I Pledge Allegiance: Sticking with a Yoga Style or Teacher

yoga pose namaste
Photo by Jon Fife

When you look at your local yoga studio’s calendar, what do you see? Chances are, you’re presented with an array of class offerings ranging from restorative yoga to hot vinyasa flow. If your town is especially creative, you may find listings for hybrid classes pairing yoga with dance or pilates (“PiYo,” anyone?), tai-chi and more. For newer students, each studio door is like a portal to a unknown yogic adventure, and trying every new class that catches your eye is not only fun, but important. When taking your first steps down the lifelong path of yoga, gaining exposure to different teachers and styles is a way of discovering who and what resonates with you deeply.

While choices are a wonderful part of this modern world, there is something to be said for sticking with the styles of yoga that resonate with you in order to grow more fully in your practice. Something gets lost when we bounce from class to class with no commitment to refine what we learn. For instance, you’ve probably had the experience of going to one class and hearing an instructor give a specific alignment cue (toes pointed forward in Virabhadrasana I, for example), only to attend another class that week and hear a different instructor completely contradict what you heard a few days prior.

It can be frustrating and confusing to hear so many different ways of practicing the same thing, but with the current variety of instructors and classes to choose from, it’s not surprising. Plus, the yoga we practice in the West has been influenced by the many, many lineages, traditions, and teachers that have contributed to yoga’s evolution over the last hundred years or so. The good news is that most of it—as long as you’re not coming out of your practice injured or stressed—can be considered “correct.”  The important things are to trust in yourself, trust in your teacher and know that it’s OK that there are different ways of doing things. But once you’ve been exposed to as many of the fabulous expressions of yoga you’re blessed to have tried, my request is this: When you find that style or teacher that just “clicks,” run with it!

Most likely, when you discover your teacher or the style you’re meant to study on a deeper level, you just know. Not only will you feel great at the end of class, but after several practices, other aspects of your life will begin to change for the better. When you’ve found the style that resonates with you, you may notice that you have more patience or tolerance in your day-to-day life, like a well of wisdom has been tapped and is now freely flowing. Spontaneous desires to heal relationships might arise, or you may find that you’re simply nicer to that stranger in line at the grocery store.

When we find our teacher or style, its not just our physical selves that evolve, it’s our spiritual selves too (in whatever way that occurs for you). When this happens, it’s no longer about finding the style that is “right” or “better” than others, it is simply that we’ve stumbled upon the style that resonates most truly for our unique selves. It becomes worth giving up the novelty of each new class in order to take a deeper look at our own physicality and spirituality in the way that makes the most sense for us. Sure our practice may change over time, and we may still occasionally take some “different” classes for fun. But our practice will have become our own, as if we’ve arrived on the doorstep of our personal yoga home.


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Yogic Wisdom

Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.
- Krishnamacharya

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