What have we done to the yoga world?
We have a way in our North American and indeed our so-called ‘Western’ culture to appropriate cultural practices. We take something that suits our fancy and then pretend we invented it. Not only that, but we also have a tendency, in my opinion, to take things a little too far. Our fingerprints are clearly all over the yoga world and others are following in their footsteps.
I admit, I too have adopted a practice of saying my gratitudes, practicing meditation and yoga, and reading about Buddhism that I did not have as influences in my youth. I akin it, however, to spending 14 years in a Buddhist country where I was able to immerse myself in a frame of thinking that did not exist in my home country. That I chose to adopt some of these practices when I returned seemed as normal to me as to bow when I have the pleasure of meeting a Japanese person here at home.
I am no expert in any of these practices but I am careful to take what I like and leave the rest. I am not vocal about my feelings that perhaps things might be done differently somewhere else in the world.
A Change of Heart
I recently attended a yoga activitiy, that I detailed in I Made a Magnificent Mala, where the subject of ‘beer yoga’ came up. The reference was made to attending a yoga class and then finishing off with a beer in summer. This sounds typically crass of we North Americans but I thought: ‘What the heck…it’s summer! Our conversation revolved around the fact that people were scolding the practice for its ‘sacrilege’. All I could think at the time was the Buddhist quote ‘everything in moderation…even moderation’ (although I am very aware that alcohol has no place in a true Buddhist practice and said so).
On second thought…
When I went home, and read about how ‘beer yoga’ has evolved, I quickly felt differently. It seems that primarily in places such as Vancouver, Seattle, and California, that you hold your pose and then take a sip of beer. As one practitioner commented in a Ganja Yoga class “you get a nice buzz at the end of class, perfect for a Friday after work”. My feelings made a quick 180 degree turn.
I thought about how we as Canadians, and North Americans, would feel if our faith based practices were turned on their ear.
Would we be OK if a bunch of revelers took a shot of tequila with a sacred wafer chaser in a drinking game? How would it go over if we handed out communal wafers as Halloween treats? If we all filled our water bottles with holy water and then went to the water park to splash around in it? Or played beer pong with the local Chalise as a receptacle?
Would we be thinking it was just an extension of our faith? That they are trying to appeal to all audiences? That it is a fun and relaxing evolution to our strict adherence to the rules of our belief system? That just because it wasn’t done before that it’s totally fine to adapt and modernize to reach a broader audience? Or worse, that at least we were getting folks to take the holy host?!
Taking things in moderation
Years ago, I did a course in teaching yoga as an extension of a 2-year course I took as a Personal Trainer. I learned a very traditional form of yoga. My instructor, the fabulous Julia Davies, in Japan taught a very traditional form of Hatha yoga that does not stray far from the origins of the intended practice.
When I came back to Canada, I was aware that sports facilities were trying hot yoga, pump yoga, and iron yoga. There are now such offers as: Badass yoga (true thing…you release your inner rock star), Ganja yoga, snowga, hip-hop yoga, goat yoga, dogga, Tantrum yoga (where you get to pitch a fit and scream at the top of your lungs) and many yogas in between.
Is it really yoga?
There are a number of approved yoga styles that have been adapted in North America and around the world. These have been formally approved and accepted by the kind of people that have the knowledge to assess. These new styles adhere to the original philosophy of the practice and are closely scrutinized.
There are ,however, an ever growing number of yoga styles that just seem to fall short of the ideals. There purpose does not seem to mirror the intended meaning for restoration and rejuvenation. Nor do they focus on bringing about self-reflection and peace. I mean really…nude yoga, Stand Up Paddle Board yoga, Acro Yoga, Yoga Dance Trance Ecstacy? Aren’t we allowing ourselves not only a long leash but an incredibly large dose of ‘we don’t give a poop about the origins of all this’?
I mean I am all for you and your pals going out and trying your yoga poses while you and your partner are naked. I am all for the expression of the human form in all its glory. But meditation in and of itself is meant to free ourselves of temptation, look inside ourselves in a moment of quiet contemplation…is that really what goes on in naked yoga? Call it couple stretching. Call it naked connection. I venture that you call it naked yoga because it brings the people in greater numbers and that’s where the ugly greed machine comes in.
The experts are feeling frustrated too
This is not just my opinion, one has just to search the internet to find any number of people who feel dismayed by the bastardization of yoga and the weakening of the message to suit the greed-machine that is the fitness industry. We who belong to the Western Culture seem to think that we have carte blanche to do what we will and the rest be damned our interferences.
Look through social media feeds and you will see an inordinate number of yoginis posting photos of themselves in the most amazing poses in exotic locales all over the world. Frantically searching for likes and comments and adulation of fans that come to see their flexible contorted bodies against a waterfall backdrop in the tropics. Is this a practice in self-reflection….or just reflection? Is it the sign of inner peace we strive for in a yoga practice?
I continue my yoga practice
Personally, I love a quiet, peaceful yoga practice that helps me to encourage my body to stretch and relax. I love the introspection of the time spent with my body and the reflection that goes along with my meditation at the beginning and end of each session. I love that I can see my body change and strengthen as I open my heart more and more to the Universe. With and without an instructor to guide me, it is a time for me to look into me. Props and gimmicks and special attractions are not necessary.
In the end though, I do still also feel that I am best keeping my thoughts in my heart and working them through on my own. I will gently express my opinions when asked and most importantly for me….I will refuse to join any practice that I think strays too far to the commercialization of what I feel is a sacred moment of being…where money, language, and influence play no part. There are a lot of great yoga studios that understand that yoga is more than enough to fill a lifetime of practice without the bells and whistles.
I hope your yoga practice is what you need it to be for you and that my Something Wonderful today can give you something to ponder for later.
Love Ingrid x