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Yoga is not gymnastics

I'm e-mailing to say thank goodness for a magazine that encourages people to look at the greater yoga/authentic yoga that is for everyone. Regarding the pursuit of hyper flexibility mentioned in Sarah Highfield’s article ‘Yoga Gymnastics’ in May 2023, maybe some people don’t know what yoga is really about?

 Patanjali tells us what yoga is about with his eight limbs of yoga which progress from action[1]based vows and observances (yamas/ niyamas) and asana towards concentration and meditation. The purpose is to turn the focus inwards and still the mind (‘citta vritti nirodha’). Asana is even Sanskrit for ‘seat’ and stretching exercises were designed to prepare for sitting in meditation; these were called asana. Ultimately, spiritual liberation (samadhi) is the aim of yoga. It is a science of consciousness and is about uniting the individual self with the universal Self.

Unfortunately, some people are not aware of this because sometimes even the teacher teaching the asanas doesn’t know and is only concerned with physical hyper flexibility and outward show (dare I say vanity?). At my studio, there is even a Face Yoga! Why not just call it face exercises because that is what it is? I’ve even come across Party Yoga! To me, exercise done to loud, thumping, heart-pumping music is ye olde fashioned 1980’s style aerobics re[1]packaged — not yoga!

There is so much in the rich tradition of authentic yoga that is overlooked in favour of silly fads to bring the punters in. In fact, authentic yoga has great holistic value and relevance in today’s world because it is not just something that you do on a mat, but a way of life. For example, pranayama, yoga nidra, mudras and mantras — these are so good for calming the nervous system. Regarding mantras, it would be good if yoga teachers could also impart the significance of the syllable Om (if they know it!).

Lauren, by email

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The great outdoors

I couldn’t agree more about taking your yoga practice outside (The Great Outdoors, July 2023). It’s a wonderful way to get double the hit from both yoga and the amazing therapeutic powers of nature. Feeling the grass under your feet feels so lush when you first begin to practice. Your report had some novel ideas too, which I will be exploring this summer, including attempting my first paddle board yoga class. Here’s to a long, hot summer!

Toni, by email

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Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.