"Yoga Girl" Video

Last night, as I was watching a video of Ana Forrest’s yoga demo at the recent Yoga Journal conference, I found myself thinking that it wasn’t very impressive compared to trained gymnasts, dancers or contortionists that I’ve seen.

This remarkable video makes a good argument for my point. It’s great entertainment, and very impressive….but is it yoga? Let me know what you think.

P.S. Please don’t flame me because you think I’m dissing Ana. I happen to think she is a very impressive teacher and Yogini, and her practice is remarkable, considering she’s roughly in my age group. I was simply evaluating her demonstration for its esthetic value compared to others that I have seen.

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31 comments on “"Yoga Girl" Video

  1. “Is it yoga?”

    Please.

    How can we measure the inner experience of another from a low-res web vid? That is the more relevant question.

    The capacity of the mind to think and judge and criticize is unending.

    I have respect for the work you are doing, however I find this type of yoga-banter nauseating.

  2. Yoga is not a demonstration sport, it is a personal practice. I am suprised that you haven’t learned that yet. Yoga is intrinsically beautiful and in that way, has aesthetic value. However, the purpose of yoga is not to be beautiful, but to be steady and comfortable.

  3. interestingly, the contortionist in her video looks even more “steady and comfortable” than Ana Forrest does.
    And surely one cannot do such tricks without deep connection to breath?

    I say it’s all yoga. Both far more athletic than *my* yoga will ever be, and that’s o.k.

  4. Interesting question. What purpose is there to saying what others are doing is or isn’t yoga?
    I hear many teachers ask this question in different ways. It only seems to cause division and seems to be a persuasion to tell people ‘my way’ of yoga is better than someone else’s. While I am not trying to diss you and you specifically said you weren’t trying to disrespect Ana, what is the goal of the question?

    I ask because I think this will personally help me to not be so jaded when I hear other teachers ask this question again.

  5. Amazing. Yoga? Hard to tell. But surely beautiful and impressive. And such connection with one’s body is to be admired.

    So when do we get to see the drop-dead LK vinyasa on the big E-S channel? The music can be ditched, but please do go for the unitard!

    Hugs, Steve

  6. An outer expression and revelation of one’s inner beauty, quest, and connection–certainly this is yoga. When we criticize others’s approaches to practice, we only bring ourselves further from our own yoga. Let’s shine the light of acceptance on creativity and difference. No two beings are alike. Therefore, No two practices should be alike, either.

  7. Is it Yoga? Well, it certainly is asana, if that’s the question…Only Ana can tell you if she is in “Yoga” during her shared practice…we shouldn’t (or can’t for that matter) be the ones guessing whether or not it’s yoga, right? Yoga can occur doing anything….it’s the same question: do we meditate, or sit for meditation to occur? We do asana in hopes to achieve yoga. We must remember we can only practice and yoga may occur. For me; I practice asana every day, sometimes I find yoga, sometimes I don’t!
    Om, shantih, shantih, shantih!

  8. Cirque du Soleil! Fun to watch, amazing physical prowess…but you need the context to get a sense of whether it’s Yoga. I’m much more interested in what goes on in a person’s heart, mind and relationships, and you just can’t tell that from a performance.

  9. When i have watched Kali Ray do a “performance”, there is an element of effortless practice. I did not see that in this “performance”. I did not find it inspiring at all.

  10. Great flame bait, Man! Is she going to make enough money off that routine to afford hip, knee and spine replacements?

  11. “Is it yoga?” I dunno, is that a citta in her vittri, or is she just happy to see us?

    I would like to see a video of your asana practice now, so we can compare more apples and oranges.

  12. What timing. I was mentioning this video to one of my classes last night, and asking basically the same thing: yoga or entertainment? Certainly asana.
    It is an amazing series, and by an “older” person (yeah for those in our age range), though to me the performance does seem to harken back to the days of the medicine wagon shows: she bends, she flips, she’s the amazing bendy yoga woman. Perhaps the performance serves to dispell the notion that this type of practice is only for the young, or that older bodies and minds are capable of more than society in general might wish to credit us with. I wonder what her intention was.

  13. “Is it yoga?” Who can judge the inner practice of another person from such evidence?

    Is “It” entertainment? Well, Ana’s YJ routine is not entertaining to me. It’s kind of wooden and stiff and has several apparent minor mistakes. I know she’s doing stuff I can’t do, but other people can do lots of things I can’t that I don’t find entertaining.

    Is the little contortionist’s routine entertaining? Well, for a couple minutes, it’s fascinating in a disturbing, uncomfortable way.

    I don’t think I’d repeat attendance at either performance, but I might recommend seeing the contortionist to someone simply because it’s kind of shocking.

