I’m not sure how many of you who read this are plugged in to the yoga world and all it’s craziness here in the West, but there has been a lot of interesting buzz going around lately. I would love to just ignore it all and let it swirl around me while I sit serenely on my mat lost in blissful meditation following an energizing yet balanced yoga practice… Ahh… But alas, I am a studio owner and am in the “business” of yoga. So the public’s perception of this beautiful tradition does affect me in a roundabout way. I have found it to be a challenge these past few years, to be able to balance my love and respect for the yoga teachings and tradition with running a business that makes a profit from yoga. It somehow doesn’t seem fair. But on the other hand, there is such immense value in yoga asana as well as the teachings of yoga, that in a western culture, it makes sense. IF it is done with integrity. Other wise, it’s just another way to capitalize on something ‘popular’. And I take comfort in the fact that my business partner and I have stayed the course of our vision by honoring the Yoga teachings while providing a community for others to explore and learn as well.
If you haven’t heard about all the hoopla in the yoga world, here it is in a nutshell:
First off, an author published an article in the NY Times titled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”. The backlash was incredible. Everyone in the yoga community wrote response articles, new students were afraid to try yoga, etc. The article itself was sensationalism at its best, in my opinion. However there were some good points. If you don’t listen to your body and practice safely, sure, there is a chance that you can get hurt. But the overall tone was alarmist and negative.
Then, the head of a trademarked brand of yoga (it still baffles me that you can trademark an ancient tradition) was exposed for many unethical practices that I will not get into here. It’s not my place to call out who or what (although ask Google, he will tell you), but it’s sad when yet another shadow is cast on Yoga as a whole. Within the yoga community, we can see it from a discerning point of view, as one ‘type’ of yoga that is tarnished. But to people who might be thinking of trying yoga for the first time to alleviate stress and feel good about themselves? Hmm, it makes yoga sound kinda shady.
Another conversation that has been happening lately is about the (some say) overtly sexual yoga advertisements. I say, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. What one sees as being too sexy, another can see as being beautiful form. Some may not want to see beautiful women dressed in little yoga clothes to sell ads, others say bring it on. I think there is waaayyy too much over-thinking going on here. Sure, not everyone who does yoga looks like the yoginis in those ads, but so what? There are just as many ads in yoga magazines showing men and women of all sizes and ages in yoga poses. My studio has students between the ages of 10 and 90! The focus here should be on the yoga. And Yoga is a personal practice that gives each of us the tools see our true nature, one that is perfect, whole and complete. The practice of yoga off the mat will allow you to see a potentially offensive ad and not point the finger and blame at such horrible marketing, but to go within and ask yourself, why does this ad bother me so deeply? And then be able to just let it go.
One of the advertisements in question is the video below of Briohny Smyth for Equinox fitness clubs in NY. When I first saw it, my thought was: Oh my gosh, her dedication to her yoga practice is so beautiful!! She wakes up at dawn, leaves her boyfriend/husband, whoever, in bed sleeping to carve out alone time for a peaceful personal practice. How inspirational! I don’t think there is anything sleazy about it at all. But oh man, the naysayers were up in arms. Here is the video:
So then, brilliantly enough, a parody video was made my Michael Stusser, that I thought was perfect! I think it also shows the beauty of a dedicated practice, on so many levels…
And this is what I love to see in all of my students, regardless of what they look like, how old they are, or what they wear to class. Their dedication to their yoga practice is simply beautiful, and so inspirational. I am filled with gratitude each day for everyone in our little yoga community. Everyday I see little challenges, personal accomplishments, areas of growth, and peaceful energy of those who walk through the doors. We encourage everyone to let go of judgements about themselves and just be free to explore their own practice. And it feels like a family. That is what yoga should feel like. Like coming home… to yourself.
If anyone has any questions or comments about any of the yoga drama (eek, I hate even saying that!) out there, please let me know! Enjoy this beautiful day…