Yoga is a growing ever more popular in France, from huge giant scale gatherings under the Eiffel Tower to classes in chateaux, festivals and workshops. There is something about the French way of life that lends itself to the practice of yoga in France says Jill Barth…
“The aim of yoga is to eliminate the control that material nature exerts over the human spirit, to rediscover through introspective practice what the poet T.S. Eliot called “the still point of the turning world.” Barbara Stoler Miller
It may seem that a French lifestyle: wine, food and beauty would be absolutely centering. Connection to the soul, source of life and inner peace: isn’t that included in delicious trappings of French daily life?
Perhaps, but many French citizens have included the lifelong benefits of Yoga in their collection of restorative and enlightening experiences. While the French aren’t known for their passion for exercise or fitness, this nonchalance actually makes France a welcoming place for Yoga as a holistic practice, rather than a function of body manipulation or change.
While Yoga is an ancient practice dating back thousands of years, French interest is more recent. In the 1960’s, as the study had become to creep forth from India, Westernized popular culture (think The Beatles) leaned into the spiritual practice. As modern life expands and accelerates, Yoga is a touchstone for personal peace, a down-shift of gears when everything else seems to speed up.
In France, one can find a growing selection of Yoga instructors and courses. Most Yoga specialties and styles (and there are many) have taken root in studios around the country. The modern French person loves choice, so personal preference can guide which style is practiced. Classes are found tucked here-and-there, in rustic chateaus to sparse new high rises to open air settlements.
France is host to large festivals and workshops, with participant counts in the hundreds, even thousands. The scope of a yogic lifestyle – including music, food, parenting, education, spirituality and the physical practice – is the focus of several large-scale gatherings that encourage Yoga as the entrance to a soul-centered life. Immersion is available through Yoga retreats, offered in lovely settings with luxury accommodations. Many retreats couple Yoga with supportive practices, such as raw food meals, Ayurvedic considerations, meditation time and nature experiences. Teachers and students travel from all over the world to experience Yoga surrounded by the beauty of France.
Of course, there is a hip side to the age-old practice. Yoga clothing stores are popping up in Paris and other French cities, Yoga teachers are pairing with DJs to layer movement and music, giant-scale gatherings are bringing together yogis under the Eiffel Tower and the Le Grand Palais. Such gatherings are often held in the name of connection (translated from Sanskrit Yoga represents union), which a focus on non-violence, loving-kindness and oneness. It’s a lovely statement on the universal appeal and benefits of Yoga in a country where visitors seek love, beauty and the essence of a life well-lived.
Jill Barth is a writer who lives in Chicago.