When did yoga lose its zen?

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Yoga, whatever the flow, is supposed to be an opportunity to be quiet, to turn inward, to be present and generous to yourself and really the people around you. It’s not supposed to be competitive or perfect; unless you’re practising it in your own home, you don’t own the space, you’re temporarily occupying a tiny rectangle of it.

But the less than calm attitude of some yogis isn’t simply confined to the studio.

On the other end of the spectrum, Instagram is becoming a platform for out-yoga-ing each other, with instructors and practitioners digging each other out for not being real enough.

I recently came across someone on Instagram slagging off influencers for passing off acrobatics for yoga poses – and doing so in Lululemon pants. They were annoyed at the idea that these people post headstands and binds because it looks cool and burns calories, rather than allowing for conscious thought and breath.

She had a point…until she accompanied the post with her own headstand photo.

When did yoga become a consciousness competition? Surely yogic practice can be and should be whatever people want it to be?

Does it really matter what the intention is behind your practice, if it makes you happy? I for one try desperately to be in the zone during yoga but I still struggle to focus my mind and not allow it to go galloping off. I treat yoga as another part of my fitness regime; after all, if you’re working hard, any form of fitness can be a type of meditation. When you’re solely concentrating on how your body moves, that can be a great kind of mental workout. It’s zen…but not as many of us traditionally know it.

Which is why things like ‘heavy metal yoga’ exist and studios like Fly Yoga are now setting up shop which promise to be the ‘non-Yogi Yoga studio’.

Their studio is part of the #nojargonmovement; it doesn’t allow phones in the room, there are no crystals involved and it’s very much about everyone turning up and doing yoga for the sake of doing yoga – whether that’s for mental release or to stretch out your quads and tighten your core.

‘I definitely think that more and more people are turning to yoga as a counterpoint to their other training and discovering that it provides a really good rehabilitation and mobility workout,’ founder Charlotte Cox, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘The idea for FLY came out of my background as a City lawyer. I was often tired and stressed and yet I spent my mornings smashing out HIIT sessions six times a week, picking up injuries and generally failing to look after myself. I was lean but I felt terrible.’

But those who come to yoga simple for its stretching and conditioning properties are missing out on other benefits.

‘The recent interest in meditation and the ongoing dialogue about how society deals with mental health issues show that there is definitely space for the more reflective side of yoga.’

She says that it’s increasingly important for us to find a way of managing the stresses and strains of daily life.

‘This is why we have created an immersive experience to take people out of their daily lives and why FLY’s classes also end with a short, guided meditation. We don’t use crystals, but we do try to teach people practical techniques that they can use in moments of stress or anxiety to calm themselves and regain focus.

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