    I, too, worry about the contortionist’s future health. I don’t have that concern for Ms. F.

    Thus, I would choose to emulate Ana, not the contortionist.

    I would not likely volunteer to exhibit any skill I might acquire, however, unless I had pretty high confidence that the audience would enjoy the exhibition.

    Namaste, one and all.

  14. Leslie, of course, is joking! The “Yoga Girl” video is mistitled. It should be “Contortionist Girl.” I did not recognize it as yoga. With Ana’s demo, you could see her breathing–in fact, you could see and practically feel the prana exuding from her right through the computer screen. I was mesmerized by her demonstration. Ana does yoga. Ana IS yoga. The other video was a puzzlement.

    Sharon Steffensen

  15. even more than “nauseating yoga banter” (which you definitely expose yourself to when you do public performance like yoga is some kind of entertainment show), i can’t stand the portrayal of modern yoga through crude, excessive, overly dramatic crap. gives the portrayal to one who has no idea what yoga is that it is some contortionist game.this is why the ancient sages condemned the hatha yogis. and speaking of the contortionist, i think the contortionist definately had more prana burning through her nadis than ana. much more inspiring though sickening (what the hell must be happening to her joints and ligaments?). watching this shit is like looking at the freaking people magazine or even better weekly world news of yoga or something. its entertainment. Is entertainment yoga? is it yoga? who knows, but it sure isn’t something I would want to watch again.

  16. Actually – it’s too bad that it is “yoga”. I wish it wasn’t. It would be a lot easier to teach and bring to people if this video were a display of some other kind of performance. It’s shows like this that brings yoga that bad impression of being only for the freaky flexible, the freaky minded ( why is ana doing this ?? what is the point ?? ) , and the freaky needy for attention. “Yoga” is so much more than this as we know – displays like this make it harder for that message to get across.

  17. It seems beside the point to me whether another person’s practice is valid or not so I am not sure whether the question is worth considering. However, it is worth noting that the two videos were of a person doing a performance. While a performance is a practice of a kind and the work that would go into preparing for that performance is another kind of practice, the main function of a performance is the edification, entertainment and enjoyment of others. In both clips the practitioner is being watched by a considerably large group of spectators. Both clips end with the hearty applause of the audience and it appears both practitioners are pleased with their performances and perhaps even happy to be finished. This might be a very different circumstance for practice than one where you are alone with yourself and your thoughts and not doing your practice to please anyone including yourself. While self reflective awareness can happen anywhere it is interesting to consider the different affects that would occur while practicing alone by yourself, in a group without thought to others, in a group with concern for the opinions of others, and/or being watched by a group and performing explicitly for the entertainment of others.

    http://www.yogascope.com

    http://www.yogascope.com/blog/

  18. I heard two questions – is it yoga? And – is it aesthetically pleasing / impressive? Many posters have already commented on the first – and as to the second – What’s the aesthetic complaint? Of course it’s beautiful! Perhaps just not to your taste . . . But I don’t understand what the competitive reference is about.

  19. It is interesting to read everyone’s comments but all of you missed an important point. I was looking at the video and other than worrying about the future of all her joints, I was thinking, it would have been me if I followed my teacher.
    What one needs to understand is how impressionable teenage yoga students can be. That is what I was aiming for. To stand on my pinky finger, to craddle my head in cupped soles effortlessly…breath was never my priority when I was learning yoga in the beginnning. The om chanting was the only connection to the breath in the yoga I learnt back then, but being so focussed on twisting my body a hundred ways, I missed the purpose of the chanting.
    This video to me is a representation of that. I used to think I can never be good at yoga if I cannot do a perfect scissors in my head stand.
    Videos like this take the focus away from breath and that is too bad.

    love Padma

  20. I suppose with the all-pervasive celebrity culture, is it surprising that even those who may sincerely practice yoga get caught up in seeking their 5 minutes of fame?
    While the performance may have been deeply satisfying for practitioner and audience, a scan of those watching makes it clear that most of them would not feel inspired but more likely defeated. And they thought yoga was something that might be good for them . . . . .

  21. “Is it Yoga?” A good Question, Leslie. If we decide to let the word Yoga apply to whatever anyone says is Yoga the word will lose its meaning. Thus the ongoing debate about asana proficiency: is it Yoga? No, in my view. I base this on a long study of the literature and of living lineages. Here’s a similar example in a related tradition: Does sitting still while crosslegged facing a wall constitute Zen practice? I think your question leads to a deeper one: Is the modern Yoga enthusiast’s acquitiveness of asana expertise healthy? Or is it a tragic distraction?

