Yoga: the ancient wisdom of Californians.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Oct 6, 2011
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Relephant bonus addition: video discussion with CEO of Yoga Alliance: How can we help ensure that Yoga Teachers know what they’re doing?

The Future of Yoga…or Lack Thereof.

An Analogy.

“Food has changed more in the last 50 years than in the prior 10,000.” ~ Michael Pollan

Up until the 1940s or so, food was food—and had been food for, say, farrrrr longer than 5,000 years.

We cultivated varieties of apples, etc.—so that they’d be delicious and healthy and hardy (and, hearty). After Dubyadubya Two, however, chemical warfare companies needed to find a way to make money in peacetime…remarkably, companies (cough: Monsanto!) dedicated to killing and poison transitioned into fertilizer and, since, 2000 or so, genetically-modified foods.

Where only 50 years ago there were, say, 100 varieties of easily-accessible tomatoes at your friendly local market stand, now we have, say, just three in your average grocery store.

The Irish Potato Famine happened ’cause the crop was vulnerable, it all got killed all at once by one damn blight. We’re setting ourselves up for this again on an epic scale: this time, all food, everywhere, in its newly homogenized form, is vulnerable to virus or disease.

And food, of course, is the basis of all life, health, happiness, business, mortgages, jobs. You know: everything.

Getting to the point at hand.

I’m sharing that little concern because, in my view, Yoga is—right now—in an analogous situation.

We wouldn’t know it, however, not yet—we have amazing teachers like Richard Freeman, Tias Little, Georg Feuerstein who know their stuff—who know enough that, as Richard said last month—to know that they “don’t know that much, still” (he said this in a pranayama and lecture class I attended and dragged a colleague to, who would have much preferred a “real” yoga class—you know, physical—at the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park, Colorado).

And if Richard Freeman’s vast knowledge of yoga doesn’t, in his estimation, amount to “that much, still”…well, imagine the knowledge of our average-to-wonderful yoga teacher at your average-to-wonderful local yoga studio who graduated from your average-to-wonderful two-week yoga teacher training that accepts all applicants, provided they can cut a check.

Now, I’m not saying yoga teachers of my generation aren’t good people. Some of them are. Many are charming, charismatic, caring, sweet. But many don’t know or care much about alignment. Yoga, without alignment, is dangerous. Many play music in class, which is horrible/fine (depending on our pov). Many are ambassadors for lululemon, or other marketing-happy clothing companies that don’t bother to make eco or fair labor fashion but do bother to spend millions in R&D to make sure your tush looks fit. Many teachers have great twitter/facebook/blog and general new media/social media presence. Some have agents and iPhone apps and books.

All of that is good—we’re doing an incredible amount to get yoga out to the masses who might otherwise not give a care. The other day I went on a hike with a yoga teacher who, in college, was a bit lost in the world of partying and fancy jeans and shallow relationships (her words)…and for whom yoga (with music, I’m sure) was her one outlet, her one connection to the sweet Catholicism of her youth, her one connection in those crazy/hazy years to relaxation, to living more healthfully…and now she’s as happy and sweet and genuine a person as you’ve ever met. So the yoga celebs—Tara Stiles, Elena Browers, Sadie Nardinis, Baron Baptistes, Bikram Choudhurys, Kathryn Budigs, Seane Corns, John Friends…and random local yoga teachers of the world? I namaste and ommmmmmmmmm to you in gratitude. I mean it. No, seriously. I mean it: our speedy, materialistic, silly, wonderful society needs an hour or two of peace and breath a day or week, and yoga-for-the-masses provides that.

Yoga is tonic for the world’s ills.

But who among us is studying yoga in the depth that the last generation did? Not me. Who is stewarding the roots of yoga, which are about “stilling the waves of the mind,” as Patanjali puts it? Is meditation a part of your typical yoga class? No: but Thievery Corporation or Michael Franti or Govinda or Jack Johnson or Gotan Project is.

