CHECK THIS: This is Probably What a Lot of Yoga Practitioners are Looking For

First, watch this:

The history of yoga doesn’t really have a lot of self-expression attached to it. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras aren’t very pro-“the world.” Certainly not as much as starry-eyed yoganistas would like us to believe. For the most part, yoga has been part of the whole tradition of a teacher telling a student to “Stand here. Do this. Now sit there. Do that.” That’s largely what its been about, and personally, I like that part of it. I get plenty of “me time” the rest of my life. Anyone who knows me beyond the virtual walls of this “thing” know me as a pretty expressive person. I’m not running around trying to make yoga a means through which I can “truly be myself,” ’cause, like, duh. I already am myself.

See, I think the majority of the casual yoga people and those who run the “yoga is about personal expression” circuit are really looking for what’s featured above. And, that’s perfectly splendid to me. I love what’s featured above. Love it.

I also believe that the majority of today’s casual yoga practitioners will eventually migrate to a very watered down version of the above. And, I actually think that’s a good thing. Not the watered down part. That’s for sucka MCs. But, the migration of casual yoga enthusiasts to the world of body-centric paleo-friendly individual-expression-based movement movements.

All the BS about “core strength vinyasa” and “yoga dance” will end up in the trash, because after about a decade or two, people will realize that there are other methods, such as the one shown above, that speak much more directly to those endeavors. And, the great part is, you won’t have to sort through or sweep under the rug a bunch of questionable religious texts to get there. I happen to really dig questionable religious texts, so I’m happy with weeding through them for odd-ball gems and contradictions against which I can rub my body-mind. I heart God in all its problems.

So, if any of you casuals are reading, and wanna get a head start, your bus is waiting outside. And, your complimentary raw dairy-free vanilla cashew shake is waiting in the mini-fridge in the back.


  1. It is obvious that this young man has natural physical gifts, and absence of infirmity.

    I share in his philosophy (minus the speed, youth, vigor, coordination and intensity–and practice time) …I think every self practitioner who has moved away from frequent studio attendance (and who dances and uses hybrid and fusion practices) does …

    Reasons to move .. that should be a no-brainer

    I am wondering why Ido didn’t try to start a yoga school by now.

    • I’m not sure about the “natural physical gifts” and lack of “infirmity.” From a general perspective, in my experience, people who enter into physical disciplines or bodywork often come from a history of at least some physical issue, be it eating disorders, f’ed up shoulders, funky knees, etc. I find it’s the drive to “overcome” these circumstances that often lead people to these kinds of practices. I can’t tell you the number of people who have spoken to me (or to others around me) about entering a practice because “I saw how much it helped my friend who had an L4-L5 herniation” etc….

      I think that’s also why a lot of this kind of stuff (Ido’s take, et al.) speaks about “endurance” and “transcendence.” Going “beyond limits,” etc. They must have an intimate experience of the limits first, I would assume.

      • Then what explains why others with “eating disorders, f’ed up shoulders, funky knees, etc.” might gravitate to restorative practices, more gentle movement and rehabilitation in the name of yoga and pilates …

        Certainly youth, upbringing and leisure/less stress has a lot to do with it.

  2. Garuda

    Again, Prakriti is here as a vehicle for Purusha. Not the other way around.

  3. Linda-Sama

    my personal yoga practice behind closed doors is all about movement. I’ve done this on my own for years and when I started studying with Erich Schiffmann, his “Freedom Style” yoga absolutely resonated with me. However, when I tried incorporating it in my classes or workshops, people froze. literally. they couldn’t move. they were so out of touch with their bodies even after years of yoga they had no idea what to do. I was shocked. it was sad.

    • Interesting that they went into freeze.. the freedom of feeling, and focusing on felt sense, is a direct channel to the reptilian brain or brain stem where is where the traumatic material is bound in the nervous system so once you start to work in this area you will see a lot of trauma coming up in the body as you did with your students. Trick is, to integrate very slowly and then go back to the more conceptual, structured approach and mix it up .. Check out Peter Levine’s book Waking the Tiger, Enjoy x Gemma (still flowing yoga teacher training)

  4. amphibi1yogini

    It is possible to come to this realization via many entry points. Schiffman came to Freedom Style via Iyengar .. there are now school coming to fusion/hybrid/freeform methods via Kripalu … at its highest levels (or so I’ve heard), Kripalu yoga becomes very freeform, and in the moment ….

    So after a while .. “all roads lead to Rome …” or a yoga-home 🙂

  5. Linda-Sama

    because he says (basically) you have to be in the box (Iyengar) to break out of one. a musician needs the basics before they can play free-form jazz.

