No Om Yoga

by guest | September 8th, 2010 | 21 Comments
topic: Fitness, Health & Wellness, Yoga

Women in yoga class

by Kimberly Fowler

People who are passionate about yoga often get really passionate about the style of yoga they practice. And controversy over what is “real” yoga and what isn’t — which style or philosophy is purer — goes back as far as, well, yoga. To me, all that doesn’t really matter. Getting people to practice yoga does. My philosophy is simple: Doing a little yoga is better than doing none at all.

Hatha Yoga, what most Westerners think of when they think of yoga, has always been based in physical practice. Still, the Eastern traditions and spirituality of many styles of Hatha Yoga are what draw so many people to yoga. They’re also what put so many others off.

As a result, in the last decade or so, “secular yoga” classes, or what I call No Om Yoga classes, have been popping up all over the place. That’s rewarding to me because I’ve been teaching No OM Yoga for years in my Yoga for Athletes® classes. No OM Yoga is all about removing the barriers that keep people from trying yoga.

No OM Yoga trades Sanskrit terms for plain English. As the name implies, there’s no chanting in No OM classes. People who want to benefit from yoga — from increasing their flexibility to lowering their stress levels — don’t have to pay to chant along with songs (or instructors) they don’t really relate to. Strong, fundamental poses that can be adjusted to your own ability are taught instead of the intricate “pretzel poses” people often associate with traditional yoga. No OM classes are non-competitive, and newcomers are welcomed and made to feel at home. And there’s no place for the whole “intimidation factor” that many people feel when walking into some yoga classes.

No Om Yoga is sometimes confused with other types of secular yoga, especially Power Yoga. Even yoga pros sometimes make the mistake. Yet Power Yoga instructors often still use Sanskrit terms for poses and include chanting in their classes. And some Power Yoga classes can be out-and-out pretzel-poser competitions. The intimidation can be sky high, especially for newcomers. The first Power Yoga class I took, the teacher started class by having everyone do handstands! But maybe the biggest turn-off for me with a lot of Power Yoga classes is the whole teacher-as-guru thing. Whether they mean to or not, many Power Yoga instructors wind up with students who treat them like celebrities (and big egos to match).

No Om Yoga isn’t about anyone’s power but your own. “I’m not your guru, you are,” is how I’ve been putting it for years. No OM Yoga is about welcoming newcomers, not acting like your class is an exclusive club. It’s about a straightforward approach to yoga that keeps people practicing instead of putting them off. Most of all, No OM Yoga is about sharing all the great physical and mental benefits of practicing yoga with people who can use those benefits now more than ever.


  1. I think it’s not Yoga but stretching then.

    Ladybug Love | September 10th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  2. I had not heard that term before but apparently “No Ohm Yoga” is what our studio is all about! I so agree that doing a little yoga is better than doing none at all :) Our studio philosophy is “no chanting, no sanskrit, no human pretzels”. We try to keep things non-intimidating, casual, and fun… and our students cover a wide range from brand new beginners who have to ask “what’s child’s pose?” to advanced practitioners who really don’t “need” to come to class but prefer the motivation and goodwill vibe they get from practicing with a group of “friends” as opposed to practicing at home alone all the time. The new students learn about commitment and dedication from the veterans, the advanced students learn to practice humility and are constantly reminded of what it was like to be new, and we as teachers learn from all of them as well. I think the nicest thing about it all is that we all learn from each other, and receive not just the physical, but also the mental and emotional benefits of our practice – even if we aren’t chanting and ohming.

    heather | September 10th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. Yoga by definition means union: union of the body with the mind and prusha/ true self. Obviously anything that makes people feel good connects them with their bodies cannot be argued with. It just should have a different name, as it literally does not make sense to call what you describe yoga. We cannot teach out of fear. There are ways to ease people into yoga and yet still teach yoga. Yoga exists to transcend comfort and to bring people to a higher level of being. No Om Yoga is the opposite of the purpose of yoga….

    Laura Liz | September 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  4. Why call it yoga? Yoga has a spiritual component by its very nature. “No Om” yoga misses the point.

