Ok I’m just going to say it: yoga is nuts—like, unhinged, ladies and gents.
All over the place. The village idiot of physical activities.
If the stuff that was said in a yoga class was said anywhere else but a yoga class, you would give the person saying it a good long stare and possibly a slap before walking out and informing the police about this guy you just met, who advised you to strengthen your vaginal walls—and your anus. Always so much chat about ‘using the anus’ in yoga.
They really need to move on from the anus.
The problem is that yoga does not know what it is. It is so busy trying to ditch its old reputation as a dusty, overly earnest art practiced by bitter, preachy vegans in shawls that has splintered into a myriad different notions of what it is.
In an attempt to mean everything to everyone, yoga now means very little to anyone.
If life is a party—and it is—the yoga of today would be the guest who says he is a doctor, an arms dealer, a vegan, a cattle-rancher, a porn star and a monk. With guys like that, you stop listening pretty quickly, and after a while you try to leave the party. (By the way, I’m not suggesting that if you do yoga, you should kill yourself. The metaphor got away from me a bit there.)
I have had about 20ish teachers, and they all have been charmingly and uniquely mad. Each insisting that yoga is or should be something different to the teacher before them. A quick scan of famous and non-famous teachers’ websites reveals the same muddle of ideas.
Some say that it is about ‘liberating the spine‘ (do not know about you, but until I am a cadavar, I do not want my spine to be liberated). Others say it is about connecting with God/each other/ourselves/the ground, while some seem content to preach an idea as floaty as ‘connecting to the universe.’ None of them seem capable of openly talking about their obsession with the anus though. Just me.
Nowadays, there seems to be as many methods as there are teachers. In the supermarket of yoga, you can now have any flavor you like. There are super-physical ones spent mostly upside down on your hands, super-spiritual ones where you sing quite bad songs, or ones spent in the company of rich, lazy people hanging from strips of fabric. You can even kung-fu kick your hamstrings long. In a yoga class—let me repeat that—in a yoga class, you can simulate a deadly blow to the head of another human being.
Yet, yoga is so amorphous and ‘come one, come all’ these days that it honestly would not surprise me, if the UFC generated its own form of knock-out yoga.
And then there is the stuff they say during class. Oh my word, talk about bewildering.
Over the last three years, I have been regularly instructed by teachers with completely straight faces, to let my cells vibrate more (they forgot to say how,) to make my legs into tree trunks, turn my hands into feet, turn my heart into a sun that shines up to the real sun and to go deep into a cave in my mind, to open up a flower that contains a small baby who is really me. Seriously.
Now, if they just differed on their brand of froth it might be ok, charming even, but the slightly unsettling bit is that they also differ on the real stuff; the technical stuff, the stuff that makes yoga either good or bad for you, restorative or damaging.
Some teachers insist that you put your foot ‘this’ way in warrior II, while others, hands on hips, shake their head and say that it is a surefire way to twist your pelvic right out of your body. Some say that you must breathe as deeply as you can, while others say that you will hurt the nervous system doing that. Some even say you are not allowed to breathe at all, except through your anus (or maybe it was just ‘that’ one-on-one class I had with the bear in Soho.)
So why am I saying all of this? Why can’t I just leave our precious yoga alone and let us lie in savasana forever, oblivious to all but our own little speck of bliss?
Well, because I think yoga is a spectacular, transformative, noble discipline that deserves better than to be held back by its current incoherence. It is a magical art that can truly make the world a more tolerant, wise, sexually attractive place full of people with stronger anuses.
But it is not going to, until it stops splintering and starts cohering into a digestible whole. Most males I speak to, still think yoga is just stretching. Most females tell me it is just sitting around. Football is football. It is one thing. UFC is also one thing. One thing made of many things, but still one thing.
To change the world for better, as every teacher says they want it to do, yoga needs to penetrate the masses. And the masses have no time for conceptually fragmented things. Until they sort this out, the TV advert for yoga will go something like this:
Open on a man in downward dog beside a river at dawn. Turning to camera, he says
‘Yoga is whatever you want it to be.’
Cut to a woman chopping carrots in her kitchen. Throwing a carrot in her mouth, she says:
‘This is yoga.’
Cut to another girl twirling round a pole-dancing pole in a basement bar.
‘This is yoga,’ she says, as a rolled up 20 dollar bill is pushed into her mouth.
Cut to man in lycra yoga clothes holding a hunting rifle. He loads, aims and fires, a deer dropping dead. Happy with his shot, he says:
‘Yoga is everything.’
Cut to a fat man on a sofa, a slice of pizza half-stuffed into his mouth and his other hand down his pants. He says:
‘At every time.’
Cut to a class of people doing yoga with their dogs. All of the dogs look up and say:
‘And for everyone.’
Fade to black. A title appears on the screen:
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Assistant Ed: Gabriela Magana/Ed: Bryonie Wise