What current trends can we identify in the yoga world?
Which ones are “fads,” which will last?
How have you personally been affected by these trends?
How will you incorporate them into your teaching, classes or offerings?
Can we extrapolate on the current trends and predict the future of yoga?
The Rise of Yoga Therapy
Kirtan & Kirtan Festivals
Acro Yoga/Flying Yoga
Earth-Friendly Yoga Products
Aerial Yoga/Yoga Swing/Assisted Inversion Tools
Alternative Forms of Yoga
Alternative Formats for Yoga Classes
Decline of the Traditional Guru & Rise of the New Guru
(Yoga came to the West, and is now going back to the East)
New Yoga Tools & Props ~ (Acupuncture Mats, Blocks, etc.)
More Meditation in Yoga Studios
~ Kirtan & Kirtan Festivals ~
We’ve already discussed this somewhat in the lecture on chanting, mantras, and kirtan. The word now is truly out about this practice, and if the trend continues, kirtan is well on its way to becoming its own recognizable genre of music. Of course, it already is in the yoga world, I mean it will become a household word at some point soon due to its massive impact on the world of yoga. I personally have witnessed its growth from pre-Krishna Das days to the present, and have seen a very marked shift towards kirtan in just the past 3-5 years. Festivals like the ones in Joshua Tree (Bhakti Fest) and Omega, as well as spin-offs, are just the start. As a yoga professional, it’s wise to get on the bandwagon?
~ The Rise of Yoga Therapy
Yogis as doctors? I feel there’s no better one qualified, that is, besides yourself!
Yoga is the best medicine because it goes to the root cause and treats the whole person, not the symptom/effect. Soon there will be state and nationwide approval, connected with insurance carriers, etc. There already are degree and certification programs set up for this. This is a trend which will definitely continue, and if it truly takes hold, will no doubt help to change the face of healthcare as we know it. Ultimately, though, as I said and believe wholeheartedly, just as you are your own guru, you are your own doctor. This trend is just a movement in that ultimate direction.
~ Acroyoga/Flying Yoga ~
These are just two names of a phenomenon that has now gone global. I won’t go too much into something already covered (please see the discussion about in the lecture on styles of yoga), but I do see this as a major trend in yoga that will only continue to grow in popularity. Before I even got into this form of yoga, I noticed how people tend to really enjoy Partner Yoga. Well, they’re loving the “Acro” even more. It appeals on a number of levels: The teamwork element, the art and creative aspect, the fear factor, and just the sheer fun of doing it, not to mention getting deeper into the asanas. New styles have been emerging that incorporate this yoga into conventional mat yoga formats. It’s good to have the combination as there’s still a lot to be gained from one’s solitary yoga practice, so if you practice or teach this, do keep things in balance.
~ Yoga Online ~
Obviously your taking this course is an indication of how much yoga has gone online, fulfilling a need for yoga on demand at home, in the workplace, or when traveling. Sites like MyYogaOnline and YogaGlo, not to mention Youtube, make it possible to take unlimited online classes for a small fee or free, while answers to just about any question you might have about yoga are right at your fingertips. Also, most of the promotion for my events and trainings has been online through WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Given this trend, as a yoga professional, it would be very helpful to develop an online presence with a website, blog, and possibly video offerings that will let the world know about you and what you do.
~ Eco-Consciousness & Earth-Friendly Yoga Products ~
Yoga people have always been at the vanguard of this, actually. Those who really take to yoga and make it a profession are already super-conscious people who care about the their body-temples and their earth-temples enough to take care of them. And Yoga is appealing to many because it is so simple and portable – no real gym equipment necessary. Personally, I don’t even feel having a yoga mat and all of the other yoga props are all that essential, and find it hard to believe that it took so long for the yoga world to realize that the early yoga mats contained toxic chemicals like PVC that are not healthy for our bodies or the earth. If you do buy a mat, I would definitely consider getting one of the eco-mats (there are many on the market), and recommend them to your students, too.
~ Aerial Yoga/Yoga Swing/Inversion Tools ~
I can now say that I’ve been at the little yoga studio here on Maui where the yoga swing was first invented by Yogi Zen. Invented might not be the right word. Like acroyoga, the idea of hanging with the help of material had been out there, both in yoga and in the circus arts. It’s only now, though, with the idea of Yogi Zen that these swings are really getting out there on a mass level. I myself have sold them and have heard only glowing reports of how they’ve helped. So the signs say this trend will definitely continue. I do feel these don’t exactly substitute for learning how to do the headstand, for example, but they are necessary for some who will never do one, and also are just a nice complement to one’s inversion practice on the mat…and they appeal to our inner desire to hang like a bat.
~ Shamanism & Plant Medicine ~
From our history of yoga, we have seen that there is a scholarly consensus that yoga evolved out of shamanism in the distant past. Let’s keep in mind the perspective that religion and spiritual life is seeing a gradual devolution over time; on this view, shamanism was the original, true path, and what developed later (the yoga tradition) was a degradation of what came before. Of course, from the other side there are those who maintain that spirituality has seen an evolution over time, yet let’s consider for a moment that there just might be something to the first view. Granting this, then the current trend towards shamanism might just be a return to the origins of religion, when societies were matri-focal (women were the leaders) without as much hierarchical roles and abuses of power in male-dominated societies. (This is another trend in yoga, by the way: Women leading the way, in a big way.) In any case, this trend will only continue, and yoga as it is currently taught and practiced will either absorb these changes and influences, or not. Whether the mainstream yoga does or not, these changes are already being made.
