Why So Serious? … It’s Just Yoga! (Open Blogging)

Via on Jul 6, 2011

This is the third week of our experimental open forum for bloggers everywhere. The first week we took on the topic of fear, and the second week we tackled duality (or non-duality as some bloggers pointed out). Fear and duality. Pretty heavy topics. We’re not talking “which yoga mat keeps you from slipping” or “what to do if you have gas in class.” Fear and duality. Why so serious?

I have a tendency to be one of those “serious” yogis. I study a lot, spend days in silence, and genuinely believe yoga can cure the world’s ailments. I’m always perplexed when I come across people who say, “Hey, it’s just yoga!”

Just yoga? How can it be just an ancient practice that has survived thousands of years and brought countless people to happiness? How can it be just the spiritual and physical path of some of the world’s greatest thinkers, from Swamis to Gandhi to – according to some – Jesus himself? Just yoga?

But then, I look at these posts, or gaze across a yoga studio and see the intense faces I’m getting from people holding Warrior 2, and I think, “Lighten up! We’re just standing in a room sweating and breathing here, people.”

So which is it? “Just yoga”or “Yoga?” Are we too serious, or do we fail to take it seriously enough?

Write your own blog in response as a comment below. If you already have a blog, you are welcome to cut and paste here with a link to your blog. You are invited to take on the topic of “Why So Serious,” but this is a completely open community, so have at it!

About Open Yoga Blogging Community

Welcome to Elephant's Open Yoga Blogging Community where you can write whatever you like, and others can comment. Elephant writer Bethany Eanes has generously agreed to serve as discussion moderator. 1) Write your own blogs as comments here. If you already have a blog, you are welcome to cut and paste your best blogs here. 2) To subscribe and get e-mail notices, write a comment or reply, choosing to get e-mail notification for either just replies to that comment, or to all comments. 3) Register with Intense Debate and enter your bio, photo, and links there. This will appear in a pop-up when a reader mouses over your photo. 4) We will excerpt the best entries and discussions in the next week’s Community Blog. Some will become Elephant Yoga articles. --Bob W. Yoga Editor

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17 Responses to “Why So Serious? … It’s Just Yoga! (Open Blogging)”

  1. Viriam Kaur says:

    http://SatNamYogini.blogspot.com My journey as a spiritual mom/Yoga teacher of 10 years!

    • Yogini5 says:

      "If you are in balance you crave that which keeps you in balance, BUT if you are out of balance, you crave that which keeps you out of balance, ah ha! Hmmm so, if I am craving a big steak or a shot of tequila (which I never do btw, I crave other things), does that mean I eat/drink/do it because "my body is craving it?…I'm following my bliss damnet!!!!" Well, no, or maybe…….I might need to look deeper into what's going on with me spiritually, emotionally, physically."

      Nobody has all the answers, but you can be shown a path … see if it works, too …

      Nicely written …

  2. Katy Logan says:

    The first yoga class I ever taught had one student. After eight months of training at one of the tres chic Manhattan Beach yoga studios, I found myself in a new place in every sense. Contemplating how exactly to project my voice over the sounds of the latest hip hop jams and clanging dumbbells, my student hesitantly entered the large empty room. Gesturing towards her injured foot and emphasizing the word “stress”, I confidently assured her in my broken Spanish that our language barrier would be no problem. The vigorous flow class I had been practicing in my head for days suddenly proved irrelevant as did my knowledge of anatomy lingo- so like a good yogi, I took a deep breath. What proceeded was a sort of asana-stumbling and a lot of “respirar!” We moved slowly, we moved together, and as we faced each other in our final seated meditation the outside world seemed to fade away. She blinked open her eyes and without a word I felt her saying thank you. We had found a universal language and a universal ability to find peace in the most unlikely places. Yoga will never be “just yoga” because it has the power to surpass even the most strong of all boundaries we set- and that is pretty darn serious.

  3. Tanya Lee Markul tanya lee markul says:

    Ah, what a great discussion! For me, I believe there has to be a balance – being serious helps me to maintain discipline but being playful helps me to be open to what is happening. :-) Great work, Open Yoga Blogging Community! And, love the Joker!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  4. [...] via Why So Serious? It’s Just Yoga! | elephant journal. [...]

  5. viviane says:

    I, like Buddha, I prefer the middle path. I see many yogis extremely radical in his conduct and judgments, a fact that interferes with clarity to the time and accept the limitations of each. But I am uneasy when I see statements that "yoga is good for nothing," as well?? Yoga is for each one a different journey. And you can not say that one is "more evolved" than another simply because they practice more times per week, you know more about the yama or because it is vegan. Yoga is a philosophy for everyone and anyone! It is self-knowledge. And to gain balance and live in harmony So if yoga is now a very good practice for you as a good stretch, practice! If it is a breathing exercise that helps you in many ways, breathe! If contact is the minute of silence in meditation, meditate! If it is the transcendence of the sound with the song, sing!

    • Bethany Eanes Bethany Eanes says:

      "I believe that an open, inquisitive and heartfelt foundation in yoga, in which we learn to trust our bodies, align them with gravity and with the poses, and then test our edges, can allow us truly to fly on and off the mat. In that flight, we can honestly lighten the load of our minds and spirits and in turn, bring a happier, healthier vibration into our own being and eventually, the world."- Beautifully written. I cannot decide if it is encouraging a "serious" approach or a "light" approach

  6. mark gerow says:

    Macro Perspective: Take yoga seriously (diligent, patient, steady, dare to go In and In), but while "doing" yoga, creating the UNION, stay LIGHT, open, playful, and ALLOW it all to be just the way it shows up… stop forcing, pushing and grimacing! Dunno.. that's just one of my takes on the practice of yoga…. take it for what it is.

