I'm Innocent!

The word “innocence” comes from Latin and means “not harmful.” This is also the first concept in the ancient yoga texts: ahimsa, or nonviolence, nonharmfulness. True artists, as well as true yogis, have their being in this innocence and joyfulness, which comes from standing alone in the world, looking at it with eyes which are empty of rules and measures, and reflecting this innocence and joy, in body, mind, and emotions. This is the stamp of really great artists. And in the ultimate analysis, each one of us is an artist.
— Dona Hollemann

I always wanted to be an artist…

Ok, seriously, I love this idea of coming to practice, coming to poses, coming to life, with no set rules or measures and coming instead with innocence and joy.

Don’t crucify me here and argue that we have to have rules or society goes batshit crazy!

Of course.

I’m not talking about anarchy. I’m talking about allowing room for something outside of how you think things outta be.

Take yoga for example. There are plenty of people out there, plenty of my friends, in fact, who insist that there is “real” yoga and there’s whatever that other stuff is.

I get where they are coming from. I understand why they take the stance they do. They see yoga as an ancient system that loses its purity when it’s taken out of a spiritual context and focus is given to some other aspect - say physical feats of strength or flexibility.

They see the Instagram stars posing on a beach at sunset with their leg behind their head and lament the celebration of physical beauty and prowess in lieu of inner peace and harmony. Of course, it’s hard to take a photo of that…

There are also the alignment folks. I used to be one. They follow the rules of alignment as they are portrayed in books or how they themselves have been taught is the “right” way to perform a pose.

The intention is good. They are taught that proper alignment will prevent injury or align the chakras or the nadis (or any other list of words that you need a woo woo dictionary to decipher). Their goal is helping their students do it “correctly”.

But what if for just a minute or two, you could take off the lens of “right” and “wrong” or “real” and “fake” and simply come to your mat with the innocence of a child? What if there were no rules and you moved your body to the best of your ability and you loved it?

What if you went to a “fake” yoga class that taught you strength that made your back feel better or your daily run more enjoyable?

What if you didn’t worry about whether or not your standing leg was at the “right” angle in half-moon pose and just used the shape of your body and floated into the most joyful (but apparently “wrong”) pose?

I’m happiest when I’m learning and when I learn new things I change the way I teach. I add things. I subtract things. Sometimes I just tweak things.

I am drawn to yoga because of the inherent aspect of calm, even in the midst of chaos. I can use my breath to slow down, to feel more deeply what’s in my body and my soul. I can do that in a restorative class, a power vinyasa class, a Yoga Shred class, or even a class that incorporates kettlebells and resistance bands.

I consider going to the gym and lifting weights yoga because I use the same principles there that I do on my mat. I use my breath. I use my attention. I use my body.

I love yoga, but I have stopped putting it in a box. I’ve thrown out the rules and measures and teach what gives me joy.

Maybe that means that you and I will part ways because I no longer teach “real” yoga. That’s ok. I understand. We can part on peaceful terms. You can even talk bad about me to other yogis, warn your students about my recalcitrant ways. I’m ok with that.

I’ve learned the hard way that I have to teach what I love.

I’ve been told by more seasoned teachers that you don’t always get to teach what you want, you have to teach what the students ask for, or what the studio requires, but for me the price is too high and I’m not willing to pay it anymore.

I’ve reached a point of no return. My Rubicon (I wrote about this earlier here). I’ve decided to cross and I honestly don’t know what awaits me on the other side, but I will be teaching my yoga. It will be full of breath, and slow deliberate, intentional movements and it will also include some fast pace, get your heart rate up movements; sometimes it will look traditional, sometimes it will be a weird mix of traditional and functional, sometimes it will include kettlebells and resistance bands.

It’ll be representative of what I’m learning, what speaks to me, and what I’m passionate about that day.

I’ve decided to start filming classes for an online studio, a subscription channel where you can access all the content I come up with for a small monthly fee. It’ll take a little while to get everything ironed out, cued up, and ready to roll, but it will launch in the next couple months.

Will anyone show up for this?

I have no idea.

Here it goes anyway...