~ Decline of the Traditional Guru & Rise of the New Guru ~
This possibly goes hand-in-hand with the previous trend. While it is true that the traditional guru system will still be in place, there seems to have been somewhat of a societal shift away at least from the hierarchical, male-led guru model that was the norm until the mid-‘80s. My personal understanding is that this shift was necessary for yoga to go mainstream, because until the mid-late ‘90s when yoga became more fully accepted, the various yoga movements were plagued with scandals, generally sex scandals, almost always involving male gurus or swamis who were apparently abusing their power (the rise of the internet made it much more possible to get the word out about the alleged abuses). It would be nice to think that the women gurus who began leading the way in this period also have had scandal-free missions, but this is not the case, as we can see with teachers like Gurumayi and Ammachi. In the meantime, there have been other teachers who do not put themselves out as gurus, per se, but who have taken on a similar role, just without the worship, hierarchical structure, scandals, etc. These are popular teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, Gangaji, and others of the “Neo-Advaita” school, who by the way have not been completely without scandal or criticism themselves (read one critique HERE), though perhaps not to the same degree.
Perhaps this shift/trend has not been so much societal as within the upper ranks of the yoga community itself, which has seen a shift toward exploration of things like plant medicine where the plant is the teacher, not an imperfect, corruptible human. Perhaps the caution here is that now shamans (male and female) have taken on the role of gurus for many of these paths, and it remains to be seen whether this will be any different.
I’m not offering an opinion as to whether this trend is a positive one or not, perhaps it is just another sign of our devolution? In any case, the trend will apparently become increasingly more trendy…
~ Alternative Forms of Yoga ~
In the lecture on Yoga Styles, we will discuss what a wide variety of names and forms of yoga there are today, partly due to the capitalistic system that we live in where it is in a teacher’s self-interest to trademark their own distinct brand of yoga, but (looking on the bright side) also perhaps due to an inner drive of the “One” to express itself more fully in the “Many.” Paraphrasing Ramakrishna who said, “There are as many religions as there are souls,” we could say there are as many yoga styles as there are yoga teachers – there’s something for every body, in other words, and we can indeed see this in a most positive light. After all, where would we be without Partner Yoga, Acroyoga, Power Yoga, the Yoga Swing, Dance Yoga, and all the new creative expressions of yoga that are being born from brilliant yoga minds this very moment? Also, we are at a point in history where we can take the best of the yoga-like traditions of the cultures of the world (like the Chinese Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and other martial arts) and create a “best of all worlds” practice and/or method, though of course there will always be the purists who insist that this is cheating, blasphemy, folly, or worse. In any case, whether good, bad, or indifferent, these are trends that will most certainly continue indefinitely.
~ Alternative Formats for Yoga Classes ~
Along with the preceding trend goes the trend toward increasing creativity in how classes are conducted, structured, and filled with content. Recent innovations that have taken hold are: Live music in classes; incorporation of elements from other traditions into classes (Yoga and Pilates, Yoga and Qi Gong, etc.); uses of different kinds of music than strictly yoga music; variations in what the layout of the class looks like, including outdoor classes, etc. If yoga is truly to be a lifelong practice, then it would seem reasonable to give the mind some variety to keep students coming back year after year.
~ Yoga Tool & Prop Innovations ~
I realize this could be the umbrella category for things like the yoga swing, etc., but I feel each of these trends deserves to be highlighted separately. Again, in the capitalistic society we live in, it pays to be innovative, and I for one can appreciate the ingenuity behind some of these things. One example, a circular yoga mat (mandalamat.com) – now why didn’t someone think of this 30 years ago? Another example: A meditation bench that can hold one’s yoga mat (namastebench.com). Brilliant. I hope you know that I’m also laying out all of these trends to possibly inspire YOU to be the next person with the genius idea that goes viral. And if you do get your idea out there and strike it rich, just don’t forget your yamas and niyamas – and the little people, like me : )
~ More Meditation in the Yoga World ~
As we know, most Hatha Yoga classes in the West have not emphasized meditation, but rather more of the workout aspect of yoga. Generally short shrift has been given to sitting quietly and observing one’s mind – perhaps a few minutes per class. Again, let’s leave judgments aside, because it was what it was, no doubt serving its purpose for that time. I think that now we are seeing and will continue to see more interest and awareness about meditation and that it is NOT separate from yoga, but is an integral part of it, and perhaps the most integral of all. I could be very wrong about this trend (perhaps it’s actually the other way around!) yet I do feel that there is a greater shift towards seeing yoga as a holistic, mind-body-spirit practice that ultimately leads back to still, silent awareness, inner resourcefulness, peace, and unconditional love. Meditation is an essential practice for realizing this, and more and more yoga studios will emphasize it.
INNERCISE: How have you been personally affected by these trends? Do you feel that this list is exhaustive? If not, what other major trends have you observed in the yoga world? What trends surprised you, or do you question or disagree with? Which trends will affect how you practice and teach yoga?
Main Points of This Lecture
~ Yoga is currently one of the fastest growing movements in the world, a trend which will no doubt continue. Yoga is not a fad as some had originally thought it might be. Since the mid-late nineties it has truly gone mainstream and will become more and more an established fixture of our society.
~ All of the current trends suggest that yoga is growing and will continue to grow through innovation on a number of fronts, and from being part of the global marketplace.
~ Ultimately, it will be for each of us to question how our current capitalistic system meshes with the yoga lifestyle. Our suggestion is to at the very least stay true to the yogic ethical teachings of “aparigraha” and “santosha” – non-possessiveness and contentment. Also, as yoga has been affected by the business world, it will in turn affect the marketplace, gradually making it less greedy and more green.
Recommended Resources for Further Study
(Yoga Journal article)
(Yoga Journal and other yoga magazines are also a good way to learn about the current trends in yoga, and it’s recommended that yoga teachers subscribe to at least one of these journals to keep up on what’s going on.)