Sites like Yogaglo give me hope. If we can dig up and/or archive the teachings of Richard and Patricia Walden and Judith Hanson Lasater and Tim Miller and John Friend, let alone BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois and others…future generations will have a wealth of real, “live” teachings to learn from. I talked with Yogaglo at Yoga Journal conference—and asked if they’d begin offering more lectures and study sessions, not just asana classes.

Because yoga isn’t what we picture when we hear the word “yoga.” It’s not yoga pants. It’s not young models exercising with pastel backgrounds before they get back into their SUV and pop by Whole Foods to grab some quinoa for their 1.8 children.

What is yoga?

1. Yoga is a spiritual path. Yoga is about becoming a more fully present, genuine, compassionate person.

2. And, yoga is—for those who don’t want to become happy holy spiritual types—a physical exercise that will—as a pleasant side effect—open up your mind and heart so that you, yes you—are a better businessperson, saner lover, better parent, more focused athlete, relaxed child.

Both are yoga. But we must take care of the less marketable, less salable form of yoga…lest in ignoring the roots we lose the flower.

Richard and the last generation of yoga greats are still teaching, so this little question might not seem urgent.

But in just 10 years…who will present yoga in depth? And who will learn it? Not the legions of new yoga teachers that pass through the doors of Corepower and Yogaworks, each month (again, god bless ’em—larger, more accessible studios are creating genuine, peaceful armies of good people in this crazy world).

So: will you or your favorite local yoga teacher accept this important challenge and responsibility—and study, practice and teach yoga’s roots?

Bonus, from this year’s Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park, Colorado:

27,822 views

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.

Comments

88 Responses to “Yoga: the ancient wisdom of Californians.”

  1. Very thoughtful piece. A wake up call to everyone who considers them self a yoga teacher. Thank you.

  2. Yael says:

    Very important questions. I appreciate that while you challenged and encouraged yoga students and teacher, you did this without judgment. Only observing the current scene and offering important reminders

  3. Nadine says:

    Ah, Om, Amen, as I exhale. Its what one yoga teacher friend of mine refers to as the sugar coating of yoga. For the very reasons you articulate here, I’m seriously re-visiting both my practice and my teaching. Recently I found myself in a bit of a lull for a variety of reasons and thought at that time, perhaps I ought to stop teaching for a while. However I have one student who actually is my greatest teacher here in remote Africa and it is because of him that I continue to teach [and learn]. For quite some time, I’ve had very serious reservations about what’s happening to yoga in the West; I call it the distortion or mis-interpretation of yoga. I see your posit here as one made from a place of deep reflection, concern and observation. Thank you!

  4. Amanda says:

    I once had a teacher who told me the ancients used to practice yoga in privacy and if a student sought to learn Yoga it was an arduous journey that required absolute dedication, and this is the reason only one asana was taught yearly and had to be mastered before the next was given. Each Asana was earned, rather than offered as candy. An old myth of Patanjali once said that he taught behind a curtain and the students only received instruction, no visual… I think from many of these "myth's", i have come to feel that real teaching comes in a synchronistic fashion to a person's place and journey. When one has found their inner Guru, they will see the Guru in everyone they encounter. LIfe is the ultimate Guru. And teaching coming in the forms of many. The divine being found in the waves of energy exchange… Awareness guiding you to the teachers you are meant to encounter… The magic of the journey… And the magic of the search…. Ahhhhh thank you for raising the questions and writing the article. Namaste!

