Recently I’ve come across various articles talking about “real yoga” and how yoga teaching today has lost its authenticity and value. I find these articles very interesting. I agree with a lot that they have to say but just saying that “this is not true yoga” isn’t enough. An article I read today also went on to say that yoga is not for everyone because it causes injuries and I strongly disagree with that. It made me think that we all have such strong opinions about something we don’t even fully comprehend, and we are trying to influence others’ opinions with just half researched facts.
Why is yoga going the way that it is and who do we blame for it? So I decided to sit down and do some analysing of my own and here is what I feel.
The biggest culprit today for yoga just becoming a physical practice is commercialization. Like everything else from the food we consume to the things we watch on TV, commercialization and marketing drive our choices. When yoga was practiced in the olden days, the ancient rishis were not trying to make a living out of it. It was knowledge that was passed down from master to disciple so that you are disciplined and your body and mind are supple enough to sit for hours in meditation. The aim of yoga was to help us in spiritual growth. In today’s environment if that’s what yoga teachers tell students, most of us will very soon be out of work. Today yoga is for weight loss, yoga is for flexibility, yoga is for curing depression; then there is naked yoga and hot yoga and trance yoga and I don’t even know how many other types of yoga. Do you see the amount of pressure yoga is under?
There was something called a yogic lifestyle. From the time the yogi got up in the morning to the time he/she went to bed, there was a certain discipline followed. What we eat matters, how we sleep matters and even what we think matters, so isn’t going for two hours a week to a studio for just a physical practice and hoping to reap the benefits of yoga a bit stretched?
Yoga wasn’t supposed to be a group practice. That isn’t how yoga was done traditionally. It is a spiritual practice done in seclusion in your own space with no one watching. Today more than an individual practice, it has become a competition. We care what we wear to a yoga class, how beautifully it shows our sculpted figure, then while we are in the class we watch how flexible everybody is and can we bend a little more and stretch a little more and the anxiety that everybody can stand on their head and why can’t I! With yoga we are supposed to shed our egos, today yoga is being built on our personal egos. Yoga doesn’t cause injuries; our refusal to listen to our bodies, to understand our physical constraints causes injuries. I agree that a lot of fault lies with the teachers who teach one form of yoga for all but an equal amount of fault lies with the students who think yoga is about achieving success in a certain asana. If you learn to breathe right and watch your mind, more than half of your yoga is already done.
Yoga is not a miraculous agent of renewal and healing. It is more about the lifestyle that we lead than what we do for an hour on our mats 3-4 times a week. The ancient sages or rishis didn’t stand on their heads or bend their spines in weird angles in a matter of days or months. It took them a whole many years and a lifestyle that was very different from ours. I agree when all these articles trash Yoga Alliance saying the criteria for becoming a certified teacher are very low, I felt that even when I was training to become a teacher; but I don’t think that’s where the whole fault lies. We are failing as a general population to take care of ourselves and we would like to blame somebody else for it. A little awareness, a little common sense and a whole lot of faith in our bodies and self love are what we need to be healthy. We don’t want to be spiritual, we don’t want to believe that we have the power to be happy, we don’t want to give up our bad habits or change our lifestyle and we want yoga to cure us of our problems. If we do anything with ego and obsession, it will end up causing problems and the same is true for yoga as well.
Find a teacher that teaches you to sit right and stand right and breathe right rather than one who can make you stand on your hands. I disagree with the statement that yoga is not for everyone, but I’m beginning to see that maybe all of us are not ready for yoga.