  6. though traditional yoga (whatever that means, since most of the asana was stolen from swedish gymnastics and the sun salutations come from the southern indian martial art of kalaripayyattu) may not have a direct connection to the more dancy, expressive forms that you see proliferating, i think the evolution that you’re seeing is probably around to stay. the tradition of movement as an expression of spirituality runs deep through lots of traditions – sufism, judaism, christianity, and hinduism all have traditions of using movement of the body in dance-like ways to achieve liberation of the mind, or to get one closer to god.

    and then, i think about b.k.s. iyengar, who was, and continues to be, extremely creative in how he approaches the practice – maybe he’s not making up a yoga dance, but you have to admit how innovative all the props, straps, chairs, and what-have-you’s are. isn’t that a form of personal expression, or a personalization of the practice?

    so i don’t know. i think having a teacher to guide you is important. but i think you could actually find some examples of personal expression and creative movement in the tradition of yoga that predates the western explosion. so i can’t really place any sort of value judgment on which is more legit, or more yoga.

    • I don’t find blocks, straps, and ropes to be about self-expression.

      • annikalei

        you might not see them as a personal expression of an asana practice, but iyengar’s inclusion of them was innovative, creative, and absolutely personalized.

        • Annikalei, innovation and creativity are inevitable expressions of the human being human. We can do nothing but express ourselves. That’s all we do all day long every waking (and sleeping) moment. I don’t think Iyengar’s use of props is done so in an effort to express one’s self more, and especially not in the way the world of “flow yoga” has presented itself. They’re tools. They certainly can be tools of expression. But, I don’t think that’s them being used in their fullest expression. As Iyengar himself states, “At that time I tried props because I could not take the load on my hands, I could not take the load on my spine.” Iyengar’s approach is fairly therapeutic in nature. Will rehabilitation lead to better self expression? Why should it. When injured, you just express “injured you.” When not injured, you express “not injured you.” It’s not really about quantifying expression. The idea that a person will better express themselves through yoga, is a false one, and is largely attached to commerce. (Didn’t see that coming, did ya?!?!!)

      • Garuda

        Though I’ve known a yogi or two who thought that their dirty, stinky mat was a free form of personal expression. The kind of expression that creates a lot of elbow room in an otherwise crowded yoga studio.

      • Yoga Whelp

        Really? Just add whips and gag balls, and you’re practically in the Renaissance My biggest beef with Iyengar is that he thinks body self-punishment should remain entirely sub-rosa. That’s where the real lack of creativity lies. LOL. Ah, forgive, me, it’s Monday….

    • annikalei

      sorry if i’m not responding in line; i am not blog-savvy. so am i right that your premise is that people gravitate to the flow, dancey yoga in order to better express themselves, or view that type of practice as a form of self-expression? i think for some that may be true, but certainly that’s not everyone’s goal, across the board. others may choose to practice yoga asana in that style simply because it works better for them – and it’s not about self-expression, but just a more effective way to quiet the mind, and maybe even find some meditative qualities in the movement. since we’re name-checking patanjali and the yoga sutras, it’s kind of like 1.39: ” Or by contemplating or concentrating on whatever object or principle one may like, or towards which one has a predisposition, the mind becomes stable and tranquil.”

      my point was that innovating and modifying and personalizing the practice of yoga asana doesn’t always diminish the teachings. also, the desire to create a practice that “works” for you is inherently creative and self-expressive, but maybe it’s just a self-expressive means to a self-obilterating end? like, you have to move through self-expression to achieve eventual oneness?

  7. :D

    The history of yoga doesn’t really have a lot of self-expression attached to it. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras aren’t very pro-“the world.”

    As someone who styles himself “Aghori,” why are you using Patanjali as your gold standard? Not only do your namesakes eschew the Prakritiphobia of the serpent-headed one, but they also decorate the shit out of their bodies and wear truly *fabulous* hairstyles.

    If anything, self-expression is surely a mainstay of the various yoga traditions – walking around naked, painting giant tilakas on your face, collecting ornaments and weapons, concocting your own sadhana. Or rejecting all that and settling for a robe, a pot and some tongs. What are these choices and displays if not a form of self-expression?

    A lot of the hardcore movement guys (I spend plenty of time with them) attain a level of concentration and no-mind for which “yogic” would be the most natural designation. The bodily mastery, discipline and control strikes me as quite analogous to the Aghoris offering their bodies to the fire one limb at a time. Except I think maybe we win this one.