  22. Well you’ve obviously stirred the pot by posting this video. It’s good blogging. As for the question posed I’ll try and craft a thoughful answer based on my experience, the yoga sutras and common sense, the latter of which we seem to to employ much of.

    It would be extremely difficult to disprove that all things are yoga – especially reading any Sri Aurobindo. Divine is in all things. That having been said, there are layers of definitions of yoga especailly here in the West.

    To fuly answer the question one would need to have this woman in class over a period of time to determine what sort of practice she has. My goodness.

    I personally find the video to be disquieting. My bigger fear is that neophytes see this and it further reinforces the nonsensical notion that yoga “IS” felxibility.

    I personally am no longer attracted to flow yoga so I have a built in bias. Therefore stillness feels like a requsite in yoga practice and I suspect one of our fine Sutra scholars could back this up.

    And finally there’s this bit about hypermobility. It’s not a good thing. It’s sort of saggy, unengaged yoga that’s not all that healthy for connective tissue. Most instructors would be hard pressed to get this woman to engage anything in her body because she’s litterally all over the place.

    How does this woman feel anything in her body at all? What happens to contortionists? Do they have normal life spans??

  23. The world is full of different yogas and they all serve a purpose. Maybe it’s not our purpose and maybe not even what we think is a good purpose but that is irrelevant. We are exactly where we need to be at any given moment. If that means we are doing our practice in front of an aplauding audience or all alone without anybody knowing we’re even practicing yoga is also entirely irrelevant. We should try to accept that we are where we are and also accept that others are where they are. In doing that we are so much closer to the goal. We can all rest assured that in the long run failure in yoga is impossible. Thank you.

  24. Performance art or yoga? Who can truly say…
    I do know that I saw a lot of sukham and not much sthiram in her practice/performance which made it uncomfortable for me to watch.

  25. ‘performance’ of asana is appropriate for children, not grown ups. it’s time for grown up practitioners of yoga in the west to get this.

  26. I know that I am coming late to the party here. But somehow I missed this when you first blogged it. Anyhoo, first, I assume you did not mean to say that you find Ana remarkable “considering” that she is roughly the same age as you; after all, she is quite remarkable as a yogini, regardless of her age. Old or young, her practice is remarkable.

    Is the physical expression of her practice as remarkable as whatever it is that the 85 pound 20-year old is doing in the other video? No, it isn’t.

    But your question was: is it yoga?

    In my opinion, it is yoga if it is helping her to corral the fluctuations of the mind and clear away the “debris” on the “windshield” that obscure the view of the “self” (the driver of that car, in my analogy). That is, after all, the definition of yoga.

    I disagree with the notion that a performance cannot be yoga. Golf can be yoga, as John Scott has said. For me, before I discovered asana practice, figure skating was my yoga. Asana practice, as you know, is just one of eight limbs of Patanjali’s eight-limbed system of yoga. One need not be practicing asana at any given moment to be practicing yoga. Performing asanas for an audience certainly ought not to disqualify one from practicing yoga.

    We often hear that yoga is non-competitive, that identification with the ego is an obstacle to yoga, that attachment to anything, including performance, is an obstacle to yoga. So, if Ana or the lithe little thing in the video are feeling competitive, attached to their performance, attached to the audience’s adulation, identifying with their performance, etc., well, those are obstacles to their yoga practice.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s not yoga.

    Lauren

  27. Ana can do whatever she wants. The divine plays in all forms and situations. If it did not, it would not be the divine! As for if it is yoga, you must ask is it hatha yoga? No, it isn’t. Those specific poses are designed to manipulate body energy in very specific ways. Hatha yoga is a science, and you have to follow the rules. Now, if she is having devotional ecstacy while performing, it could be bhakti yoga. So it is a very thin line to walk to theorize about yoga, and just say yoga. Unless, one is talking about direct inner divine contact, then you would not be talking about it, you would live it. It would be your own beautiful secret. It could be like prayer. Hatha yoga only exists in a space where one has a body to do it anyway. So, as a science the rules have to be followed. Because there are rules with body energy, bodies only work in specific ways. Now, if one has transcended the body, then hatha yoga as a category would be useless for that being. (Ironic that yoga helps one do this) At that point to characterize anything becomes pointless. YOGA is just a word, like God. Only we give it meaning. So….No she is not doing hatha yoga. But who knows what other beautiful things are potentially occuring in those moments?

  28. yes, interesting how we perceive things. As a teacher and practioner I enjoy an intense demonstration every once in a while. I see this as a dance yoga from the vision of its performer. I would have liked to see the demonstration in a softer, more graceful way, showing the beautiful respect we all should have of our bodies. I still did enjoy the video, thank you for sharing

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