Is Man Flow Yoga “yoga”?

Last week’s article on teaching yoga to men that was published on YogaTrail evoked a pretty significant response. There were people who agreed with what I was saying, saying that they also found beneficial the methods that I use when I approach teaching yoga to men. There were some who said that my approach wasn’t gender specific; there are many women who enjoy these methods and techniques as well. (Extremely true!) Then there were people who told me that I was too immature to teach yoga. (Sounds like she is an open-minded, very nonjudgmental instructor, right?) You can see all the comments here. I posted the article on my own personal page, and even there I encountered suggestions that I needed to change the name of Man Flow Yoga to something else. That begs the question: Is Man Flow Yoga really yoga?

First off, let me say that Man Flow Yoga would not have been created without the yoga industry, and that I would not be as healthy as I am today without the yoga industry. The yoga industry helped me learn the poses and exercises that have made me feel physically more healthy and better than I ever have in my whole life. It helped give me the knowledge and experience necessary to instruct people in the physical practice of yoga, and thus anybody who has learned yoga through Man Flow Yoga also should also respect the yoga industry for that. It inspired me to create Man Flow Yoga.

There are lots of people in the yoga industry who respect what I do. They think that it’s great that I am getting more people into yoga, especially men and people who normally would never have considered doing yoga. My message has been successful enough that I’ve been able to become the most popular yoga page on Facebook for men, and amass a YouTube following of over 5,000 people. On the other hand, there are tons of people in the yoga industry who absolutely despise what I do. Their cries of indignation at how I separate the different limbs of yoga pepper the MFY Facebook page every day. (For those of you who haven’t paid for undergone your Yoga Alliance 200 hour yoga teacher training yet, the “limbs” of yoga refer to the 8 different aspects of classical yoga. The “asanas”, or poses of yoga, are actually only 1/3 of classical yoga.) For the yoga purists, it’s impossible for yoga to exist on its own as a form of fitness. They think it should be called aerobics or stretching when yoga is only done for a workout, and have thus encouraged me to change the name to reflect their opinions. Man Flow Yoga is for people like me; the ones who want the physical benefits of yoga but don’t need an instructor who also gives them advice on how to go about living their lives, or how to change their thinking. Man Flow Yoga is different from traditional yoga, which considers yoga to be a lifestyle rather than an exercise. Man Flow Yoga is fitness-centric yoga, meaning that it focuses on the physical exercise of yoga. This is the real issue between the yoga purists and myself. We will never come to an agreement because our fundamental beliefs about yoga are not aligned. The debate cannot even begin because the framework of both our arguments are not the same; one of views yoga as fitness, while the other sees it as a lifestyle.

Again, I think that it’s fantastic what the yoga industry has been able to accomplish. I think that they have done a great job in helping people make a positive impact in their lives; physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc. It’s helped people with drug addictions, issues of loss, anxiety disorders, just to name a few. That’s all great – but not everybody wants to change their lifestyle. Not everybody wants to combine their workout with spirituality or meditation. You don’t need to incorporate yoga into your lifestyle to be a a non-judging, non-violent, kind, and grateful individual. (In fact, in my experience it seems like the people who claim to be the most yogic are the ones that are the most judgmental, which is hypocritical on a whole other level.) There are other systems of thought or life approaches for that. (Religion, just to name the big one.)

Since I started this brand last year, I have already helped hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of people improve their physical fitness so that they have been able to live longer and healthier lives, improve their physical performance, help them look the way that they want to look, and go throughout their day-to-day lives pain free. Specifically, this means improving grandfathers physical fitness so that they are able to play with their grandchildren. It means lowering medical bills and saving people money because of improved health. It means improving physical performance, so that kids can play at the collegiate level at a school that they want to go. It means curing people’s everyday pains in their shoulders and neck through specific exercises and poses. Ultimately, the goal of the yoga industry and of Man Flow Yoga is to improve people’s lives. Telling me that I should quit what I am doing because I am not doing yoga according to dogma does nothing but satisfy your selfish desire to keep the physical benefits of yoga reserved to those who practice yoga the way that you think they should. In the words of Miley, “We can’t stop… and we won’t stop.”

You’re right – what I’m doing is not yoga. It’s Man Flow Yoga. Jump on board if you’re interested.

1 thought on “Is Man Flow Yoga “yoga”?”

  1. Yup I’m on board. I found the videos on myyogaonline really good but hard to get past all the wanky music and spiritual element that ran through them. I wanted just the physical elements.

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