“It’s the difference between teaching the person or teaching the pose.”
Once, at the conclusion of a power yoga course, the instructor walked to the back of the class where I sat on my mat, turned to the woman next to me, and asked her if she was interested in becoming a fitness model for the gym. It was a blow to my young, fragile self esteem, and I haven’t been super inclined to go to a yoga class since.
Turns out, I’m not the only one whose been turned off by the focus on physical appearance that plagues so many Enya-blasting, mirror-gazing, instructor-watching yoga classes the world over. “Every day I meet people who have tried yoga and not liked it,” says Micah Scholes, founder of Schole Yoga. “It’s a travesty.” Scholes explains that there’s nothing wrong with being physical, but that there’s far more to yoga than the physique of the person practicing. “The difference is in the focus,” Scholes says. “It’s the difference between teaching the person or teaching the pose.”
The actual practice of yoga, the one that began 5,000 years ago, is about mindfulness and peacefulness. “The pose is not our purpose. The pose is a tool we can use to do something greater,” Scholes says.
TBH, it wasn’t just the teacher picking favorites that left a bad yoga mat taste in my mouth all those years ago. It was also my inability to do the most basic of poses. Especially when Ms. Model next to me was contorting herself inside out while standing on her head. I couldn’t compete with that, and I didn’t like feeling like I had to try. “There’s a perception of what it means to be good at yoga. We remove all of that,” Scholes says. They remove it by keeping the lights low, circling the mats in a circle, keeping the environment fun, and allowing the instructor to walk around and assist students. “People feel way, way more comfortable in general,” Scholes says. “They don’t walk out of class feeling like a failure.”
Scholes’ is something of a revolutionary approach and people are catching the vision. While Schole does offer studio classes, it is first and foremost a school. The curriculum is critical examination of all the different ways yoga is practiced and trains instructors to incorporate physical movements with ancient teachings. Tuition ranges from $2,500-$3,500 and students who complete the program can go on to teach the method anywhere they like for no charge. “We’ve created a system that allows people to go out and be successful as part of a movement,” Scholes says.
As both the education program and the studio courses continue to expand, Scholes hopes that more people can shrug off the negative experiences they may have had with yoga before and learn to love yoga for what it was always meant to be: “The most important thing for me is that we keep offering this type of yoga experience to as many people as possible.”
Classes are offered daily at the Salt Lake studio, which is far and away the most high tech yoga studio in existence, all run from an app. And it’s in Artspace, far and away the coolest place in existence. But don’t be intimated. All are welcome. And if you’re concerned because you don’t think you’re good at yoga, Scholes explains, “That’s like saying you’re not going to college unless you have a college degree.”