    • Surely, you do not think Patanjali is my “gold standard!” I’m referring to it only because it is the fondation upon which many contemporary practitioners base their efforts. I have little use for Patanjali, frankly. I much prefer the writings of George Fox, Hakim Bey, and the “maithunavites.”

      As for adorning oneself…. Well, it’s more or less a fruitless effort to hypothesize the internal rationale behind why some unnamed hypothetical sadhu wears more than ten radrakshas around his neck. I wouldn’t even fully trust the reason he gave me were I to ask him.

      I’d also question your assumption that wearing tilak is a form of specifically “self” expression. I don’t think Krishnas would necessarily be down with that. Now, I, on the other hand, as an observer, would say, “Yes. This person is expressing his/her allegiance to a certain tradition, and in doing so is expressing the ‘self’ that want’s to be recognized as such.” But, I don’t think that’s an intended goal, and certainly not one I have found abundant in the various texts I have read.

      It is my belief that we can do little else *but* express the self. Do I think that’s the *objective* of asana practice? Nah. Do I think that’s a circumstance of doing asana as a human in a world? Sure!

      • :D

        🙂 I’m not sure there are many contemporary practitioners who genuinely use Patanjali as the foundation of their practice…but I agree with you that that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

        Let me be more specific though about the babas. Leaving aside the ornamentation, I would actually argue that for most of these guys the sadhana itself is very much a form of self-expression. What they are engaged in is worship (whether of a personified deity in and of itself, or of the universal as symbolized by a personified deity, or even of the universal without any personification at all). And while that which is worshipped is of course the focal point, what gives the process its “rasa” is that the chosen form of worship does in fact give expression to the individual personality of the practitioner.

        If this is true – and to extent I’ve interacted with some of these fellows, it appears so to me – that would mean that “traditional” yoga covers a wide range of approaches each of which contains an element of worshipful self-expression. Self-expression alone without worship is manifestly not yoga in this sense. But I would argue that for the hardcore movement guys, what they are engaged in is thoroughly worshipful – and so too for many of the people taking asana classes.

  8. gross

    i think you should practice iyengar yoga regularly before people start saying what it is or is not. its beautiful and there is a movement and stillness and movement w/in the stillness that IS YOGA & its beautiful. even many of the best iyengar teachers don’t personally ONLY move via iyengar yoga. many people teaching yoga do not ONLY do yoga.

  9. Thank you for that last reply, Babarazmatazzi. You expressed my thoughts exactly.
    Now, I’d love to get more involved in this conversation but, you see, I can’t watch the clip because I’m in a country which limits the expression of its people and the words Facebook and YouTube are but a dream within a dream.
    Oh, the irony.

  10. Yoga Whelp

    You’re actually reinforcing the same megalomaniac myth that so many in yoga world are propagating. That it’s “all yoga.” It’s definitely not all yoga. That’s simply the way the industry – and its little pseudo-spiritual minions – try to capture more and more activities in the area of fitness, meditation, leisure, glamor , clothing, bread, etc. under this common marketing banner of “yoga,” simply to enlarge their own market, sell more shit steal more souls, etc.. If you actually listen and digest the video, Ido is very clear that movement that he teaches and celebrates is decidedly NOT yoga because yoga is not about freeing or liberating the body and spirit. He doesn’t mean “free expression” in some personal aesthetic sense; no he really means it in the SPIRITUAL sense. He thinks yoga, at least the yoga that’s around to be had (along with its consumers), is a very limited system. And guess what? it is.

    • Yoga Whelp

      A life without yoga can be entirely joyous and free. A life without dance and movement, on the other hand? What a ghastly life! I think people are finding in the yoga industry EXACTLY what they are looking for. It is what it is. Which is why so many look elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with that. Yoga is not an eight-limbed system. It’s just one limb, one possible entry point into something, There are so many now. Thank God we we don’t live 5,000 years ago. As for Patanjali, really, he was just a cataloguer and an archivist of the various practices in his day. Let’s call him the first yoga marketer.

      • Yoga Whelp

        “People who practiced movement never missed a thing. It was always there.” — Ido Portal.

        This man is so full of life and a simple, sensual joy. He’s in the moment intellectual and emotionally, speaking spontaneously and with eloquence.

        Most yoga celebrities on camera are full of dread and stress; they speak in flat monotones while babbling pseudo-profound “insights” (Brower: “Embrace the chaos.”). And their plastic smiles and false cheer barely masks their anger and depression.

        • amphibi1yogini

          There is too much heaviness in yoga, and I am not talking about physical body weight or earth’s gravitational field (or trying to defy same, repeatedly) …

    • Thaddeus

      Did you actually read the words that The Babarazzi wrote after the video? If so, then how in the world do you come up with the idea that they are viewing the activity within the video as “yoga?”

