The Anglicized Yoga world has got its hate on. It’s been hard seeing the slow devolution of social commentaries both catty and snide about the state of affairs in popularized yoga forms. Everyone seems to rebuking everyone else or still cocooning their jivas in the glistening gossamer seams of love and light.
Can’t we all just get along?
Furthermore, it is impossible to not speculate as the Washington Post reported last week, that perhaps the sleek urban appeal of yoga is starting to jump the shark, becoming the Norma Desmond of fitness chic.
Is yoga deluding itself when it’s heading down the staircase for its final close up?
Karen Heller’s Style piece states that between weed yoga (perfectly legal in the state of Washington, the “other” Washington), naked yoga, yoga with goats, dogs, etc. is now part of the social mores menagerie boarding at the house where spirituality and exercise now uncomfortably reside.
Twenty plus years ago, yoga was weird. Now, I cannot think of a single human being within a ten mile radius of my home not knowing a down dog.
Yoga has gone and empowered millions to improve their lives; it has also become a big fate slice of pie Americana-style. No Barre studio or Zumba class can tout the sheer innovation around positioning of limbs like yoga can, and with each class contributing to a piece of the $17 billion industry that is straight-up “Namastizzle,” the article cites academic research that shows us, even validates the open “malleability” of the practice.
But how open do we in the extended yoga family really want to be?
Sadly, not much. Apparently not all of us want to share our toys. How can we be when there is so much to complain about? Here are a few issues around yoga making the social and newsfeed rounds:
Another hot topic around yoga is the incompetency of Yoga Alliance and its questionable overseeing of some vague notion of “accreditation” whereby if your check clears and you have been certified for at least six months from another program, you are qualified to teach others. That is coupled with the economic reality that most yoga studio with escalating urban rents can almost barely get by without a funnel of teacher trainings and constant merry go round of teacher workshops.
Oh, but why finish there, when we can rip a new asshole into all the glistening filteratis of Instagram.
And if you are a slender, white woman, well forget about it. In some yoga circles it is offensive that white women (and men- although we know their numbers are few) colonize yoga, a practice uniquely reserved for people of India apparently. I am Mexican and Lebanese and other stuff not Indian so not sure where that leaves me.
Here we see the veil of illusion, Maya, rearing its head. But none of those things are what the truth of yoga is in the studio, with a loving, caring and skilled teacher and their students. The clamoring outside noise becomes radio silence. Yoga still means something beautiful to millions of people and isn’t merely a trifle or en vogue ribaldry.
But I haven’t always been open either. I have fallen into these types of limited thinking; it’s impossible not to take the bait and engage with rubes, Centrists and elites alike.
Many people are pursuing a deeper dive into yoga and Eastern Philosophy academically so they know it all. For the intellectually reluctant and morally-fluid, it’s all good and people are free to be themselves.
I’m the lonely island wedged awkwardly in the divide.
Let’s face it, many people still want to just get their sweat on. Others see yoga as a great place to socialize, feel good in their bodies and feel welcomed and loved in a community. At the end of the day does any of that really effect anything about my practice?
It doesn’t affect anything except when I allow these rants and riffs to begin to shake me up and rattle my cage.
It would be disingenuous for me to say that I am thrilled with the direction yoga is taking. But nonetheless I welcome the discourse as well as the debate. This is a captivating topic and the objective of my lifetime- yoga-yoga as one of my beloved teachers calls it. Some days I am troubled and ask myself why bother? On most days, I am up for the fight. Today was one of those days.
What I have realized is the fight is only ever within, and although at times it’s natural to feel shaken, the true yogi is laser-focused like the Jedi is and is seldom if ever deterred.
There are some days where I read commentaries and there is a gnawing in my gut or a pang in my heart. This isn’t the spirit of the practice. But none of us are thousands of years old within this one lifetime to really have a say in it. So when I say the spirit of the practice, I can only explain it through my interpretation of what that is. All I can do is the work, as I understand it to be. That type of sadhana is never a gimmick, nor does it pander to the masses. Either way, the resilience to stay the course is the Vajra, the diamond cultivated within.
And if you know me and my teachings, where there were once coals, by lunch will be diamonds.
No, my yoga hasn’t jumped the shark. It is more rewarding than ever, and try as I may, I could never quit teaching. My yoga won’t ever make it to the Style page of the Washington Post, but it’s forever etched on the book of my spirit.
In that way, yoga has taught me that we are one; just not page one.
What I do know is that I am passionate about the science of yoga. It moves me like a gentle breeze reminding me that spring is here. It would be impossible to reflect back on my naïve early start in yoga without expressing gratitude for my teaching and how it’s grown from the roots where it began. In that I can see how I have changed.
So why has it been so hard for me (and others) to allow other aspects of the practice to change too?
Change never feels natural although it is the most natural thing around us. It’s hard when you are locked on the way something should be and boldly like a stiff and angry tide, comes crashing down. Resilience allows you to acclimate to these changes without letting them wash you out to sea…
…or roll up and list your used mat on Craig’s List.
In the evolution of the science of yoga there are currents and many types of waves to catch. I just want people to be happy and healthy, and be less concerned with the ways in which they find that, even if it doesn’t match my experience. Our industry isn’t what it used to be twenty years ago, but finally, I am adapting and finding my sea legs. With each breath I steadily regain my balance and find that I remain resolved and resilient enough to weather the storm.