Spiritual vs. Physical Yoga

ON November 11, 2014

by Sadie Chanlett-Avery

I have been asked, “Why don’t you teach the more ‘spiritual’ kind of yoga?” It’s true that I don’t talk about God and one of my students recently commented that I wasn’t an “Om’er”.

That question puzzles me. It assumes a fundamental separation between body and spirit and implies that we could attend to our physical health or transcend to a higher pursuit.

With clear and erudite teaching, I enjoy classes with more mystical language, Sanskrit chanting, and spiritual themes. However, I cringe at the sing-song, “yoga” voice lacquering on the new age psychobabble. With a mind always chattering about dramas of the past and projections of the future, I don’t need more flowery chatter.

My classes unapologetically invite an internal focus into the body. Tracking sensations, concentrating on form, and appreciating the breath anchor us in the moment. The proprioceptive feedback of movement harnesses the mind. As our bodies and minds unite we dwell fully in the present. With presence, an individual sense of spiritual connection can arise spontaneously.

I want my classroom to be as inclusive as possible so I don’t assume that everyone shares my beliefs. Although we may have different Gods, we have similar bodies. With acute awareness, addressing the quotidian maintenance of the body is a profound practice. My instructions aim to cultivate vivid embodiment, establish optimal alignment, and get students moving. The yoga works its’ magic regardless of our spiritual inclinations.


SadieProfileBSadie Chanlett-Avery, holistic fitness trainer, yoga instructor, and writer, was named a 2013 Athleta Sponsored Athlete. As the In-house Yogi at Clif Bar & Co. she directs the yoga and perinatal programs, trains with kettlebells, and serves on the Wellness Team. Sadie received her teacher certification from Ana Forrest and has immersed for months in the jungles of Costa Rica with Master Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Glenn Black. Her M.A. in Holistic Health Education and multiple fitness certifications lends antomical depth to her innovative and playful classes.

She appreciates the diverse expression of the human genome with the belief that people of all ages and sizes can benefit from exercise and heal with yoga. Teaching for over ten years, she applies ancient yogic principles to individual needs and modern lifestyles.

Sadie blogs at www.activebodystillmind.com.

Blog posts by Sadie: The Dark Side of Detoxing

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