Saturday, December 23, 2006


Last night, I taught a Yogi-lates class at Boom Fitness, where I sometimes teach plain old yoga. I am not sure what made me say yes to teaching a class that is neither yoga nor pilates (since pilates, as designed by Joseph Pilates, was intended to be done on contraptions called "The Reformer" and "The Cadillac")but merely a way to suck in people who don't want to commit to either yoga or pilates.

I am essentially a yoga snob, a purist at heart. I never would have stopped practicing law to become a gym teacher or personal trainer, as noble as those professions may be. My conception of life after law was my giving the gift of yoga to others. Not just the physical gift (e.g., the yoga abs, the yoga butt), but the mental and emotional gifts that yoga unlocks (e.g., the tools to help one to be in the moment, whether the moment is good or bad, recognizing that the moment, like every moment, passes inevitably). And as rewarding as teaching pure fitness may be, it simply does not fit within my concept of what I want to be doing with my life.

As I taught "Neither Yoga Nor Pilates" last night, I felt like a fraud. I didn't believe in what I was doing, and I didn't enjoy it. I had a cheat-sheet with me because I knew that the sequence of actions I had planned out wouldn't really adhere to my brain. But as I taught, I realized that the class was loving it. I'm not going to attribute it to skillful teaching or powerful personality on my part. I'll just say that I was giving them the class that they wanted.

And it made me think about New York Yoga, the Upper East Side yoga factory at which I taught for a while, where the stated goal is a sterilized version of yoga that won't scare off the bourgeois masses that live on the far east side of the Upper East Side. I am pretty sure that NYY is doing a fabulous business. Yet many studios with a much higher quality of teaching go out of business in their first year or two, or never turn much of a profit even if they do stay in business.

For me, this begged the question: If I could become "rich" doing something that I didn't really believe in, would I?

People become rich manufacturing plastic urine sample cups. People earn handsome livings owning companies that turn trees into paper. But would I? If I could make a bunch of money selling some sort of bastardized amalgamation of yoga with calisthenics with gymnastics with stomach crunches, would I?

I tend to think "no", but it's really impossible to answer from where I stand right now, with no motivation to do so and no one telling me that if I did, I would.

So for now, I will go with no. But I do wonder.



boodiba said...

I was once asked to quote a price for a logo design... It was for a company that produces and sells ammunition. I had a real problem with the idea. I kept thinking of a graphic of those chalk outlines you (thankfully rarely) see on the street, marking the sight of a pedestrian shot down. I gave a much higher quote, though still fair, than I knew my friend was expecting.

Logo design is more a subscription to services than a one-off job. It's a lot, lot, lot of concept. Which is still time, and time is money.

I was relieved she passed. Otherwise I'd have had to decide.

Tova said...

i teach yoga in a REALLY small community and i get the question all the time "is yoga like pilates?" or "i haven't done yoga but i do pilates". i used to be amused but now it makes me want to vannish pilates off the face of the earth, and that is me just containing my real reaction which i know is petty and childish. truthfully, it enrages me in a completely irrational way that i can't explain. it is only my personal opinion but the only thing they have in common is the tendency of people who have never done yoga to lump them together. i really feel like pilates is for people who want a quick fix to a flabby stomach and yoga is for people who want a change in their lives. really, i don't think i would feel so irrited if people would stop trying to make them one in the same. and then yoga-lates, ehh, makes me think of those mixed drinks they make with red bull, lets get you jacked up so you can get really wasted. just a bad combination. but i have never done yoga-lates nor have i had an alcoholic drink that involved redbull, so really i am talking out my ass. thanks for letting me vent.

Anonymous said...

I've studied both Yoga and Pilates and I currently write about Pilates for

I too think it is unfortunate that Yoga and Pilates are being lumped together so much in the mainstream fitness world. I also think it is unfortunate that both disciplines are becoming somewhat watered down as they become more popular.

Because of it's rapid rise in popularity, many of the awareness and integrative aspects of Pilates have been set aside in favor of just a quick fix for the abs., as Tova mentioned. Actually, Joseph Pilates studied both Yoga and meditation and a lot of people don't realize the extent to which Pilates really is a mind/body practice.

Both yoga and Pilates are very extensive, sophisticated systems of mind/body/spirit health and it is almost impossible to find instructors who are truly qualified to teach both at the same time. I too kinda wish the gyms would give the Yoga-lates idea a rest.

Yoga and Pilates are certainly not the same, but I do think they are very complimentary. I've written quite a bit more about these issues in an article, The Pilates-Yoga Connection, where I explore some of the similarities, differences and compatibilites.

One last thing I need to mention is that Pilates does have an extensive mat work component that Joseph Pilates developed along with the reformer work.

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About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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