  5. Katherine says:

    Many thanks for this much needed article. Yes, I will join you. I would like to add that Kripalu center in Mass teaches deeply into the roots of Yoga ~ every true Kripalu style class includes meditation, reflection, incorporates Yamas and Niyamas, witness consciousness …. Jai Bhagwan

  6. "Lest in ignoring the roots we lose the flower." Beautiful. This really gives me pause to reconsider the music I sometimes use in my home practice. I use it to pace myself, sometimes choose things that are atypical for yoga practice, and maybe I should consider letting my breath be my pace for awhile instead. I know that wasn't the entire point, but an important take away for me. I would never think of putting music on while I meditate, it might deepen my yoga practice if I skip it there too.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Yah, I think music works…if the point is to feel good, get into the flow, be inspired. But if the point of yoga is to still the waves of the mind, as in meditation…well would we play music while meditating? We could, but it might be a bit of a distraction. Depends on the meditation practice, I guess. In any case, as Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, if we can't do nothing we can't do anything. We can give up entertaining ourselves and just be present and listen to the sound of our breath and…relax.

  8. "We can give up entertaining ourselves and just be present and listen to the sound of our breath and…relax."

    Yes!

  9. Suzette says:

    I hope a lot of those teachers take note and take heart and hopefully they will be able to guide their students on this Royal Road/Path. Keep reminding them Waylon!

  10. Great article, Waylon, except I solved this problem quite decisively after similar, and very heated, discussions almost two years ago in my very first post for Elephant Journal.

    I not only completely solved the terminology problem, I invented a whole new genre of Yoga to preserve the REAL Yoga, in which everything after the Yoga Sutra is an unnecessary modern innovation.

    First It Was Yobo, Now There is Ratra (Radical Traditional) Yoga

    Now it's just a matter of waiting for someone to implement my elegant solution.

    Bob W. Editor
    Facebook Twitter
    StumbleUpon

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Classic. I still hear people using those terms!

  12. I'd really like to be the one to implement it, too.

    But I'm too worn out from thinking it all up.

    Bob

  13. […] I read something here on elephant journal recently that made me reconsider this eclectic, irreverent soundtrack […]

  14. Silvia says:

    "Unreal" yoga at a gym is what got me started on the path. I now know the difference because of my wonderful teacher who taught at Kripula. Yet I am just as greatful for that gym yoga teacher for without her I would have never begun this wonderful path.

  15. Silvia says:

    Beautifully put.

  16. Lianne says:

    I enjoyed reading this article but I have some questions. I’m an Aussie yoga teacher that is comstantly learning, I have to as I’m only human. My first question is with alignment – physical or physchological? I have heard and been in classes with heavy cruel emphasis on physical alignment. If we are really talking yoga I think we should consider compassionate states that also work with psychological alignment. I believe we need to recognize that precise physical alignment can just cause ridgity. And maybe we need to question teachers like Patabi Jois, and Iyengar – could their heavy handed physical practices like music be a distraction? I have seen people addicted to these practices. I believe we need the courage to ask these questions even about the great teachers because one thing we have in common is our humaness. Life, yoga will continually evolve, and hopfully without sounding hippie dippy that we touch our genuine heart of compassion, and that we can be touched by the perfection of non perfection, and just like who we are. Then we may not need to be ambassadors 🙂

  17. Locayoga says:

    As a "gym" yoga instructor who plays Thievery Corp. during class while sporting my Hard Tail uniform; can you enlighten me on what you mean by "alignment"? My Power/Flow yoga is very physical because of my background; 15 years ago I received a fitness certification through UCSB, a two year training program that focused in on anatomy, physiology, and teaching aerobics to college kids. I evolved to yoga, trained for another 2 years in Santa Barbara, then eventually moved to LA and taught at many of the Sports Clubs there. I did not travel to India. I do not have a guru but have worked for so called "yogi masters", two who have been nailed with sexual harassment suits.

    In the Elephant Yoga community I would like to know what exactly you all would like out of a 90 minute class. What exactly do you want to hear, want to do? "Be still, be here now, be you, breathe" are phrases that I have heard a million times and it's not touching my heart anymore. Appropriate yoga practice is so nebulous today, and as a teacher I must admit that I am getting a bit lost on how to guide my next class; I've been on a hiatus for over a year because I need to sit back and figure out what we need to put out there as teachers. "Yoga is spiritual" is not a good enough answer, can you elaborate?

