Yoga runs through human history like a river meandering through changing landscapes. Shaping and shaped by the curves of human bodies and societies, yoga is always in continuous variation.
The yoga I teach today is very different from the practice i was given by my teachers who in turn radically tweaked and transformed what they received from the previous generation. It can come as no surprise then, that the yoga available to us today probably looks nothing like that of the ancient sages we read about in classical texts.
How could it?
Yoga does not transmit itself from body to body by way of sameness and stability. It survives and thrives by difference and repetition. Subtle variation and spontaneous emergence is how the yoga river runs through it all. Still, something seems to remain: An embodied mode of self-enquiry that strangely resonates with experiences described by men and women sitting in caves centuries before our time.
Yoga is never the same, yet yoga is always yoga. (Welcome to paradox!)
The past few years, the river of modern postural yoga seems to be taking a new turn. European pioneers like Angela Farmer, Godfrey Devereux and Vanda Scaravelli spark this movement with explorations of a softer, more internalized and radically free-flowing approach to asana.
Standing on their shoulders, we are now witnessing the beginning of what could be the biggest transformation in modern postural yoga since the 1930ies. All over the world teachers are beginning to challenge the old paradigm of straight lines, intense stretching and static posturing.
At the fringe of this new wave in yoga posture practice are approaches working with sensation-based movement, balanced muscular support, tensional integrity and open-ended or chaos-like flows.
Several societal changes and influences from outside the yoga community have also playe their role in the changes we are seeing now. Where the yogis of the 1900´s got new inspiration from the hierarchical order of monastic spirituality, western gymnastics and military organizations, yoga teachers today are inspired to form new social organizations based on a taste for fee enquiry, collective exploration and a global need for responsible leadership.
Another major influence in the new asana-paradigm is recent discoveries in human anatomy. Especially the science on fascia – part of the connective tissue – has changed our perception on how human bodies move and thrive. Another strong influence is childhood developmental movements like yielding, crawling, rolling and spiraling, which seem to gain more traction in modern yoga classes due to their healing and integrating potential for human bodies. Lastly, the popularization of mindfulness has fronted the internalized and meditative aspect of yoga posture practice even more.
As any new wave, these new approaches to modern postural yoga will have to stand the test of time. I for one am excited to see where this is going. It is a pleasure to share so much dedication with my colleagues at home and abroad. It seems so many of us are exploring new frontiers. The driver seems to be a collective desire to create a safe and nourishing yoga posture practice that fit the needs of modern life.
To celebrate the creative transmission of yoga, I’ve created two new courses starting this autumn. Both address themes arising are at frontier of modern yoga right now.
The first is a course called the spiral vinyasa, using developmental movement, tensegrity principles and bringing circular movements and spiral flows. Here we explore new orientations beyond the normal yoga division of the body into front/back and sagittal plane. This course is taught in English if required.
The second course is “open flow yoga” and will be taught in Danish. Here we explore meditative and continuous movement, experimenting with letting movement patterns arise spontaneously from wisdom of the body. The course draws inspiration from from continuum movement and fascial flow. Wheras the spiral vinyasa feels more energizing and muscular, open flow yoga is a more meditative and calming practice.