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What Is Functional Yoga?

What is Functional Yoga? 

Original Piece by Avani | 2016

Functional Yoga is a term you’ll hear a lot around AmaSer, whether dropping in on public yoga classes or living on site for yoga teacher training.   This is a somewhat new term in the field of yoga (considering the loooong history of the practice), though it is certainly not a new idea.  The history of teaching anatomical alignment in the West served a purpose: to standardize the yoga poses in order to spread the study of yoga more effectively…and to more people much more quickly.  Some of the cues for alignment work with a large population of bodies.  And some do not (for example the dreaded: “shin parallel to the top of the mat” cue).  This concept of standardizing is not uniquely Western.  Iyengar Yoga as well as Yoga Works have sought to standardize these cues for decades.

There was a time that yoga was in such high demand that it was difficult for yoga studios and teacher training programs to keep up with that demand and get more teachers out into the field.  Now we have the luxury of a wide variety of styles, settings, timelines and teachers to choose from.  But many of the alignment standards have already “stuck.”  Functional Yoga seeks to bring the personalization back into the practice and honor that each body is unique in its shape and bone structure and therefore, unique in it’s needs within the poses, too.  Essentially, functional yoga seeks to make the yoga about YOU again; and not about any cookie cutter yogi that came before.  We’ll take a look at anatomy from the functional perspective a little later on.   

Where aesthetic yoga seeks to find a standard of how the yoga pose should LOOK, functional yoga focuses on stressing the proper target areas in the body (focus on how the pose should FEEL).

What do you notice out of the standardized cues / poses that are difficult in your unique body?

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