Hatha Yoga Vs. Gentle Yoga, Naming a Class

I have added a new class to my weekly schedule.  This class takes place at a hot yoga studio in town that offers multiple fun classes to flow in the heat at, but the studio did not previously offer any Hatha or beginner level classes.  The honor was all mine in accepting the class.  

For years I have taught primarily hatha classes, in fact out of six weekly classes that I was teaching before quarantine five of the six were Hatha.  

When it came to giving this new class a name I went back and forth on what to call it.  Do I call it Hatha, and possibly have many potential students not understand what that means, or do I call it something that is a little easier to comprehend such as Beginner Yoga or Gentle Yoga?  

There are pros and cons to both options, but what I landed on was to stick to Hatha Yoga, with a Beginner Yoga subtext.  The reason being is that as a student who has practiced in studios around the world, when I see a class listed as Hatha vs. a class listed as Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Mysore, Power Yoga, etc. I know what each style represents.  Of course this took a while to learn, and being a yoga convert (joke) for roughly two decades and a teacher for almost ten years, it is safe to say that I can easily differentiate between styles.

So why would I choose to confuse new students by calling the class Hatha?  It boiled down to cultural appropriation.  A reality that I hope many if not all yoga teachers have given thought to, if not for a long time in their career, then hopefully at least in the past year or two.  

During Covid quarantine, like many, I attended (and am still attending) webinars on many different topics and listening to podcasts as I complete projects around my home, some of which have been about cultural appropriation in the yoga world.   

Yoga is ancient.  Yoga stems from not one, but multiple religions.  Yoga was brought to the west in roughly the 1700-1800’s and has had an explosion in popularity and practice in the past two to three decades.  There are so many more styles than what I listed prior, most are not traditional, but creations and hybrids from the 21st century.  

Although the classes that I teach, whether Hatha or Vinyasa, are not fully, 100% traditional, I try as best as I can to honor the ancient tradition of yoga by utilizing Sanskrit and incorporating the unity of body and mind throughout all of my classes as opposed to focusing on solely the physical aspect of the asana. I also self study by reading and rereading philosophy books, listening to aforementioned webinars and podcasts, and practicing as much yoga as my schedule allows. I also tend to prefer more traditional styles of yoga and classes that offer spiritual and mental aspects which I then hope is reflect in my class offerings to students that attend my class.

This is scratch on the surface of cultural appropriation in the yoga world. If you’d like to learn more on your own, check out this episode of Yogaland. How do you pay homage and respect to the origins of the tradition of yoga that has brought so many of us in west calm, peace of mind, healthy bodies, and tools to cope with our daily lives?  

Postscript – India, the motherland of yoga, is suffering.  Covid cases are skyrocketing, an Indian variant is widespread, and crowded cities are struggling with managing the overwhelming amounts of dead, the forest department has even given permission to cut down city trees for crematoriums because they have run out of firewood.  India and its kind people need our help.  If you have the means to give, you can find organizations to donate to in this NY Times article.

Holi Cow, You’ve got some Pink on Your Face

A description of the color festival and four tips you should know

My month here in India is quickly (and sadly) winding down. It’s been an intense month of study, practice, and growth here at the Paramanond Ashram and Institute. Incredible India has been full of amazing food, wonderful people, and lots of color – powdered colors everywhere. Pinks, yellows, blues, and greens smeared on clothes and across skin during the exciting celebration of Holi. If you’re not familiar with what Holi is, then check out the new Coldplay song featuring Beyonce and it’s pretty much like that.

So what’s it all about? During a morning lecture the day of the festivities, Guruji, the primary instructor (guru) here at the ashram, told us about the meaning behind the throwing of colors. He put it in perspective of yoga and the chakras and explained that it’s a day to enjoy 100%, to let go and play like a child. There are definitely plenty of opportunities to do just that – powder, water, music, dancing! We also learned in our Ayuveda class that water and mud are thrown in the mix in order to cool down the intense vata that comes with the summer season, and it is hot here, so it makes sense.


For our Holi celebration, yoga students and ashram attendees alike played just outside the doors of the ashram, only venturing onto the main street in the afternoon after most of the festivities had died down. It’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t immerse ourselves in the larger city celebration, but I’m in no way regretful, we had a blast. If you have the luck to celebrate Holi in India, then remember these four things

  1. WEAR WHITE – Obviously the color will show better on white than a dark surface. Make sure you have a white shirt that isn’t special to you, maybe that one that got splattered with turmeric tea, because that thing will never be white again (same can be said for your pants and underwear!) The colors keep coming and coming; it’s like a big human-tie die experiment.


