Yoga Police

Erica Rodefer Winters takes on the yoga police, anyone who thinks that the style of yoga or the way they practice is the only correct way.

A few days ago I got an instant message from a friend. It said, “What do you know about laughter yoga?” What I should have typed back was, “very little.” But instead my ego grabbed me. I guess I just didn’t want to admit I don’t know much. I had read a couple of articles and watched a video on YouTube, so I said what I thought I knew. “It’s people acting silly trying to make each other laugh. Laughing is healthy, but I don’t consider it yoga.” As soon as I pressed the enter key, I wanted to take it back. So, laughter yoga might not look like my yoga practice, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid form of yoga for others.

Not only had I shared an opinion about something I’ve never experienced fully, I also momentarily joined a group I definitely never wanted to be a part of—a group I call “The Yoga Police,” as in “Who do you think you are? The Yoga Police?”

The Yoga Police are a group of serious yoga students who make judgments about what is and isn’t “real” yoga. These people love their yoga practice with a passion—so it’s hard for them to see that other people might be reaping similar benefits from practicing something different. In short, the Yoga Police thinks there’s only one “real” yoga—the kind they practice themselves.

If someone’s yoga practice is all asana without seated meditation is it “real” yoga? Some would say no. What if there’s no asana in your practice at all? What if you call the practice of mindfully flossing your teeth each day yoga? Does that count? I guess it depends who you ask.

Yoga is such a broad term, I think it can be used to describe nearly any activity that is practiced mindfully. There are some who think that’s a bad thing—that including some less serious forms of the practice will somehow compromise the integrity. I see their point. And I love the conversations that are started with their investigations into what should constitute “real” yoga. But who am I to say that a practice that’s different from my own can’t help someone else become more connected to their body, mind, and spirit? If it’s “real” yoga to the person practicing it, isn’t that’s all that really matters?

So until I have studied each and every practice called “yoga” in a deep and meaningful way, I think I’ll just be happy that others have found a practice that serves them. In the meantime, I’ll be doing my own “real” yoga, my way.