La Sirena Yoga

La Sirena started with organizing and hosting yoga and spiritual retreats in her adopted home of Ecuador, and has now grown to include a Holistic Centre offering Reiki, aromatherapy, natural health products and spa services, a yoga sangha with regular classes, and spiritual, health and wellness courses and seminars.

La Sirena empezó con organización y presentación de retiros de yoga en su país adoptada de Ecuador, y ahora ha crecido para incluir un Centro Holístico que ofrece Reiki, aromaterapia, productos y servicios de salud natural y spa, una sangha de yoga con clases fijos, y cursos y talleres de espiritualidad, salud y bienestar.

La Sirena Retreats y Centro Holístico | Cdla. Los Almendros, Manta, Ecuador | 593 52 381 344 | 593 987 267 157

Monday, 22 April 2013

Yoga IS for everyone, but not everyone knows what yoga IS

Today I'd like to share my response to a wonderful article I came across online today, about how yoga as practiced by the ego centred yoga slaves in North America can be harmful to health. 

Wow, thank you for this! I am an "unqualified" yoga teacher, according to North American standards. I started a sangha over a year ago with the blessing of several "qualified" yoga instructors who reminded me that traditional yoga doesn't have certifications and professional affiliations, and as long as I don't claim to know more than I do, there is no problem with leading a sangha in yoga asanas. I have struggled with feeling like a fraud, and even discussed it with a swami at a conference, who assured me I am doing a good thing, but given the mainstream society views on the subject, it's a daily struggle. Watching the John Friend saga and the new trends like paddle board yoga and aerial or acro-yoga- which seem to me to be all about showing off your abs and physical prowess, dealing with yoga studio owners and teachers with serious ego and envy issues who are all about the money, leaving Elephant Journal because of my increasing sense of discomfort with the direction the posts were taking and the overall mentality there, and seeing the general state of yoga in North America from outside the bubble in the past few years, left me wondering if it was just me, maybe I’m the crazy one.

I have also felt increasingly distrubed over the last 2 years by the proliferation of yoga photography, with every teacher and their uncle, and even young students here in Ecuador, showing off in difficult, advanced poses and posting the pictures all over social media. It always strikes me as just wrong. Yoga is supposed to be about controlling ego, and here are all these supposed devotees of yoga showing off like kindergarten kids "look at me, look at meeeeee!!!!!" Seriously, photos of you doing a headstand outside the all night burger joint afer a night out at a club drinking and dancing? I won't even start on all that is wrong with that... But I can't bring it up with these people, because I'm not a perfect body, I don't pay ridiculous fees and devote hours and hours a week to perfecting my asanas, so who am I to say anything? I'm just the fat chick who gives very, very affordable classes full of spiritual talk to the non-perfect bodies in my neighbourhood, you know, not a REAL yoga instructor.

The core idea in my yoga teaching is that yoga is for everyone, which would seem to be the opposite of what your article is stating, but the crux of my teaching is that there are no headstands or pretzels in my sangha, ever, and that yoga is not just the asanas. We do gentle, beginnner to low intermediate asanas to help relax the body, and I stress over and over that my students are never to do anything that hurts. This stems from my experiences in North American yoga studios, in which I often left the room crying, or at the very least felt like crap, because of the body worship and comptetition among the 'perfect bodies' in their lululemon designer outfits, and the pain and limitations of my damaged body when trying to keep up with the class. My students who have studied elsewhere comment in amazement about the way I teach, stressing over and over again "slowly, little by little, don't force it, come out of the posture gently", giving step by step instructions on how to avoid injury, whereas their previous teachers have never mentioned anything like that. "No one ever told me not to put my foot on my knee in tree pose before!" "Wow, the posture is so different, so much easier, now that you have explained how to do it slowly and not hurt my back coming out of it."

On a student's first class with me, I always explain what yoga is, the meaning of the word in Sanskrit, and talk about the asanas being only a small part of yoga, contrary to the North American delusion about weight loss and perfect bodies and who has the cutest outfit. We practice pranayama and guided meditation with mantras in my classes. We talk about off the mat yoga, bringing the philosophy and spirituality - that is the real yoga- into our everyday lives to improve ourselves, and checking ego.

Yet with all this, I am viewed with distrust and disdain by the mainstream in North America, and gringo visitors to the country I practice and teach in shun me because of my lack of  "qualifications". Thank you again for exposing the truth. Yoga IS for everyone, but it is not about exercises you practice at the gym in order to have a sexier body or a better sex life, or fitting into designer clothes. It is about changing your life, becoming conscious, making yourself a better person, being of service to the world. Yoga is a SPIRITUAL PRACTICE and it's time we take it back from the egomaniacs who have hijacked it.

La Sirena 



  1. Hello Janice ~ you can never measure yourself by others standards. I too am not qualified in terms of our local yoga teachers federation. I could not afford to pay for an expensive course which would teach me very little. A few years back I wrote to our local Yoga Teachers Federation because I felt the need to be certificated. On reflection, this was ridiculous since I have followed yoga since age 15 (I am now 56) and have never stopped learning. The person charged with certificating me had, at that stage only about 8 years of practical experience and was more interested in ensuring I paid the federation an annual fee for a small insertion of my name and contact details on their website.

    It is obvious that you love your chosen vocation. There is no point in bothering with those who have chosen to commercialize yoga to the extent that it's a workout rather than a way to ensure the body is a temple for bhakti/devotional yoga. Trust that you know what you're doing since it is obvious that you have chosen a path with heart.

    1. Thank you! Paying the insanely high fees to be certified is also an issue for me, more so when I examine what it really is: membership in the Commercialization and Bastardization of Yoga Club. You hit another important point there about paying the annual fees to be a member.

      I am following my dream my own way, and things are falling into place. Do what you love and the rest will follow!

      Namaste beautiful one!

  2. Recent reactions on facebook:

    Ilyse Kazar: "Yoga is a SPIRITUAL PRACTICE and it's time we take it back from the egomaniacs who have hijacked it." AMEN.
    2 hours ago · Unlike · 2

    Christy Summerfield: Thank you SO much for saying what has needed saying for a long time. hugs & love to you for your courage.
    about an hour ago · Unlike · 1

    Jonquil Garrick: Fantastic article. Hits straight to the heart. Yoga about healing, not about self-centredness. Thank you
    47 minutes ago · Unlike · 1

  3. THIS is yoga: Thank you Ram Dass. Namaste

  4. Hi Janice: It definitely feels to me like you are doing good work in the world. Follow your heart. Be of service. Don't worry about the gurus and certifications. Best wishes with your practice and I hope we will meet in Ecuador yet. Sandra J. Howe, Grey-Bruce Adventours, "Helping you explore Grey-Bruce and Ecuador."

    1. Thank you Sandra. I hope we do get to meet on your next trip down here.