Christianity. This is wrong too because Yoga isn’t a religion despite its spiritual overtones. I’ve seen some people put off yoga classes because they think they are going to have to chant and ring singing bowls. So for those that predominantly want the physical experience why not give them that aspect alone?

In the end it is all about meeting the needs and expectations of your clients. When I teach yoga I do use the ancient names for the poses where appropriate, and provide more focus especially around meditation. If your clients are more into the full traditional experience then they will expect it of course.

But if someone is only interested in the physical aspect – does it matter whether it is a Virabhadrasana 2 – or a position in which one leg is bent at 90 degrees and the other is straight, the hips are forward and the arms are at shoulder height? Even if we use the English version of the pose names, does it really need to be a Warrior 2 or what I have just described.

I would like to make yoga accessible to all and if the entry point to that is the physical experience then fine. Personally I would like them to then consider the other aspects if and when they feel comfortable. But starting from the point of view that it has to be all or nothing is likely to keep the barriers up.

Ultimately modern vs traditional yoga can exist harmoniously and that has to be a good thing if it benefits the lives of more people.

Over to you: Do you practice yoga? Is it a traditional or modern variant? What do you prefer. Please click on “Leave a Reply” below and let me know your comments and thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Is there a Modern vs Traditional Yoga argument?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.