  18. […] of continuity or lineage so that quality teachings will be passed down generation upon generation. I wrote about that concern recently. John […]

  19. Sandy Gross says:

    Rodney Yee said it in a recent interview, "The student needs to demand more". I took that to mean MY students (I teach yoga, 12 years now) and myself, I am a student of yoga, too. I have been and continue to be that student and demand more. Not all students make this a life pursuit, as I have, and I know that. It really is mostly positive as Waylon explains above. My path may be of interest to you, here's my evolution as a student and that of a young vinyasa teacher. (12 years, 20 years, when will I be "not young" anymore?! I love that growing old with yoga is a cool thing;) ha

    I own a studio and have hosted many of the teachers named in this article, and I have learned much from them. My yoga path, however, kept returning to the OM yoga tradition created by Cyndi Lee in part because of it's emphasis on alignment, vinyasa & meditation namely it's roots in the Tibetan Buddhist traditions/teachings of mindfulness & compassion. Cyndi's teaching is Gelek Rimpoche of Jewel Heart http://www.jewelheart.org. (I got my 200 hour via OM yoga in 2004, and went back again and completed OM yoga's 500 hour in 2011) I felt and still do feel like it is a more evolved form of vinyasa yoga with it's expanded view of what we can offer students during a physical, sweaty vinyasa practice.

    Guess what, we are not the most popular yoga center in town;) "It's too slow", has been a comparison to the power yoga classes all around us, and I get that, I love a faster flow at times. I also have experienced a down shifting in my personal speed at life, which has no doubt made me a better mother and wife and everything. My kids go away to college within the next 8 years, I'm 46, mid life, I want to learn to slow down and to see everything along the way.

    I love being a part of a lineage that is rooted back to the days of the Yoga Sutras as well as Buddha's teachings. Cyndi not only teaches yoga & meditation, but she teaches the student to expect more by asking questions of them, and not spoon feeding them the answers. Frustrating at first, but that is the yoga & Buddhist way, go out and live the questions then the answers become your dharma, your truth. Then you teach authentically. OM yoga is not a "style" of yoga, but a method of how to teach. Each class is a conversation with your students. Teaching yoga, then, becomes a form of practice (as is being a wife, a mother, a consumer.). I love knowing I am teaching my students how to become better students, that everything is a form of practice, that being a student is a form of practice, of living the questions.

    Locayoga, check out Cyndi's writings and books and workshops. Her husband and well known dharma teacher David Nichtern, has also contributed greatly to the OM yoga path with his dharma teachings alongside Cyndi's teachings in their Yoga Body Buddha Mind workshops, book & DVD. David also now teaches 3 levels of meditation teacher trainings for teachers, which I think is a great addition to any vinyasa teacher's toolbox of offerings to his/her students.
    http://www.omyoga.com Check out the page that links to Cyndi's many articles online and search Elephant, too, as Cyndi is a contributor here at times. http://www.davidnichtern.com

    Thanks, Waylon, for asking the questions, too:)

  20. Andy says:

    I agree 1000% with your article Waylon, and ponder the questions you raise as well.

  21. Carol Horton says:

    I think that the teachers who are melding yoga with contemporary Buddhism and psychology are doing really important new work – in addition to Cyndi Lee (who I don't know as well), I would really urge those looking for a deeper take on yoga to check out Sarah Powers and Michael Stone.

  22. […] you have a spiritual practice? Photo gratefully borrowed from lululemon […]

  23. Dearbhla says:

    Waylon,
    I really like this article and I agree with your view and share your concern. And, at the risk of seeming confrontative, want to point out that EJ posts a lot of articles that are really shallow, e.g, 10 tips to dating a yogini, really? Come on…you could set the bar much higher for what's published on the site, much more in alignment with what you talk about.

    Great article…thanks a lot.
    Dearbhla

  24. Hi, Dearbhla.

    You know I love your writing.

    But I also love a lot of the articles you probably consider shallow, too.

