I had lunch with a friend yesterday, who like me, has spent the last 10 years+ in the yoga biz. We had a very interesting conversation about the topic what is yoga today? Some of it wonderful, some of it downright scary. Many people have benefited from the popularity of yoga, but there’s been a darker side to that as well…what with the recent yoga scandals, the super studios, the thousands of us running around clad in expensive yoga togs. Have we lost touch with the essence of yoga, and gotten caught up in all the trappings?
A few weeks ago in a major metropolitan city, I attended a yoga class at a very popular studio that will remain unnamed. As you may know, I adore good marketing and I’ll be honest, a slick brand – but I found myself slightly amused by the well-oiled machine experience that this studio was churning out. There was nothing quirky about this place – everything was über polished and calculated. The teacher was excellent – but it all seemed a bit contrived, as if she was reading from a super script. And then she said something that stuck with me: “As we move through these exercises – I mean, asanas…” Well, that just about said it all. It was an exercise class, with a very slick yoga finish.
Yesterday’s lunch discussion got me thinking about what yoga means to me (sounds like an essay assignment for a yoga teacher training, right?). Because I am one of those many, many people who will utter the now-clichéd “yoga changed my life”. But what does that really mean, boil down to…? Here’s what I came up with: 1. connection, to myself and others. I think I captured that best in words in something I wrote for lifebyme.com. 2. authenticity. Is there something authentic about your yoga experience, or is it just exercise and going through the motions?
Re. #2. I think it’s fairly common for people to come to yoga first for the exercise. And usually, that will shift and they will become more interested in the more esoteric reasons as to why this makes them feel so good. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.2 – yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind – is a great place to start exploring the authenticity behind this experience. I wrote more about that moment when the esoteric suddenly makes sense on the Athleta Chi.
Next time you unroll your yoga mat, I encourage you to let yoga help you write your story…don’t go by what’s in someone else’s book. Make it authentic, and make connections. Namaste.