  1. OIL UP – This tip was given to us hours too late on the first day of celebration, but came in handy the next day (Holi is officially two days here in M.P. and some even got into the mood and bags of colors a day early.) Oiling up the skin, with say coconut oil, doesn’t allow the color to penetrate into your pores as easily, although there is bound to be some staining. Pink was the worst culprit, it’s been five days and at least as many showers and I’m still seeing people with red in their ears… maybe I should say something.


  1. DRINK WITH CAUTION – “Caution, this cup’s contents may be laced with CANNABIS!” should read the little disposable plastic cups (a whole different post – so much single use plastic!) on Holi because bhang is the offical drink of the color festival. What’s bhang you ask? Well, it’s a milky, sweet drink made with weed basically. You can read why it’s the official drink of Holi here, if you get passed a mysterious glass during the festival you’d be wise to ask about it’s contents. However, Holi at the ashram was without. It’s also good to keep in mind that other festival goers may be under the influence of bhang and/or alcohol, so mind your things and your person.


  1. PLAY 100% – Guruji explained that Holi was a time to forget about boundaries of age, religion, sex, or caste and to let go and play fully, 100%. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but once the first fingers leave a vibrant yellow streak on your cheek, you’ll join right in.


My first authentic Holi in India was perfect. I hope I’m able to celebrate it again at some point, somewhere. I hope that you get the opportunity as well, we need to play 100% now and again.


*EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS TIP/COMMON SENSE – Remember to close your eyes and mouth when you see someone coming with a palm full of pink. A necessary strategy for avoiding the ingestion of colors.


Photos courtesy and credited to Miko Photographie of Berlin.


Ashram Life

It’s been just about two weeks now that I have been living, as best to my ability, a yogic lifestyle in an ashram, here in Indore, India. The reason that I’m here is to advance my 20160314_090203studies of yoga, better my asana practice, learn about India and her beautiful people, and of course drink all the chai I can get my hands on (you gotta be fast, it runs out quickly!)

If you’re considering doing a YTTC or retreat at an ashram, here are some basic considerations of life at an ashram. My course is with Paramanand Yoga Institute, in Indore, Madhya Pradesh which is centrally located in the peninsula of India. Living a simple lifestyle won’t be for everyone, so do your research and contemplate if you’re up for life at an ashram before deciding to study one.


  • Yoga – It’s what I’m here for. In my advanced studies I’m learning a lot not just about the postures but about the other aspects of a yogic lifestyle, and it’s very much encouraged to go as deep as you can into it. That means trying to limit social media time, self practicing asana and meditation, and loads of personal reflection. If you go to an ashram to do a training be sure to look into the style of yoga that they practice and teach, as it’s very likely that it will differ greatly from the western, vinyasa flow/hot yoga that you’re used to. Go with an open mind and take as much as you can out of the variety of yoga styles that there are.


  • Vegetarianism – Ahimsa, or nonviolence, is a part of Yama, or self conduct, which is part of the Eight Fold Path of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, and this  might include vegetarianism in most ashrams. If you stay here in India, then you won’t even miss the meat, because the food is good. My friend forewarned that I’d probably even put on some pounds from all the ghee (purified butter) and sugary chai (both made from dairy, so let someone know if you’re vegan ahead of time) and she might be right.



  • Karma Yoga – This is no hotel living. No one is going to clean your room for you or do your laundry, living in an ashram means doing things for yourself and taking joy and responsibility in your duty (dharma.) Not only will you be expected to care for your own space, but everyone is required to maintain the common areas. Personalized projects that cater to your interests are a possibility as well, i.e. – blogging!


  • Lectures – Whether  you do a yoga training, a short retreat, or a temple stay, remember that time spent in a new environment is time to learn and grow. At Paramanand Yoga Institute, there is a tightly packed schedule with classes on everything from Yogic Philosophy to Asana class.


  • Modesty – From attire to behavior there are rules here. 1. Shoulders must be covered, and only loose fitting pants (so leave your MPG at home.) 2. Opposite sex should not embrace/Don’t enter the rooms of the opposite sex. In a way you could almost think of an ashram as a monastery, essentially it’s religious, but before you wrinkle your nose too much, consider how a regulated day, diet, and schedule can be really good to push the reset button on your life. It’s also an integrated cultural experience that likely won’t be happening at a beach side resort.

Like everything outlined here, this may not be the case at the ashram that you find, but scour their website or send an email asking outright about style of yoga and behavior guidelines. If it sounds too intense, then look into a weekend visit or shorter trip than a month long training. Whatever length you choose, it’s beneficial to at least dip your toes into another area of yoga beyond asana.