    For one thing, objectively speaking, one person's shallow can be another person's deep. One person's deep can be another's pedantic and boring. I've actually come to trust our audience–our entire audience. And a diverse audience enjoys diverse things.

    More importantly, there are many other values we hold dear at elephant other than deep and meaningful, like fun, hilarious, entertaining, provocative, intriguing, inspiring, quirky, sardonic, surprising, sexy, etc. and we don't see any particular reason why all these other values, along with deep, too, shouldn't all be intertwined with spirituality and yoga.

    So, I don't think we're very concerned about an article that's "shallow", as long as it strongly exhibits at least one of the other traits above.

    But if someone ever thinks we're boring, then I'd be concerned.

    Thanks for writing.

    Bob

    Bob W. Associate Publisher & Head Coach
    elephant journal
    facebook, twitter, linkedIn
    Yoga Demystified, Gita in a Nutshell

  25. […] yet to become a powerful, multimillion dollar worldwide enterprise. It was a kinder, simpler time. The kombucha-sipping, Manduka-mat-toting, cellphone shouting power yogi elbowing people out of the way on the way to the studio had yet to emerge as a cultural […]

  26. JennM says:

    Yoga is a holistic activity – it is about mind, body and spirit, while western exercise develops only the physique. That is what I love about it. I find that yoga takes on the shape of the culture that practices it. For example, in India where it originated, it retains its spiritual roots and thus has positively permeated many spheres of activity and has influenced the moral framework of society. It teaches, discipline, respect, reverence, compassion and provides perception an enlightenment to those who seriously dedicate themselves to its practice. When I was practicing more regularly, I used to compare teaching approaches in places I visited. In a club in downtown Washington DC I found the teaching emphasis on fast-paced with gruelling asanas with no space for the mind and spirit, urbanized Singapore was similar too. SF was a bit more cerebral and low key, and atune to the mind element. To me, BKS Iyengar and Krishnamacharya (The Heart of Yoga) are the best articulators of what yoga is. Just take Iyengar's classic book on Breathing – read the chapter on how to breathe which outlines in clear detail how to take a simple breath in about 27 steps. What insight and depth. Amazing and enlightening. Sadly, many people who practice yoga in the West are not aware of the major point of what yoga is all about. Practiced correctly, it helps us be more aware, compassionate, content – heatlth and fitness are linked but are only a small part.

  27. Sarah says:

    Please! If yoga is a "flower"… it is a very hardy, nutritious, and prolific one. The seeds of yoga have fallen on fertile ground in the U.S. (I'll speak to what I know here) , and is now beginning to come into full bloom. The tone of this article makes it seem like interest in yoga is just a passing, vapid fad, instead of a cultural revolution.

    Save your cynicism for something else like the future of battery farmed poultry or something. My generation and my kid's is charged with pulling humanity back from the brink and we are using yoga in all it's forms to help us do it.

    Don't question the validity or the quality of yoga- as though you ridicule the "posers". That pastel colored yoga room is hosting a quiet movement of self honoring, and it is in no danger of extinction.

  28. Andy says:

    If you want the yoga that is mentioned in Patanjali or Bhagavad Gita check our organizations like Art of Living Foundation or others with a Guru(teacher) who is constantly giving knowledge/teachings that speak to the essence of yoga.

  29. Thank you Waylon,
    Thank you for genuine concern.
    Challenge accepted.
    Yoga in the West is like a Pyramid.
    We will always need genuine and committed practitioners to push the tip of the
    Pyramid Skyward.
    As long as this upward evolution is happening with a few
    Disciiplined Souls, the Path will continue to be lit.
    Water will find its own level as maturing Souls
    Find their place in the yoga world and make their Offering.
    My teacher said “it will take 100 years before the essence of Yoga
    Will be firmly rooted in the West. Don’t worry, just do your practice.”
    Namaste

  30. eithne kelly says:

