THE INTUITIVE YOGA MOVEMENT
What is Intuitive Yoga?
Intuitive yoga is a mindful, playful, and creative practice designed to de-emphasize the modern western focus on pretzel-like yoga poses or the goal of “achieving” particular body shapes. Instead, Intuitive Yoga encourages students to focus on their inner sensations, letting the wisdom and intuition of their own bodies guide them into movement. Students are invited to find the postures, movement patterns, and stretches that feel amazing to their unique bodies, rather than forcing themselves into externally-imposed shapes.
This practice aims to honor and embody yoga philosophy while allowing students freedom, creativity, and playfulness in their physical practice. Importantly, Intuitive Yoga is designed to be accessible for everyone, and it is my hope that people who have not always felt comfortable or welcome in traditional yoga studio classes will find a safe haven through Intuitive Yoga.
What does an Intuitive Yoga class look like?
In its most basic form, Intuitive Yoga is essentially unguided, freestyle movement. When I am practicing on my own, I usually spend some time in meditation and reflection, and I ask myself what I need out of my practice. From there, I follow my intuition and begin moving-- sometimes into classic yoga poses or asanas, sometimes into wild, flowing, circling, dance-like movements. I simply move in whatever way feels amazing to my body that day. To me, this practice is about creative expression, joy, and freedom.
When I teach Intuitive Yoga classes, I tend to provide some additional structure and guidance. The overarching principle of my classes is the assertion that any pose or practice that I offer is an invitation, not an instruction, so while I may lead some structured asana, students always have the option to ignore me and do their own thing. If someone wants to lie in savasana for the whole class, I not only allow it, but I applaud the student for their bravery in listening to their body.
While each class looks different, I usually begin with meditation, reflection, breathwork, and introduction of a theme (usually inspired by yoga philosophy). We then incorporate movement--both structured invitations into yoga poses and periods for playful exploration of freestyle movement. At the end of class, we may come back to a place of stillness through some yin or restorative poses and a final savasana meditation.
Why is it needed?
I believe that Intuitive Yoga is desperately needed in the yoga world right now. As a yoga instructor, I am incredibly saddened by how many times I have heard someone say “I can’t do yoga because… (I’m not flexible enough, I can’t afford it, My body can’t do those poses, I feel out of place in the yoga studio, etc.). It is my firm belief that yoga should be available and accessible to all. Unfortunately, however, many yoga classes do not feel accessible or welcoming to a large sector of the population.
In the U.S., a majority of yoga classes implicitly emphasize aesthetic-- students are expected to contort their bodies into a specific shape and follow a specific alignment (regardless of individual differences in everything from flexibility, to the length of particular bones, to body shape). Though any good instructor will offer modifications to poses and encourage students to adapt poses to meet their needs, students whose poses do not look like the “advanced” versions are often left feeling self-conscious and discouraged.
The ironic piece is that although the U.S. yoga scene is obsessed with the physical yoga poses, asana was never meant to be a focal point of yoga. In fact, many of the “classic” yoga poses we see in vinyasa classes today actually stemmed from 20th century gymnastics rather than from ancient yoga traditions, as is often believed (read https://www.yogajournal.com/philosophy/yoga-s-greater-truth/ for more info).
Intuitive Yoga brings the focus back to the internal. It invites students into a union of mind, body, and spirit, of movement and breath. The practice is rooted in mindfulness-- non-judgemental awareness of how the body is feeling and listening to the cues about what your body, mind, and soul need in any given moment of the class. It is meant to be an embodiment of the spirit of yoga philosophy and a celebration of the uniqueness of each student. Intuitive Yoga is a come-as-you-are experience and an act of radical self-love.
Where did it come from?
I did not “invent” intuitive yoga. People have been moving intuitively since the beginning of time, and it is possible that ancient forms of asana practice looked more similar to intuitive yoga than to modern vinyasa classes. Though Intuitive Yoga is not a popular or commonly-taught style, there are instructors across the world teaching it (some calling it intuitive yoga, others calling it by other names like freestyle yoga, etc.).
My personal system of intuitive yoga was originally inspired by the teachings of yoga legend, Angela Farmer, an instructor at my 200-hour teacher training (Richard Fabio), the yoga lineage of T. K. V. Desikachar, and from traditions of ecstatic dance. However, as I have practiced Intuitive Yoga on my own over the years, I have developed my own method of structuring and teaching the practice that I have not encountered elsewhere.
Where can I learn your method of Intuitive Yoga?
I am currently working on creating several free Intuitive Yoga offerings including a podcast, YouTube channel, and some free live-stream classes on various platforms. It is my goal to have several of these resources up and running by February 2021. However, if you would like to work with me directly, feel free to contact me about availability for private and semi-private instruction.