May 14, 2010

In Defense of McYoga.

Are we just telling ourselves nice stories about yoga, or are we really “getting” the yoga?

In the society we live in, it might seem like there’s little reason to defend marketplace yoga.

Mainstream yoga seems just fine, actually. But many of us are concerned that the core values of the tradition are not getting communicated to yoga consumers—I mean, community.

It was the year 2000 and I was in Chicago’s upscale Gold Coast neighborhood, visiting an Ashtanga yoga studio (that has since closed): Priya Yoga, located above a pizza shop. While walking up the stairs to yoga, my nose was greeted with the smells of pizzas baking.

As I pushed my way up the stairs to Priya Yoga after work, a pungent voice of inner-judgment would often assault me: “Who the hell do you think you are, practicing this fancy, mainstream Gold Coast yoga?”

But somehow I made it up those stairs, again and again through the barrage of my own insulting, doubting thoughts.

It helped that the studio was warm and friendly, and it also helped me that the teachers and other people seemed to like my being there.

I loved being there. I loved the yoga. It became another home for me.

After one Friday-night Ashtanga yoga class at Priya, my life would be changed invisibly yet indelibly.

I was on the way out, after class, when I stopped to thank the yoga teacher. Incredibly, I was looking into the eyes of this instructor, when what appeared like golden rain began falling down, yet somewhat suspended, like glinty-gold bits in a snow-globe slowly and lightly falling down toward me and all around me—shining bits of light. I know, I know. But I had a sense that everything around me was permeated with love: my body, the teacher’s body, the air between us and all around me, the other people, the desk behind the teacher, the walls, the carpet, the ceiling, the next room, the door, the hallway and stairs, absolutely everything seemed to be permeated with this love as integrated into the fabric of all things and non-things. Yeah, I was high after that yoga session. Was this experience a figment of my body chemistry? Was it somehow a delusion caused by dehydration, exhaustion or toxicity?

What actually happened to me may be a less important than what spiritually happened to me. For the first time in my life I honestly felt that our our world might be basically good. In that moment, I felt a sense of safety and trust in the basic sanity of the world—I felt it in every hair follicle, every cell.

I think that our realizations in yoga are more about our dedication as individual practitioners than about the marketplace of yoga, but this economy does support the houses of yoga and teachers of yoga that create a situation where amazing and previously unimaginable things can happen for people.

I am grateful that I have been able to have this and many other beautiful, meaningful, and life-enhancing yoga experiences—that I don’t think are over by any means. But there was a money-based background that made it possible to experience the yoga that I have. So the marketplace is not separate from our yoga, it actually makes yoga more accessible than ever before because it is a part of our economy.

*…With thanks to one of elephant’s fave sites, Yogic Muse.

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