As a yoga instructor, I was recently asked why I don't say Namaste at the end of our yoga classes. My quick answer at the time, "I have in the past at times, but it's not been my practice." We talked further, and as usual, the question, and conversation, caused me to ponder once again, and ask myself the same question. I always come away from my pondering feeling as if I should put my thoughts in writing at least for my local group, I always put it off. Now it's time.
I began yoga as instructor years ago because while I was fit, I was not balanced in my flexibility. One part of my body was flexible while another was not and I had long experienced pain from a childhood injury. I knew, to treat my body properly to maintain good health, movement, posture, etc., I should manage and hopefully improve upon my own state of flexibility and address my issues over all. (Flexibility is defined at specific joints rather than as an overall as we often assume... that's for another article.)
In my local area way back then, there was one yoga class. I took the class once, but the timing conflicted with other classes I was teaching and the atmosphere was not very welcoming to the not so flexible. Naturally, as a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer, I decided it was up to me to correct my condition. So if I couldn't find a class that met my needs, I definitely could start a class. There had to be so many more people like myself.
So I found a fitness yoga certification with ACE and AFAA rather than initially going all in on the 200 Hr RYT course . I wanted to learn more about what yoga really was prior to jumping in the deep end.
I did a bit of my own research which at that time was book learning and fitness publications rather than searching on-line.
So why did I not embrace the 'norm' for yoga classes and finish with cross legged sit with prayer palms saying "namaste'? Short answer, It's not my language, and I don't really know and understand the practice of the culture it comes from. I have always believed that words matter. So while the loose, and trendy definition ' the divine in me bows to the divine in you' was seemingly harmless, in my heart of hearts I wanted to both be sure of what I am saying and why, as well as respect a long cultural tradition I knew nothing about.
After all, I'm an American born, country girl (country as in where I live, rural, not the music genre), with a love for fitness, and sharing fitness. I could not see the benefit to others that comes with embracing a trend that was flying across the country, just so I fit in. I did not want to simply mimic another language or culture I knew nothing about. I did not want to appear shallow or affected going about saying words that simply went with the trend at the moment.
Again, words matter. I also believed that not only is it disrespectful to those of another culture I knew very little about, by saying words I didn't really know the meaning or history of, it is disrespectful of myself to speak, say, or do things, simply because it's a trend, without a deep conviction that I am staying true to what I believe. Personal integrity is important.
So was calling my class 'yoga' doing the same thing? Not intentionally. I wanted to reach people who were being recommended to participate in a 'yoga' class by their doctors and physical therapists. I knew the focus of my class was especially helpful to those needing most types of general rehabilitation or building of strength and flexibility. Calling the class something generalized like maybe morning stretch, at a time when yoga was the go to, may have caused some confusion. So I used the yoga name and in part the yoga format to present, as the fitness industry had trained, to improve the physical fitness and wellness level of my clients.
As it turns out, my not embracing the Hindu terminology by saying namaste or using the Sanskrit for each and every pose in every class, has in no way negatively effected my class numbers. I enjoyed large classes of 18-22 participants in all my classes. For the rural area I live in, that was a great representation on a week to week basis. And my members enjoyed coming to a class dedicated to their form and function, and the enhancement of their daily well being.
My desire and passion was and is to promote fitness and wellness. Over the years there were many occasions in my classes we explored various aspects of yoga. Each year when the National Yoga Month of September rolled around, I dedicated the month of classes to a unique yoga based theme or simply a fun, relaxing theme that brought each of us together in a fun, uplifting way. I often used the month to share more yoga's history and background. Learning the poses and deepening our practice was implemented throughout the year. However, deepening our practice was always in relation to the movement of the body, the execution of the pose in relation to one's own range of motion, and of course, muscular balance and symmetry. Again, fitness first.
So from this personal trainer, fitness class instructor, and yoga instructor, I finish this writing true to myself and my culture, within a culture 'thanks for sharing with me, and have a happy day!
If you want to know and understand for yourself, there is a wealth of information out there. Here is a link to begin with.https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/beginners/the-meaning-of-namaste/
Personal Fitness Trainer and Coach