Yoga as Exercise, Exercise as Yoga……


The image that heads this article is one such example of a document that I accumulated from my early studies in Western anatomy, physiology and kinesiology in the 1980’s. It was from a Final Theory Examination for a Teacher Training Course within  the Woman’s League of Health and Beauty. Founded in the 1930’s it now operates under the title of the Fitness League.

Curiously, in researching the current incarnation of this organisation I looked at a promotional video of their ‘style’ on their website and have to comment I would find it quite difficult to distinguish from some of the current offerings around for Yoga Classes.

If you teach using background music, incorporate moving or dance style sequences, or use postures such as two foot support, or cobra, or half locust or seated forward bend, amidst a fitness based approach, then the differences between Yoga Āsana and Exercise Postures become increasingly blurred.

It increasingly appears that Yoga has been acculturated into the fitness mindset
rather than fitness being acculturated into the Yoga mindset.

However looking behind the similarities found within the front end presentation of Āsana and Exercise, at the priorities within the teacher training requirements in both, within the fields of Anatomy, Physiology and Kinesiology, raises questions given the depth and breadth of the minimum knowledge based expected of a trainee.

I would invite the reader, especially if a Yoga Teacher, to explore the questions in the sample paper as to whether they could respond within an exam based situation, let alone off the cuff?

Coming back to these issues begs a question or two:

  • Firstly, are these questions a reasonable selection of learning expectations for any Yoga teacher teaching postures within Modern Postural Yoga settings?
  • Secondly, would many of the current crop of Yoga Teacher Trainees make the grade if asked to complete this paper off the cuff containing the topics illustrated in this example?
  • Thirdly, are these areas that need to be an integral part of Yoga teacher training, given the posture dominant fitness and exercise focus these days and expectations of those attending looking for similar outcomes?
  • Fourthly, maybe these areas are already priorities within Yoga teacher training courses. If so are they at the expense of the personal practice and textual study Yoga training in favour of group class fitness and exercise environment skills?

I’m not advocating exams, merely raising questions from different perspectives around the priorities and skill expectations in the fields of Anatomy, Physiology and Kinesiology within modern Yoga Teacher Trainings, given their priorities and that the context they majoritively operate within, is the fitness and exercise environment.

For me there is an existential difference
between teaching Exercise as Yoga
and Yoga as Exercise.

In the former its a goal, in the latter a vehicle.

I am interested, given the training expectations of an organisation, that on its name alone might surprise the reader as to its minimum training requirements for its teachers working solely within a fitness and exercise environment. I leave the reader to reflect on this for themselves given this example from over three decades ago.

Download the Question Paper as a PDF

Download or View this post as a PDF

Links to Related Posts:

Further musings on Yoga Student and Yoga Teacher Trainings……

Increasingly I observe Yoga teachers, even if not trained specifically in……

My role as a trainer is to teach you to teach Āsana not teach you how to practice Āsana…..

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