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The Evolution of Yoga

by Marianne Navada
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In yoga classes, teachers talk of the inevitability of change and how yoga trains us to stay calm and rooted when we experience a shift in our lives. “Don’t be afraid of change. Some things are out of your control. Direct your energy on things you can.” 

As I contemplate the future of yoga, whether as a result of the pandemic, technology, economics, and the role of conspiracy theories, I try to remember how yoga has changed over the years. It has been two decades since I first took my yoga class and much has changed, from yoga studios, teachers, the gear, and generally how the world views yoga.  

This is by no means a nostalgia for the past. Rather, I see it as looking back to better understand how we move forward.

Then and Now

  • The Gear: bathing suits, pajama bottoms, cotton t-shirts, you name it: Pre-yoga clothes, didn’t look quite so put together and uniform. As a result of the popularity of yoga gear and the synthetic materials used to produce them, in the future we will see more sustainable and natural alternatives to the current materials.
  • Less Sanskrit More Anatomy: most likely a result of yoga evolving as a global wellness routine and away from its religious roots, teachers use less Sanskrit to talk about poses and concepts and focus more on anatomical and medical explanations. The medical and science community will continue to conduct more research on the benefits of yoga.  
  • Diversity: when I first started practicing, most of my teachers were men. Now, we have more women teachers, more bulky men practicing, older folks, and young people rolling their mats together. I must admit, I find joy in seeing teenagers practicing next to senior citizens, and both wearing similar yoga clothes. I expect diversification to continue.
  • Global Gurus: Yoga personalities come from all over the world and famous on social media. This will only get more pronounced and with this change, those that can work technology and have a broader public appeal will dominate.
  • Music: less inspired by Hindu prayers and mantras, and more contemporary songs. 
  • Perception: most people have heard or have tried yoga. It’s no longer considered some sort of cult. 
  • Variety: more types of yoga from acro to yin yoga.
  • New Poses: Goddess, drinking bird, reverse warrior–poses not in Iyengar‘s The Light on Yoga, but have become mainstream.
  • Accessibility: more yoga studios, apps, and channels that allow you to practice anywhere. 
  • Gimmicks: goats, dogs, beer, the use of props keeps getting creative. The hope: this doesn’t take away from the essence of the practice.

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