In yoga classes there is a lot going on: breathing, moving, relaxing, as well as taking on board a whole range of names- dogs, cats and cobras galore. It takes time to gets to grip with it… and even after years sometimes a yoga teacher will throw something totally new in the mix. Point in case my lovely friend and ex-yoga student text me the other day to say, that when she finished chuckling to herself, she’d very much enjoyed a new pose ‘cosmic egg’ that appeared in a class she was in. I tried to get more info on what this could be but Google and my trusty textbooks have drawn a blank so I can only assume it is a new adaption by her creative yoga teacher.
The question of names also cropped up when i attended a class from someone who teaches in a different tradition to me recently- what I refer to as child pose, was called swan pose. These changes can be very confusing, particularly if you’re relatively new to practicing. So which is right? Typically for a yogi I’m going to sit on the fence – by saying that both are right.
Let me explain. Some of these differences are due to the simple translation differences from the original sanskrit terms such as uttanasana, ardha mukha svanasana and bhujangasana. But there are also other reasons for these differences. It is said that in yin practice deliberately has different names to asana that might appear to be very similar to asana that appear in other more dynamic styles of yoga. This is partially because the emphasis and approach to the practice is totally different so masters of Yin such as Paul Grilley encourage students to approach these new poses (with their new names) in new ways.
This also links into the question of which is the ‘right’ way to practice yoga. There are many traditions often depending on the lineage or the origin of the yoga school: from dynamic practices of vinyasa and astanga which are linked to Pattabhi Jois, to other traditional forms of practice such Viniyoga which is linked to T.K.V. Desikachar. These are just a few strands, if I started to describe all the traditions and many variations of yoga we might be here all day (I’ll spare you!).
At my old studio Yoga Fever there is no one form of yoga taught in the studio by the regular and visiting teachers- you can encounter teachers taught in Astanga, Power, Viniyoga and other traditional Hatha schools. So the teachers encourage students to experiment and try new things. If you’re interested in understanding the history and underlying philosophy of yoga to start to gain a deeper understanding of these different traditions there are some great foundation courses and workshops around (take a look at BWY Wales).
So for me I guess the moral of the tale is to try not to be too rigid and dogmatic in yoga about rights and wrongs. Instead as students we have to keep a careful ear out for the teacher’s instructions and if the asana names are different to what you’re expecting give a little raise of the eyebrows and then dive right into it, enjoying the pose irrespective of whether it’s a child or hare or a swan or even good old balasana.