May 22, 2008

The Lineage of Yoga–Endangered?

Last issue, David Rogers wrote a letter-to-the-editor detailing his wish that more old-school yoga studios would learn from professionally-run big-class studios—and vice versa.

The proof is in the pudding: Corepower Yoga is a successful studio with many friendly, knowledgeable teachers and happy yoga practitioners. Your descriptions of that studio were hurtful and unfounded in my 3+ years experience there. ~Bonnie


We practice yoga not for the good workout, to pick up hot dates, or even for the hot shower (although these all can certainly be fun perks—lest we take ourselves too seriously—but I really don’t mind showering at home). To quote Patanjali, “yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah” —yoga is the cessation of the activity of the mind, i.e., yoga is stillness. We practice asana (postures) in order to balance the prana (energy) in our bodies. From this balance, stillness of mind naturally arises. This stillness reveals peace. Perhaps that’s not as glamorous or enticing of a goal? Call me old school! ~Peace, Ariana p.s. Rumor control: I don’t find Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop to be “dirty.” ~ Ariana Saraha


Well, I did yoga at the Workshop yesterday, and (with no entry room for shoes) had to blow away the dirt and hairs on the floor when I was in plank…and hot dates, showers etc. are on some level all about community, or sangha, which is part of the path! I think Dave was actually criticizing CorePower’s yoga but complementing their professionalism, while criticizing the Workshop’s container, not what was in the container! ~ed.

Many of [Rogers’] points are good ones. Perhaps CorePower could offer more courses around alignment and proper technique, which is what their “C1” courses are supposed to be about. And maybe [Richard Freeman’s] The Yoga Workshop could make their studio more convenient and comfortable for their students. 

However, this is not about a rivalry that should be settled with a downward dog face-off. This is about people having choices, doing what feels right for them and respecting each other’s chosen path. A couple months ago, I went to Samadhi Yoga in downtown Denver and asked them the difference between their studio and CorePower’s. Predictably, I was told: “Well….we are more ‘spiritual’ here.” This type of thinking leads to planes careening through skyscrapers. You can jam Buddha statues and incense into an old renovated house, but that does not make it any more “spiritual” than a concrete building with nice bathrooms and retail floor space. Some people may be more aware of what is going on in their own head and this crazy world, but that does not make them more “spiritual.” Those hotties with tight yoga pants walking into CorePower are no less “spiritual” than the hippies with dreadlocks walking into the Workshop—we are all trying to figure out our given existence. I study and practice Buddhism, don’t drink, smoke or do drugs, buy at Whole Foods, drive a diesel car that gets 42 mpg, go to Corepower (gasp) Yoga five times a week and do not consider myself to be more a spiritual creature than the people standing outside of the Salvation Army in Denver or the trustfund baby driving her Escalade. . ~ Trevor Tierney, Denver Colorado


You’re a great writer—you gotta write something for us. As for us all being equally “spiritual”…you might be conflating “relative” and “absolute.” On an absolute level, we’re all equal: basically good sentient beings. Relatively, however, our relationship to our own thoughts, emotions and therefore actions is different—and it’s of vital importance to practice, open up and be as genuine as possible. Often, in yogic circles, people think all judgement is bad (ironic), when in fact discriminating wisdom is an essential quality worth cultivating. That common-sense insight can extend to the merits, and flaws, of gurus, teachers and yoga studios. As Malidoma Somé said in a recent interview (video: elephantjournal.com), those who claim “all is one” are lying to themselves. It’s the diversity, the differences, the dialogues, even the tension—wherein the truth lies. ~ed.

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