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Teach Whatever You Want, Just Don’t Call It Yoga

 “Yoga is broken.”

This statement came up again in the interwebs. Yoga is not broken. The people who practice it are broken. As members of the yoga community, we need to know the difference. For if we don’t, we will continue to walk through the house of yoga with our dirty feet and blame it on the house itself. Real change will not happen until we take responsibility for our contribution to the dirt and wash our own feet!

To take it a step further, the people who practice are not even broken.  Some people have forgotten their own luminosity and have turned away from the purity of the Self and turned towards the deception of the ego.




At a David Swenson workshop, someone asked him about changing the sequence up.  He said, “teach whatever you want, but don’t call it Ashtanga”. One of the most honest statements I ever heard was a yoga teacher who said, “I don’t teach yoga. I teach something that will take you to yoga.”

This is not a conversation about right or wrong. It is one about honesty. This is not the search for perfection, it is living in the brutal truth of our humanity.

We have to remember that when we speak, people are listening. If we  care about the future of yoga, we have to speak what we want to see into existence. We can go around saying that yoga is broken or we can set ourselves to helping those who are actually broken.

What is yoga? It definitely is not broken.

 Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:2.

There are five fluctuations. However, if we work with these 4, many things that are “broken” will be fixed. These are right knowledge, misconception, verbal delusion and memory. I have written about these in detail in the Yoga Sutras for Modern Day Life Series so I will not go into detail here. For the purpose of this conversation, right knowledge deals with inference and misconception, well, is misconception. So the theory that yoga is broken, goes back to inference based on misconception and is itself a vritti.

Our mind is the world’s most sophisticated computer and it did not come with a users manual. Yoga is the users manual. Yoga says that their is nothing wrong with your computer, it just has a few viruses and needs to be cleaned out really well. You need to defrag it and delete some things. It gives you some tools to do that and than tells you what to look out for so that your computer is not infected again. When our computer becomes out dated, trust me, mother nature will get rid of our part in the universe just like she did the dinosaurs.


Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail [email protected]