November 11, 2012

This weekend has been spent doing loads of yoga related things. As I’m in the process of becoming a qualified instructor I spend one weekend a month with 21hs  dedicated to doing yoga, reading about yoga and doing a lot of other yoga related things. The course consist of anything from anatomy to learning sanskrit and doing the actual poses. Its very in depth and through.

The course has opened my eyes to the fact that the yoga culture is a lot more restrictive than I initially thought.. In all honesty, at times it’s not my cup of tea. Having a background in ‘commercial and egocentric fitness’ such as high tempo fitness classes that are branded  and creating fitness programs to sculpt people’s bodies to their liking. Hence I have a background of motivating peopel to strive and achieve  Yoga instead focuses on acceptance and brings up things like altruism, self-reflection and harmony. I’m used to high tempo, self-centered and pushing yourself further and further. I think Yoga is a good compliment to other forms of fitness and it’a brilliant way to relax.

Yoga today, however, is a highly stigmatised. Say Yoga and a lot of people will think of a group of hippies meditating and chanting and. The stigma yoga has is reinforced by some instructors who fully emerge in the culture and history of yoga and bring it into the western world. Yoga is less of a physical exercise and more of a mental journey towards the ultimate truth… Anyone else yawning by now? Its brilliant that there are people who live and teach by these standards, but I think if yoga stayed here it would hit a wall and exclude a majority of the western population. On my way home from yoga I found myself saying to a fellow course mate that ‘meditation is a waste of time’. I stand by that statement, in relation to myself. I can think of a million better things to do than reflect inwards and try to reach some kind of enlightenment… I’d rather read a book, spend time with my loved ones or hit the gym.The fact is that yoga has an internal politics. Many instructors (however, not my main instructor who is very open minded) have a tendency to promote their style of yoga. I’ve heard thing that ‘Ashtanga yoga’ isn’t proper Yoga (Ashtanga is a very physical form of Yoga), Vinyasa flow yoga is a form of cloning yoga and there is no true yoga in hot yoga… I’ve met instructors who promote ‘loving everyone’ in their teaching but in private life are highly aggressive. Instructors who say that one should not focus on material gains only to charge extremely high prices for their classes and use their surplus for expensive cars etc.  Instructors who say it’s not about pushing yourself and then pushes their students into postures beyond their limits. People who say it’s not about how far you can go into postures only to then talk about how flexible they are and showing off and people who cannot stop talking about themselves and relate every single issue back to themselves and their life. The truth is, yoga is full of hypocrisy and the thing is it wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t for the fact the claimed to promote the yogic way of life. Don’t preach what you don’t live by. We’re all humans in the end of the day and human nature is not pure.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that yoga shouldn’t just stay within the classical yoga paradigm and all the stigma and self-fulfilling prophesies that come with the concept of yoga. In order to divert from the stigma I believe yoga needs to transfer to the modern western society were people in all honesty live in a competitive, striving and capitalistic society. I’m not saying that we should compete against the person next to us and of course the classical style shall remain but along side a more modern version. The the mainstream population would benefit from the physical and relaxational effect of yoga but many are scared away. The western population is growing fatter, more stressed and inflexible. At the same time the health trend is prospering. A high tempo flowing yoga class with strength based components to allow body toning and cardiovascular benefits would be more beneficial for the western population. Add a couple of minutes of cool down and relaxation and you’re answering the needs of the westerners. In my opinion there is no need to preach yogic traditions unless you live by them yourself. Traditional yoga was created for a different society, with different health needs, political system and a different style of life. I’ll most likely get a lot of people against me, but in my opinion the majority of westerners are benefiting more from commercial, gym-based yoga classes as these are more accessible and are less stigmatised by the yogic stereotype.

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