  11. Pingback: My Yoga Is Not About Self-Expression | Lila

  12. Interesting. This is Capoeira, ladies and gentlemen. Try it. Specially what in Brazil is called “Capoeira de Angola”. Just take a look at youtube and you’ll see this guy took several “body expressions” from this african-brazilian art.

    • Yoga Whelp

      I would say yes and no to that. Actually, his emphasis is more “yogic,” in the sense that he is often building toward balancing poses that are flat out advanced yoga poses, like Scissors and Scorpion. I think he likes to blend all kinds of movement work and moves in and out of the genres or repertoires? A lot of Capoeira, after all, is really no different from gymnastics, the forward and backward jumps and flips. The side whirling cartwheel type movements and the springing up from the floor, there I would agree. Sometimes Ido’s almost break-dancing, though. He’s very, very eclectic! Personally, I wouldn’t see it as derivative, though nothing’s totally original, either.

    • He also borrowed heavily from Lecorre, who’s stuff is in turn based on “La methode naturelle” devised by Georges Hebert in the early 1800s:

      This guy, Portal, annoys me because he doesn’t give credit where credit is due. Yoga, gymnastics, etc. is all connected. Anyone with a brain knows that the East and West physical philosophies cross-pollinate a great deal. For example, see the following article about the link between yoga asana and bodybuilding in the British Raj:

  13. Seeker

    I’m pretty sure that what makes a class a yoga class or not has more to do with intention. If a student ‘casual’ or not has the intention of just moving or just strapping up to a bolster or whatever, no amount of dharma talk is gonna give that student a yoga practice. If a student intends to find a connection to the divine and diminish the false ego then no amount of ecstatic dance/ crunches/ handstands will stop him. Even an insecure model spouting platitudes as a teacher will serve a student with the right intention. I don’t really see the problem here because in the end, as we are such clever beings, we generally find what we’re looking for.

    Also, both of the above videos are awesome.

  14. good piece. I agree with you. “The philosophizer who is familiar with philo­sophy gives the interpretation about the torture of grave after death, and he discusses the matter in a rationalistic way and says: “The soul came here (into the body) in order to perfect itself and to acquire the provision of perfection from this world. So that when it goes out of this world it may not regret. Thus it had to leave the form and come to the idea and the body had to become accustomed to the soul. But if the soul becomes busy with form and accustom­ed to the body, then the upper door is closed and there remains no more space and vastness for the soul. For example, on the one hand he enjoyed wealth and respect and he found a companion and partner in a woman, as well as all kinds of pleasures, on the other hand. Thus he bent to this side. If one mere­ly utters the name of death in front of him, he will die a thousand times. But, had he found the objects of his desire in the other world, he would be anxious to go there. Thus his death would not be death, but life,.. Shams of tabriz

  15. Wondering


  16. ” For the most part, yoga has been part of the whole tradition of a teacher telling a student to “Stand here. Do this. Now sit there. Do that.” That’s largely what its been about, and personally, I like that part of it. I get plenty of “me time” the rest of my life.”

    thanks for the expose baba. An interesting subject. RE: the above statement from you, what I find most interesting is the contrast between the student who wants to be led in class, as most do when they come for similar reasons I’m sure to what you said above…and the student who wants full on freedom of ‘self-expression’, i.e. they do whatever the f they want in class, regardless of what the teacher is teaching, where they are in the room – usually directly in front where other students can plainly see them, doing their own thing.
    Now I know, someone’s going to come back with ‘yea, but yoga’s about focusing on the inside. Student’s have to discipline themselves not to be distracted by that show-off, type A guy doing push-ups with every chaturanga, and adding an advanced form of a pose on to the sequence, etc’ Yes this is true, but there’s a discipline as well for the student to listen and follow a sequence, or a teacher. That’s the gist of what you learn by taking a class. That itself is what helps steady an over active, type A mind. Let someone else and something else lead for a change.
    I’m all for freedom. But if you really want to be doing something different that what the teacher is teaching and the class is flowing with, there’s a name for that. Its called Home Practice.

  17. Pingback: The Jagged Paradoxes of Aghori Babarazzi : Yoga Brains

  18. Beautifully put, thank u bbzi
    I did self-expression yoga and it just made me want to express myself in real life!! Now I’m using that energy elsewhere and use yoga just to balance my body and rejuvenate — aaah wild whirled.

  19. Pingback: Notes on the nirguṇa / saguṇa paradox, by way of homage to Aghori Babarazzi | Matthew Remski


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