    Wanda | September 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  5. I agree Ladybug. If it is jus the asanas (poses) it is just stretching or strength training. I am happy there is options like PiYo and Bodyflow for people who are not ready or interested in changing not only there body, but their lives. However, I don’t think its “yoga” unless it is more than calistenics. For those of us who have dedicated years of our lives to studying and teaching yoga we understand that yoga is so much more than just the hatha (physical practice) aspect. Mediatation and mantras do not have to go along with a particular religion or even with spirtuality. Students can mediatate postive affirmations or make it more spiritual. I teach yoga and allow my students to make there practice whatever they want it to be. I allow them to set there own intention whether that be better fitness or a dedication to the universe, the creative consciousness or the god of their own understanding. Many true yoga teachers offer the option to make it a spiritual practice, but still give the information for students who want to go further. Many health benefits are associated with breath and meditation, including lowered blood pressure, activation of PNS (lowered coritisol, etc.) and better psychological health. What we learn from slowing down, breathing and self-awareness carries over into our lives. That is why YOGA is life-changing.

    yogagurl | September 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  6. No Ohm Yoga! Love the name! I teach a class called Focus Stretching and it is exactly as you described your no ohm yoga.
    I think there is a population that dislikes the Sanskrit, philosiphy and chanting and won’t go to a yoga studio.
    I think our classes bring the benefits of yoga to those people without intimindating them. I’m all for getting the benefits of yoga available to the most amount of people.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    Mary Watson | September 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  7. Yoga is working your body untill you become one with your soul…. Some people will direct their soul to god…. some others to themselves…. This yoga class wiht “No Om” is a commercial way to take out the religious mind of it to transform it in an athéist practice instead. This become a sport with no meaning but stech and strengh. This could’nt be spell as yoga if there is no guidance in anyway for your soul….

    This a good way to stay in shape! This is good for everyone! But for me, this is more than juste a thing you do… This is not yoga at all….

    Camille | September 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  8. Of course yoga should be non-competitive, but I wonder why chanting om would be intimidating.
    Sound like yoga-esque exercise without any yoga history or culture, both of which are non-secular..

    D | September 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  9. May or may not be “yoga.” (I’m in the don’t care camp). However, it is definitely not “stretching.” This is one of the most common misconceptions my non-yoga friends have about yoga. Stretching has no elements of strength or balance training. The combination of flexibility, strength, balance, breath control and, oddly, muscle relaxation, is something I think is unique to the poses, whether or not one is seeking spiritual benefits (nothing wrong if you are, but I’m not, which is why I don’t go to classes anymore – only videos).

    I am glad this sort of class is coming around more. I once had an instructor (at a gym, not a yoga studio) basically tell me off because I refused to chant. I get my spiritual needs filled elsewhere, and my beliefs do not gel with the phrases she wanted us to chant. I did not say anything about others’ choices – just stayed silent, but she was extremely offended that I would dare try to practice yoga (in her class or elsewhere) if I don’t believe these things. No need for that sort of attitude, unless the class is offered clearly as part of a spiritual pursuit, or at a studio that clearly explains to students what their approach is before they start.

    becky | September 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  10. I agree with Ladybug Love. It’s group stretching, which I’ve done in all the sports that I’ve plaid. Yoga, to me, is so much more.

    halfbreed | September 12th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  11. Please refrain from promoting this type of information. This exercise/activity is NOT yoga and should NEVER be referred to as such. It is a misnomer used to promote an activity that many want to engage in because it’s trendy. Yoga is NOT an exercise it is an ancient spiritual practice that has been assaulted and disrespected here in the west. Anyone who engages in this exercise/activity needs to know that none of it would be known in this country if it had not been for the dedicated teachers from around the globe who have faithfully brought it to us. It is blasphemous for people to engage in this exercise/activity and call it yoga. Please show respect to the millions of true practitioners who have loyally chosen this spiritual practice for thousands of years.

    Lynne | September 12th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  12. The very concept of yoga revolves around the sacred teachings and philosophy. The yoga sutras say “yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind (mind chatter)” not “yoga is physical poses.” Asana (or “poses”–for the non-sanskrit crowd) is just one small aspect of yoga practice. Please, if you practice asana/poses in isolation, please don’t call it yoga. Call it something else like “yoga inspired exercise” or something similar.

