Thursday, June 23, 2011

Styles and Practice Areas and Soapboxes!

When I started this blog, I was looking to see if there are ways that yoga and the legal profession overlap. It has, of course, grown into looking at the intersection of yoga and modern life, in all its varieties. One area I have missed, and where yoga and the law can teach us so much, is in our choice of what type we do; there is something for everyone, and we each have our own paths. Yoga has different styles while the legal profession has practice areas, and our choice of these is a great look at our paths in life.

I think the most common question I get asked when I tell people both that I practice and teach yoga is, “do you do that hot yoga, what’s it called?” The answer, my friends, is Bikram (there are other types of hot yoga, but that is usually where the question originates), and no, I do not. The reasons are plentiful, but most of them do not matter to this post (but if we have met in person, and you have asked me this question, you have seen me on my soap box). The easiest, and most PC answer, is that Bikram is not for me. It is simply not my path.

The types of yoga are plentiful, and I could write a book on all of them, as many people already have. Instead, here is a brief overview: Yoga can reference anything from ancient Hindu tradition / religion to modern asana-based mega classes. Asana practices can range from restorative, where you use lots of props, do not get off the floor, and hold poses for 3-5 minutes to Ashtanga, where there are set series, and you work with a teacher and do not move into learning the next posture until you have “mastered” the one you are currently doing. Some styles of yoga are strict about anatomy, e.g., Iyengar and Anusara, and some focus on the internal awareness, e.g., Anusara again. Then, of course, there is the rest of yoga, the yamas, the niyamas, pranayama (breath), and all forms of meditation. See what I mean? Books! And yet, so many people, including those who do yoga, think that yoga is limited to a few different types.

But of course, lawyers are no different. I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked me for help in areas of law with which I have no, and I mean no, experience. Tax law? Torts? New Zealand tenant’s rights? I am dreading the day someone asks me about criminal law, but at least with that, I have friends who work for the Public Defender and the County Attorney. People assume that because I can put esquire after my name, I must know everything there is to know about all law, everywhere. Any doctors have this problem? Accountants? You get the idea; we often think that one word can define someone when in reality that one word opens up a huge can of . . . possibility!

Once clearing up the fact that I do not have the answer to every type of legal question on the planet, I then must answer the dreaded question – well what kind of law do you practice? The answer, my friends, is family law. The other answer is juvenile dependency law, also known as welfare. In other words, I do that “emotional” law.

If I had 5 cents for every time someone reacted to my choice of profession with, “but how do you do that? It must be so difficult,” or “I could never do that kind of law!”, I would be able to pay off my loans. In other words, people assume all sorts of things about me based upon my choice of profession, and then within the profession, based upon my choice of field.

I used to be a percussionist, and I would joke that I could tell you someone’s personality based upon their gender and their instrument. But maybe that is not so crazy; different paths in music exist just like different paths in everything, and certain types work for some and not others. We choose particular paths because they work for us. Thus, my reaction to Bikram is just that, a guttural reaction; it is not a tempered response because it is so against my needs from yoga. But I know people who love it. For me, sometimes I need a restorative class, and sometimes I need a flow class. I happen to love family law and working with children. To others, that work is insane.

Law and yoga, therefore, offer something for everyone. They are great teachers by showing us that we all have our own paths in life, and someone needs to fill all of them. The Dalai Lama is the first person to say that not everyone could, or even should, follow his path. We all must find our own. And if it is not glaringly obvious by now, of course that means external to the law and yoga as well. That is why this blog is about so much more than just yoga and law, but they have informed my life in such wonderful ways, and I think they are great examples of the rest of life.

The law, yoga, and life are not one-size-fits-all. They are huge paths, full of opportunities to be rearranged and created into our own unique circumstances. So, I might think Bikram is crazy, but that’s because it does not work for me. You might think that family law is crazy, but that is because it does not work for you. That is not okay . . . It is wonderful, and it is what makes the world such a wonderful and interesting place.

We can choose to judge others for their choices, or we can be grateful that they are doing the work instead of us, allowing space for us to do our own work. That, my friends, is my new soap box!

And look, I found one in a small town in New Zealand. Who would have thought?

What is your path?


© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved


  1. Yoga: Sivananda (when I do it, which isn't often these days)
    Law: Legislative/Constitutional/Appellate

  2. Jonathan, I have always wanted to learn more about Sivananda. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  3. There are many different styles of yoga being taught and practiced today. Although all of the styles are based on the same physical postures (called poses), each has a particular emphasis.
    Yoga Clothing