    I hear to mention of the great masters of Yoga, Swami Sivananda.
    When I was 17yrs old, I purchased The Sivananda Companion to Yoga.
    I thought myself the basic session to begin with.
    I think The Sun Salutation series of excerises is fantastic.
    It prepares one for the asanas.
    Its wonderful.
    Anybody can do yoga.
    All you need is a little time, a calm space and a mat if you wish.
    I am now looking at reaping the rewards of meditation, an aspect of yoga I did not try.
    If we all took some time to meditate, our world would be so calm and beautiful.
    Namsste

  31. Hi Lianne,

    I really like your response. I think as long as we are all thinking, discussing, sharing, and honoring knowledge in all its forms, the future of yoga is secure. I see the fad of yoga as an opportunity for the life-long yogis to share it with others, who (may not otherwise be open to it). Let's strike while the kettle is hot — get as many people turned onto yoga as we can. Imagine a world where everyone takes time to meditate, care for their body, mind and spirit?

  32. elephantjournal says:

    You seem to think we're insulting yoga. Rather, we're seeking to protect and nurture the heart as well as the flower of yoga.

    See the prior comment… "Sadly, many people who practice yoga in the West are not aware of the major point of what yoga is all about. Practiced correctly, it helps us be more aware, compassionate, content – heatlth and fitness are linked but are only a small part."

  33. DaveTelf says:

    Like Eithne above, I too am a practitioner in the Sivananda lineage. My training at Sivananda ashrams (established by Swami Vishnu-Devananda) have drawn me deep into a classical yoga practice, centered around meditation, bhakti and karma yoga. I know the type of yoga described and essentially belittled here exists, but that does not typically interfere with my personal practice.

    When Swami Vishnu first came to the west, he hooked people with the tagline "Yoga for Health." Now isn't that stealthy? Some serious skillful means in action, if y'ask me. It's the "just the tip" routine except with the highest most noble intentions for the lucky gullible people who thought they were just going to get some exercise. In our era where flow charts are less and less pyramidal and more horizontal, it only seems appropriate to lower the barriers to entry, to spread the seeds far and wide and see what takes root, allowing people to self-identify as they know best.

    Silvia's comment above is an excellent example of why gym-class yoga is not to be poo-pooed. You never know when/where the light goes on.

    It's a great article Waylon. Provocative but well-measured. As has been mentioned above, you've offered an excellent reminder, but I cringed when I saw "Yoga is X and Y." Yoga is. And any attempt to define or confine it further is ultimately ill-fated.

    As always, thanks for the conversation.

  34. NamasteIsTheWay says:

    I think it's gotten better in recent time however, yes, we need the fun and some shallow things are simple good fun however EJ has also had a habit of posting articles with racy images, the racier the better and some blatantly exploitive. But clicks lead to business survival so there it is …the paradox and as all things we learn and grow and evolve and hopefully EJ will find it's way beyond the easy click phase it seems to be leaving….namaste.

  35. I also practice and teach yoga in the Sivananda lineage. True yoga is alive and well in this teaching and the less classical forms of yoga also open the door to deeper study. Yes, there's a lot of commercial yoga out there, but many are finding their way to a deeper practice … including and beyond mere asanas. All is well. All things are moving toward absolute good. Blessings.

  36. With all of the yoga lectures and Workshops being given today in California, I don't understand why the author claims that we are not studying yoga in the same depth as the generation before us. I've had some great experiences within the last few years studying yoga. Every yoga class I have taken has emphasized alignment with great depth.

    Everyone in my yoga teacher's training class had to write essays on the Bhagvad Gita, The Sutras, Meditation, The Chakras and several anatomical groups of the body and we are just your run of the mill local yoga teachers teaching this generation. I also know that many of my local yoga teachers have read, The Heart of Yoga and other very important books by some of the great yoga gurus of the past generation. We recommend these books to each other and encourage others to read it.