    Metta… thx

  7. Tanya Lee Markul tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  8. Thanks for all the great responses. Keep them coming! Each week, one blog is chosen to be a featured article on Elephant Journal. Check out Viriam Kaur's post this week (http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/07/not-very-yoga-like-guest-post-by-viriam-kaur/), and a whole new chance to write and respond later today!

    Best,

    Bethany

  9. Alison O’Connor Alison says:

    Drama… And Comedy!

    It’s 6:15p.m on a Tuesday. I’m standing shakily on my mat, breathing hard and sweating like an animal in the 105 degree heat of my daily post-work Bikram yoga class. I’m not alone; one glance around the room confirms that my fellow yogis are feeling the heat (literally) as well. Doesn’t help that this is an after-work class, and most of us have arrived at the studio, fresh from an anxiety inducing day at the office a little more angsty, fidgety, and temperamental than we would be on say, a Sunday morning at 11a.m.

    A few people have left the room. A few have requested water bottle refills. A few are in the midst of a grand performance of the stand-up-sit-down-stand-up-again ballet. Others are more subtle, adjusting bra straps here and there, standing open-mouthed with hands on hips between poses, MOUTH BREATHING.

    These are all no-no’s in the Bikram practice, to be clear.

    “Wow,” the teacher says, looking at the drama unfolding around the room, “I think we should call the cabaret and tell them we have some more performers for them! You guys are DRAMATIC today!”

    Oh yes – our studio puts on a cabaret once a month, and it happened to be this evening. Students and teachers sing songs and tell jokes at a piano bar in midtown. There’s a two drink minimum.

    I chuckle, along with everyone else. Sure, the teacher has just called us all out on our misbehavior, referring to our adverse physical reactions to the heat and intensity of class as “dramatic”. But rather than be offended, rather than getting all “UGH, that teacher just called me DRAMATIC, she is so MEAN and ommigod I just HATE her!!!”, we all giggled! HUMOR! A little levity! Something to break the tension! FABULOUS!

    Thing is, there are many teachers who would NOT have been so quick to joke. Many take these breeches of Standard Bikram Etiquette (leaving the room, asking for water, excess movement) DEADLY seriously. They would NOT joke about such things, but would instead chastise the poor individual who had the misfortune to, say, take a sip of water at the wrong time. And I get it. Discipline is a huge part of this practice, and one of the reasons I love it so much.

    But I think, at a point, you have to remember that really, we’re all adults here. We’re not 12 year old girls in ballet class at America Ballet Theatre with life goals of making it into the company. We’re not professional runners trying to shave 0.15 off our 800 meter time. In fact, we’re not training for any competition of any kind. At least MOST of us aren’t, the odd amateur Bikram yoga competitor aside.

    We’re WORKING PEOPLE. With JOBS. That we go to EVERY DAY, and often suffer through for eight, nine, ten hours at a time, and then rush out of on the dot of five o’clock and run down to the subway and dash to the studio and strip into our yoga outfits and throw our mats and towels down on the studio floor and barely have time to think before BLAMMO, we’re into the first set of Pranayama. It’s a rough transition, but we do it. Many of us do it every day because we’re so committed to this practice. We’ve experienced it’s power to change us, to make us better, to transform our bodies, attitudes, and lives. And we’re willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to get ourselves into that hot room and work our asses off for 90 grueling minutes.

    So you know, if someone has to adjust their outfit from time to time, or maybe if they need to reach for their water at an inopportune moment, especially in an after-work class, I say HEY, it’s ok. Maybe they’re NOT being dramatic, maybe they just didn’t have time to get properly dressed or hydrated in the first place.

    And really, when you think about it, isn’t this whole practice a LITTLE dramatic? I mean, everyone standing still, mats on lines, unmoving like little soldiers between and during poses, while someone on a podium barks orders from a pre-written monologue? Yeah, it’s almost funny, when you think about it. Hmmm, ALMOST FUNNY! So why NOT laugh?

    Discipline is great. It’s NECESSARY. Without the discipline of the practice, this wouldn’t be Bikram yoga, and I love it for that. But there comes a time to keep things in perspective. There’s so much seriousness in the world, so much discipline in the nine-to-five, so much stress and drama that we go through just to GET to class. Sometimes what we really need from our yoga is a little tolerance, a little levity, and the ability to laugh, even if it’s only at our own dramatic reaction to a stressful situation. And honestly, I love this practice for giving me that too.

    - Alison O'Connor is a writer, comedian, performer and yogi living in New York City. For more of her musings on yoga (and pretty much everything else…) feel free to visit her website, http://itsapartynotapicnic.tumblr.com/ . NAMASTE!

  10. janice says:

    Brilliant genius and very funny cyoga video on the British King's Road.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBUiuV_aN9U&NR

  11. Bethany Eanes Bethany Eanes says:

    I think lululemon needs to get on the manpris :)

  12. Bethany Eanes Bethany Eanes says:

    Love it! You may be interested in Ashtanga yoga. The Mysore version is free-form. While there is a lot of discipline to the practice, you are your own guru. And, btw, you are welcome to spend the whole time in childs pose if you ever find yourself in my class!

  13. Yogini5 says:

    Amen on the '80s aerobics feel. And some of those classes, replete with your #1 and #5 (in my experience) purport to be verrry spiritual ….

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