I recently read about an article in the New York Times (recently as in this morning) that talked about a Yoga instructor/ controversial figure, Tara Stiles. Of course, I’d never heard of her and have no intention of following her. But through my reading of the blog that I follow that mentioned it, Yogi, Interrupted, I came across a blog she linked to from YogaDork, and the corresponding comments caused me to want to confess.
Apparently, I am a practitioner of Nogah (a term one yogi or yogini used to describe a yoga practice that does not include the traditional spiritual or lifestyle elements of the Eastern practice–which I take to mean meditation, eating restrictions, religious belief, chakras, etc. but what do I know about it? I’m a Nogah, remember?). I’m not ashamed to be a Nogini. I’m not ashamed to admit I began doing Nogah as a way to lose weight and de-stress. Along the way, I’ve reaped other benefits, but that’s why I started.
Am I guilty of the very thing I accuse others of, of making something meant to be holistic a la carte? Yes. Yes, I am. The truth is, some things should be allowed to be a la carte. People should be allowed to make choices. I don’t have to agree (and you’ll know when I don’t), just as they don’t have to agree with me.
If I told most people I started running to lose weight, most people wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Runners might. There are running purist who would be upset if I ran with my headphones on to distract myself from the rigors of running (as another New York Time article I read today says). Yes, they run for fitness, but they run for mental space, clarity, stress relief, escape. They run as part of a healthy lifestyle. It has taught them so much about their bodies–blah, blah, blah, right? But as running can be a lifestyle but isn’t really a religion or composed of a religious component (that I know of), it seems to be more accomodating to piecemealing, to people who run just to lose weight and be skinny. Runners know if that’s all the motivation you have, you probably won’t be in their ranks long, unless you enjoy the other benefits.
But back to yoga. Yoga can be part of a religious practice and a lifestyle. Indeed, many people choose to follow the tenets of different disciplines of yoga as a way of life separate and apart from health benefits or exercise. I choose not to follow yoga as a religion or lifestyle, but as something that complements my life by adding to my health and wellness. I’m not a stereotypical yogi by any stretch of the imagination.
The stereotypical vision of a yogi is a slender woman with superhuman flexibility who doesn’t eat meat or by products of meat on a search for spiritual enlightenment who is devoted to the teachings of one or another recognized yoga leader. They’ve usually been to an ashram and studied extensively in India. I, by contrast, am a thick (more to love) woman with tight shoulders and hip flexors (? I think that’s what I mean) who loves meat and meat by products, who finds spiritual enlightenment in nondenominational Christianity, and will try any yoga practice once. Still, I find my practice of Noga rewarding and beneficial.
If you read my post on how yoga class is like my walk with God, you know that I see God’s hand in everything I do, teaching me something about His nature or myself as it relates to my belief in Him. God thinks that being strong in mind and body is a good thing. Exercising is not against the plans He has for us. I think God is cool with me practicing Nogah(LOL). You can also gather from reading that post that I’ve found Nogah beneficial in many ways. Here they are, in no particular order:
- I am more flexible.
- I have less stress.
- I have less of an inclination to eat pork or beef when I regularly do yoga (don’t know why; I just do).
- I eat healthier (it’s hard to do yoga with heavy pasta sitting in your stomach like a brick).
- I can breathe better (it really helps me control my exercise-induced asthma and do things like run while still breathing).
- It helped relieve pain from my injuries from when my car was totaled.
I don’t think it’s very enlightened to call what I do YogaLite or Nogah because I practice a non-yoga religion or don’t live a yoga lifestyle (whatever that means) anymore than I think you can say someone is not a runner if they don’t compete in marathons or expound the virtues of proper nutrition before big runs (although I’m sure nutrition and stretching and all that is important). But if that’s what you choose to call me, I can accept that we agree to disagree.
I admit it. I’m a noga practitioner. I don’t Om and I rarely say Namaste. I like some foods that used to have a face. I love God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But I like to a good Downward Facing Dog, Warrior I, Triangle Pose, Sun salutation sequence as much as anyone. I still haven’t figured out how to hug my arm muscles to my bones or soften my ribs. I think meditation is beneficial, but I choose to meditate on the things of Christ. Am I a yogi or yogini? Probably not. But I refuse to say I practice Noga ever again. What I do practice is called Yoga.
That’s my two cents, anyway. Feel free to leave yours in the comments section.
- What Makes Yoga “Yoga” (mindbodygreen.com)
- The fight over yoga’s roots (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
- Stretch: Rebel Yoga (nytimes.com)
- What’s Wrong With How We Talk About Yoga [Bent Out Of Shape] (jezebel.com)
- The Many Health Benefits of Yoga (webmd.com)
- Tara Stiles Slim Calm Sexy Yoga – a book review (alternativeconsumer.com)
- 5 Ways to Learn to Love Yoga (self.com)
- Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Yoga But Were Afraid to Ask (mindbodygreen.com)