    I, myself have studied western mind/body practices such as Alexander Technique and the Linklater vocal technique to deepen my pranayama practice and I teach it to others. I also study chi kung and have a background in tai chi and kung fu. I also study Buddhism and have read the Toa Te ching many times. I also teach workshops on breathing, chakra opening, and stress release. The Linkedin yoga group I am a part of constantly discusses yoga philosophy and everyone there will even quote scriptures of ancient vedic texts, including the Bhgvad Gita and The yoga Sutras. I also teach at a gym.

    My purpose is not to brag but to answer the author's question: But in just 10 years…who will present yoga in depth? Of course, we will. Maybe some will teach and learn more than others but you have to give us a chance to do it with an open heart rather than judgement. Every generation thinks that they are better than the one that is behind them, but that is merely the viewpoint of the ego at play.

  37. osudrania says:

    Ignoring the roots, you lose the fruits also is a good addage.

  38. sonyata says:

    I am an instructor, constantly study, and continually search for a better yoga practice. I attend a lot of classes too, and learn from other instructors. Frankly, I find the thing I desire most during asana practice is silence. I get tired of listening to an instructor go on and on about alignment – roll your inner thigh out, move your right hip forward, your left hip back, etc. It goes on and on and on. In a seventy five minute class they talk for seventy minutes. 90% of what they say is extraneous filler.

    I think asana is supposed to be moving meditation, and I can't stand having to listen to all this mumbo jumbo because if I tune it out I may miss the next pose. PLEASE – Give me the breath, the name of the pose, and one adjustment. And then let me breath and meditate for five or seven breaths until we move to the next pose. And please, keep the sequences somewhat logical. I am tired of yoga classes that are like playing a game of twister.

    Good topic, and interesting question. YES – yoga for the masses. We will keep digging deeper and deeper, but like it or not, yoga is evolving in the West.

  39. kzelmoon says:

    Also TriYoga is a complete practice and a "living" yoga coming through Kali Ray… from the website "In the tradition of ancient yoga, the origin and continuing development of TriYoga is guided by kriyavati siddhi as expressed through Kaliji. With this inspiration, she has fully systematized hatha yoga asana, pranayama, and dharana, from Basics to Level 7, establishing the comprehensive TriYoga method."
    And regarding music… Kaliji is of the Jayalakshmi Datta Avadhoota lineage, initiated by His Holiness Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji. Swamiji is a nada yogi, a musician and composer who performs concerts for healing and meditation, and his music is played in TriYoga classes for the same purpose. Jai Guru Devi.

  40. Willis says:

    It is true that yogaworks etc churn out generic yoga superfilous yoga for the general public. It is also true that many of the "authentic" systems you refer to churn out a generic derivative of Indian yoga deemed "authentic" by relation to some lineage from a far away culture that would in reality have nothing to do with them. I have met people with meditation, pranayama, scriptural studies/practices etc, who are not even remotely well adjusted individuals, even though they wear the robes, count the beads, and all the other curry people confuse with the actual substance.

  41. If we are talking about authentic yoga should we not talk about what yoga is it is to the Indian yogis? The people you mention as great yoga teachers are proponents of wester yoga, and that has not much to do with its indian counterpart. If we look at what yoga is in indian spirituality we find something that is very different from asana and body alignment.

  42. Marta BERRY says:

    I think Yoga corporations should go off the train . Really if you are a yoga teacher you should never allow any of your students be out of alignement . there is a big difference between being a Asana Instructor demostration or a Yoga Teacher. A real Yoga teacher should never demostrate ( or very little ) Standing positions . When you practice yoga , you should not talk. so how can you pretend do everything, practice , guide classes , observe students , correct students ,and on top play loud music and do not get injured , It is impossible . Marta Berry

  43. Marta BERRY says:

    You just have to be careful which teacher you pick up …

  44. amy says:

