Leave the labels for the designer shopping trips, not the yoga studio, writes Lexie Williamson
We yogis tend to get hung up on labelling our style of yoga. “I liked it,” a man once whispered to me post-class, “but what was it?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond, and not for the first time.
I am a proud card-carrying member of the Vinyasa Flow Club. Anything fluid is good with me. If a sequence connects and glides I’m happy.
But I also like to freeze frame poses and hold for a few minutes when it feels right. Or pause for a little pranayama refreshment. Does this brand me a Hatha yogi?
I could, of course, always concoct a name to encapsulate my style (Vinihatha?) like a fellow teacher who has ‘Hathalini’ (a Hatha and Kundalini fusion) printed on her business cards.
On the other hand, does it matter what it is called? I wouldn’t normally wonder but I’ve been working closely with an Iyengar devotee lately and the subject of our vastly differing styles has cropped up a lot.
My student wants to apply for teacher training and must attend an interview where they watch her practice. Like many courses, nowadays, this one favours a more flowing yoga practice.
For someone used to holding, tweaking and perfecting poses, the flow style seems a bit rushed and shoddy. I can see her wondering why us dynamic yogis are in such a rush.
Undeterred, we began our 1-2-1 Introduction to the Fundamentals of Flow session by breaking down the Sun Salutation.
“But where do I position my hands?” she asked. “Am I looking up?”. And, “Are my hips level?”
It soon became apparent that for many Iyengar bunnies, the devil is in the detail – something often lacking from Surya Namaskar.
Flow yogis, however, are just not that fussed. If it breathes and flows then it’s pretty much a goer.
“Try not to overthink it,” I suggest unhelpfully. “It’s not so much the poses that matter here but how you transition in and out of them.”
We returned to the mats and dialled back to Cat/Cow with the eyes closed to get a feel for the elusive ‘flow’.
It worked, and by session three we had found a happy middle ground between Vinyasa and Iyengar.
My student’s Sun Salutation was a thing of beauty and all of her own making. She had mastered flow but pared down the sequence and stirred in some Iyengar precision.
Result? A tightly controlled but graceful sequence.
Post-teacher training interview my student may return to the Iyengar camp she knows and loves, but now she also has the confidence to freestyle in flow if the desire strikes.
What will her future style be called? No idea. It doesn’t need a name. Every school of yoga has its charms. I say mix and blend. Do whatever floats your boat (pose).
Lexie Williamson is a yoga teacher and health and fitness writer (pulseyoga.co.uk)