I was asked today whether if given the choice, if I would prefer that yoga classes not be named (Jivamukti, Dharma Mittra, Astanga, etc). Interesting question, as all yoga asana leads the practitioner to ‘the One’ Yoga, but still, I didn’t have to think long before responding ‘no’. Naming yoga classes serve a purpose for students as well as the teacher.
For a student, placing a label on a yoga class can give an indication of what to expect from the class. Will there be a brief shavasana after every pose? Will there be music? Chanting? Sweat? Holding the postures for a long time? A focus on a specific area of the body or a general well rounded class of diverse postures? Will the same postures be practiced in the same order in every class, or will they be different from class to week? There are a many elements that differentiate one class from another.
For the teacher, it can serve to remind them of honouring their lineage; what are the main aspects of the particular method that make it unique from other practices? If the original teachers of the yoga school were in the room, would they be satisfied that this class could be held as an example of their teachings?
Of course, a label is based in language, and the semantics of language has a subjective element to it – we each bring our own perspective of the words into account. More importantly, no two teachers, or students are identical. One Astanga teacher may be terse and egotistical, another may be compassionate and nurturing.
At the end of the day, what the teacher and student bring to the class together as authentic and unique becomes the true vehicle for experiencing Yoga….but labels can sure help to break the ice….