    My prediction is that in 10 years, young yoga teachers with dedication to their paths will study yoga in enough depth to uphold its integrity as a practice. I understand the concern about the legions of new teachers certified monthly with no prerequisites for training- it's not a traditional or safe amount of mastery in my opinion either. I believe the standards for the title 'yoga teacher' should be far more strictly outlined and monitored. However, there are other young teachers who have taken yoga seriously enough to research valuable, alignment-based, accountable teacher trainings and spend their money wisely regarding the investment in education. I'm very young and I believe wholeheartedly in this practice and it's ability to bring people into experiences of embodied, authentic human experience. I've completed several teacher training programs, filled journals with reactions and interpretations of classical yoga texts, created yoga groups in my community, and taught in a thoughtful, aware and dedicated manner. I spend sleepless nights thinking about yoga and it's powerful potential for expansion, joy and inspiration. I practice alone often, I meditate, and I don't give a rat's ass if yoga makes my butt look better in some ridiculous overpriced pants. I'm in this for the potential in every human being I meet and for the potential in myself. When you say the word "Namaste," you essentially bow to the potential in the human beings around you: the potential for teachings, light, contribution. Just because I was born 10 years after another teacher doesn't mean I've somehow failed to be a practitioner and teacher of yoga or a vessel of potential; it doesn't mean that I can't take this practice seriously and share it with caution, humility and gratitude. Perhaps my teaching relates in particular to a generation whose parents went through similar experiences of divorce, whose immersion in media, technology and advertising is so invasive that most of us don't know how impacted we are, who have experienced depression and mental disorder at a higher rate and younger age than previous generations; perhaps I have some perspective than an older teacher does not. I just want to think about all this from a yogic perspective- don't you think transience is inevitable, and although yoga continues to shift there is hope for new teachers who rise above the sea of bullshit and uphold the sacred practice? I have unwavering hope and faith that there are small numbers of folks who will carry on the integrity of yoga. I hope too that all these people who say the last generation of great yoga instructors is now can consider the possibility that that's a narrow view assuming we know the majority of the universe and yoga's mystery (we don't, we can't.) I hope that we can move beyond date of birth as a particularly remarkable characteristic about a person. I hope that if you shared this sacred practice next to me and said "Namaste," you would take me as seriously as the 50-year old on my other side. We're both on the mat, we're both seekers of truth and yoga! Again, I get the concern about the masses of pseudo-qualified teachers around the country right now- I've seen dangerous classes taught and observed some eerily alignment-light teacher trainings. I'm just sayin: we blossoming yoga experts are out there, seeking ways to uphold yoga's light in the future.

  45. amy says:

    I hope you don't injure yourself practicing complex poses without more than 1 cue! at least you know those teachers know what they're talking about- teachers who teach little to no alignment are allowing students to perpetuate bad habits.

  46. Jack says:

    Wow, This guy got it all backwards himself, lol. He seems to be calling for a return to the pre 21st century Western understanding, which itself was already corrupted.

    He says,

    "What is yoga? 1. Yoga is a spiritual path. Yoga is about becoming a more fully present, genuine, compassionate person."

    Yoga has nothing to do with that. This attitude of compassion and goodness, and "presentness" is a desired side effect of being a Yogi, to be sure, but not at all what yoga is about or is, and striving for those things can itself prevent progress. If he would read Patanjali in an unadulterated form, free from commentaries and Western influences, he, and anybody else, would "get" what Yoga is. The Sutras, along with The Gita, are the two great "Books of Yoga". He barely mentions them.

    In the rest of the article he goes on to list the potentates of Yoga, but does not list a single one that most of the Yogis in India would cite, instead listing the "businessman" Indian yogis such as Joise and Iyengar, as well as the popular Westerners who helped get Yoga off down a wayward path in the first place.

    Exception: To his great credit he lists George Feuerstein as a reliable source. I fully agree. George's book "Encyclopedia of Yoga" nails it in every way, and should be on every Yoga teachers reading list.

    My criticism has nothing to do with the efficacy of what Westerners are doing, neither is it a commentary on how healthy or good the Western practices are. I very much do think the Western system of stretching exercises, new age philosophy, and breathing techniques, which they love to call "Yoga", is in fact beneficial.