A case for the evolution of yoga..., puppy and nude yoga included! By Sarah Highfield

A yoga-themed debate that continually rears its controversial head is one of how yoga has gone mainstream. It has become a commodity and evolved so far away from its foundations that it is no longer recognisable or reflective of its true essence. The discussion often begins with statements such as ‘traditional yogis are outraged by beer yoga,’ ‘puppy yoga is not yoga,’ ‘nude yoga is just wrong,’ or ‘yoga without spirituality is just aerobics’ and continues with a whole spectrum of heated arguments from both purists and modernists alike.

Purists wish to return yoga to its original roots and form, focusing on achieving self-enlightenment through training the mind; while modern yogis accept that it is unrealistic to replicate such practices in today’s world, so look for ways to adapt and evolve instead.

Wading into the debate, I see both sides clearly, but am firmly on the side of those who support change. I believe that yoga is inherently good for you; and whether you are conventional or not, deep breathing, meditation, stretching the body, digital detox, laughing and feeling like part of a community works wonders for anyone. Evolution is natural and change is not necessarily bad. Moreover, as yoga develops and grows with the world, it branches out and reaches people it otherwise would not have if it were still in its original form — thus, I think the weird and wonderful styles of yoga on offer these days is, in fact, a delightful taster or gateway into additional styles, both new and traditional.

I don’t disagree that modern yoga has fallen victim to spiritual materialism and commercial gimmicks, but, on the whole, if something makes you one step closer towards a deeper understanding of yourself, learning to breathe better, creating joy in your life, or lowering stress levels, it cannot be dismissed. A helpful analogy I like to think of is maths and applied maths; so, yoga and applied yoga. Similar to applied maths, applied yoga is more widely accessible, understandable, and practical to integrate with day-to-day living.

I have always believed there is a style of yoga which works for everyone, and this exact debate exemplifies the diversity of yoga and its ability to reach the masses. Just because someone does aerial, goat, hot, rave or SUP yoga, it is not a reason to judge or criticise them. It might not be the ‘yoga’ you or I were taught but it is someone else’s ‘yoga’, and that is a positive thing.

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Sarah Highfield is a yoga teacher, writer and a three-time OM cover model and monthly contributor. Visit: or connect on Instagram @Yogagise

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