    The cultivation of awareness of breath, of non-judgement, of compassion for self and others, of the stillness of the mind, of being quiet enough inside that you can feel connected to something larger than yourself….these (and more) are the true benefits of yoga practice.

    denise | September 12th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  13. The word “yoga” literally means to yoke or to join, so yoga is the union of the mind, the body and the breath. Yoga is the ability to be present in the moment – to feel the breath in the body, to focus the mind on stillness – without any thoughts of the past or the future. Yes, hatha yoga is a physically based practice. But, if we do not perform the various poses with awareness to every little nuance – in the body, in the mind and in the breath – then we cannot call it yoga, which, by the way, is a Sanskrit word.

    In a yoga practice there should be no judgement. No two bodies are the same. We all have different levels of flexibility as well as different physical limitations. If the teacher (or instructor) doesn’t make this clear to the class participants, then surely one can feel intimidated. Another important thing to remember in yoga is that there is no competition, for exactly the same reasons mentioned above. So if one comes to a yoga class and feels intimidated, again the teacher hasn’t done their job properly.

    The chanting of Om has a calming effect on the body. It’s an exercise in controlled breathing. It helps to bring about breath awareness and has a unifying effect on the class participants. If someone is opposed to chanting Om in a class at our studio no one is going to judge or reprimand them. But the very basic principles of hatha yoga – mind, body and breath awareness – are only heightened by the vibration of Om. It sounds as if the author of this article has had some unfortunate experiences in yoga studios, but I don’t think the chanting of Om or the use of Sanskrit terms has anything to do with it.

    The guru / disciple relationship is a centuries old tradition that is still quite popular today with those who wish to study under a master teacher. In our yoga center however, the Freehold Yoga Center, we’re taught that our greatest guru resides in our hearts. I think it’s wrong of the author to make generalizations about yoga studios based on her limited experience.

    Pat | September 12th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  14. Are you saying vibrations of OM has no any place in Yoga.?

    Dhananjay | September 12th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  15. Yoga is union of mind body and spirit. When you remove spiritiuality by removing om from yoga class then let’s not call it yoga class. Let us call streching class.

    Charanjeet | September 14th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  16. I’m pretty disappointed that you would even post such a thing.

    Taylor | September 15th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  17. I agree with most of the comments above, of course without chanting, any yoga class would be incomplete.

    Katherine Roberts | September 22nd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  18. Sounds like a stretching class to me. Yoga is so much more!

    Tracy | September 22nd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  19. Wow, for enlightened yogis, you guys sure are angry and judgmental. So, yoga means “to yoke/join the mind/body.” Well any exercise can have that effect. When I run, it takes a lot of mental strength to push myself to my potential, rather than stopping when I want to give up because my legs ache and my lungs are tired. Just because some of us don’t like the chanting and woo-woo and mystical jibber jabber and simply want to get down to the basics doesn’t make our yoga inferior to your yoga. It is still hard work and definitely vastly different from “stretching.”

    There are a lot of misconceptions about “yoga.” People want to believe that somehow envisioning their chakras will grant them some miracle ability to lick their own backs. And that is fine, I don’t have a problem with that. The truth is, much of what we know as yoga today has only been developed in the last century. Previously, it was largely lotus meditation and a handful of asanas. It became exercise when- ta-da- it was brought to the west. Believe whatever you want, but please don’t knock me for being skeptical of whatever mental abilities yoga will supposedly grant me, beyond the usual motivation.

    As a scientist and skeptic, I do not knock the benefits of meditation- I recognize the benefits and acknowledge the power of stilling the mind, however, I don’t think there is anything mystical about it, I don’t think some force in the universe is going to in turn acknowledge me and my gratitude. I believe, as a secular humanist in doing my part to improve life on this planet for other humans, in ending suffering, but I doubt my good thoughts will have much of an impact.

    That being said, yoga is a great workout, I like the balance it brings me, and I am thrilled to know that there are classes that recognize that that can come without the mysticism.

    AtheistYogi | June 13th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  20. Also, by the way, just because something is thousands of years old (and again, I am skeptical that the modern practice of yoga is beyond a century old) doesn’t make it infallible nor somehow superior to all other philosophies and practices.

    AtheistYogi | June 13th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  21. I love the concept of no on yoga. I just finished my yoga teacher training and still feel completely unprepared to teach because, among other reasons, I never picked up much Sanskrit along the way and I am not really good at articulating all the spiritual sounding things that people seem to expect from a yoga teacher. I just want to share my practice and have other people feel the mental and physical benefits that yoga has given me. I’m not some wise sage that has all the answers and I am turned off by teachers who act like they are.

    Mary | June 17th, 2016 | Comment Permalink

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