You may well have discovered that there is big back story to yoga. If you’re spending time in the gym for 60 mins of fast-paced Asana, you may miss out on some of this info, or you may not. There’s a real difference of opinion around whether it’s important to understand the spiritual and emotional elements of yoga or not, and many in the West don’t engage with this side of the story very much at all.
It may come down to lifestyle. There are many tenets of a yogic life that are not so compatible with our always-on, meat-enjoying, hedonistic culture. It may come down to your personal beliefs; I’ve seen many stories around whether yoga, with its roots in Hinduism, stretching into Buddhism (pun intended), is compatible with other faiths and belief systems. It may simply come down to an interest in healthy living and seeking an exercise or practice that is accessible, non-judgmental and self-exploring, where age and ability are no barrier to participation and enjoyment.
An exploration of the deeper side of yoga (the other branches alongside Asana) may yield a wider understanding of the context of the poses, and challenge your preconceptions of the yoga movement and its importance in the East, and how it has spread across the world. It may even change your approach to your diet, your rest and your work. At the very least, it may bring a deeper understanding of yourself and your body and give confidence and strength. I’m very mindful that I have people of all faiths and none in my classes and it’s a fine line to tread when they see you once a week for (ostensibly) exercise, so I tend towards a light touch of yoga theory. If you’re interested in finding out more, just ask your favourite yogi(ni)…they can recommend some further reading, websites to pique your interest and self-knowledge. Om shanti shanti shanti.