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.