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. TamaraLee says:

    Good article. I understand there is a lot of concern regarding 'real' yoga. I definitely respect the ancient ways/teachings and think it's important for us to know where this wonderful practice we call yoga came from. On the other hand that's not for everyone. As a young 21st century teacher I just have to say 'real' yoga comes from the heart. Not from thousand year old books. If your doing something you love and hold close to your heart there's really nothing superficial about that. So the next time anyone feels like passing judgement on who is or isn't a 'real' yoga teacher – you're the ones misunderstanding yoga.

  2. Nikita says:

    I agree that in 10 years the focus of yoga will have changed and morphed away from its roots even further. I am an East Indian female, born in the United States. I have perspective on what I consider the "Indian" version of yoga and the "American" version. I agree that yoga has been commodified, fadd-ified, especially being here in Los Angeles. I do think however, that change is necessary and inevitable. Every system that we have, whether in science, art, philosophy, movement, etc. develops variations that are in better collaboration with the current social, economical, cultural times. While I'm not touting myself or style, I value the perspective that I bring when I teach yoga. My style is all about breathing, slow movements, deep deep flexibility and strength building, presence, healing, affirmation through the vehicle of the body system…. I don't speak the Sanskrit names of poses, I speak in a language that reaches all identities of people. This is what's valuable to me, and therefore to the students that are attracted to my style. In the same way, other teachers can and will emerge, perhaps speaking a slightly different language than the original Greats, but with value and appropriateness. I guess what I'm saying is that there is yoga fads and teacher mills, AND there are great teachers. Great teachers don't all look alike, and just because a teacher doesn't stick to the original language of yoga, it doesn't mean that integrity and compassion and all of the principles essential to yoga are not present. Thank you and namaste. http://www.nikitagupta.com

  3. jane dicola says:

    I believe Sarah's point is simply this: Meet Yourself Where You Are is honorable, as is Come As You Are. These are from the rich Tibetan lineage, as you know – but when translated into Western culture and language, these statements are CLASSIC Calling Cards to Yoga, interpreted as welcoming, unintimidating, compassionate. They allow for "models against pastel sets in Lululemon gear" to come on in and find a space.
    Yesterday, I invited some fairly new students (six months) to share "why you choose yoga." Mostly, it's for a stretching (for a few, strengthening) Asana practice, some deep relaxation & a short meditation. And one said, moving to the rhythm of breath and music :))
    I acknowledge where they are and their needs. As their teacher, I know it is my responsibility to try to give them the experience they desire (I am serving them after all) as I sneak in tiny fragments of the teachings that I feel responsible & called to present. There will ALWAYS be souls who just want to be welcomed into a compassionate space with a mat; and invited to experience yoga as they wish, as they need. This is YOGA.

  4. Janet Dodd says:

    I love it all….everything about yoga. And I agree with what you say. But maybe more than either of these, I wonder how we can get beyond the tendency to hang-out or set up camp, in any arena along the way on the spiritual path?

    I have hung out in the meditation arena, then the do-nothing spiritual arena, then the power of very physical asana, then the cleansing practices….sometimes even managing to do several at once. Also have hung out in awe of how great it all is, then forms of despair because I may still find myself sick or unwell. I think we can hang out in fields of a type of intellectual sarcasm and place our identity there. But I think we have been reminded by the deepest teachings that we get to keep going on beyond whatever stage (good or bad or neutral) that we seem to find ourselves in. Guess i mean the Prajnaparamita Sutra…of going on beyond, always going on beyond, always becoming Buddha….always being honest with our own training and intent.

    And I think your article calls to us to continue to question whether we are becoming popular and skinny as yoga teachers, or whether we maybe have a few students who are seriously embarking on a path alongside us. So thanks.

  5. Lisa Quish says:

    Just to confirm that yoga is alive and kicking with all of its eight limbs here in Dublin Ireland. I have and continue to be taught by a number of wonderful teachers here; Dave Curtis of Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Lisa Petterson, Ciara Cronin of The Yoga Room where I am currently on the 500hr programme ( first one in Ireland).

    In defense of yoga from California people like Shiva Rea who spins fire in a gold bikini and McYogi who raps about the Hindu Gods have popularised yoga by making it contemporary and fun then they cleverly with their knowledge and wisdom lull us back to Patanjali and the Vedic texts. Lulu lemon and music in class are not all bad once the substance and ethics are there too and popular yoga has its way of bringing us back to centre once the teacher is on a personal journey to reach anandamaya then we can feel in safe hands. It is up to students to be discerning and read up about their teacher before they attend class and hand their money, mind and body over.

    Thank you for invoking so much discussion and for giving us this great journal which kicks with all eight limbs too. Om shanti or as McYogi would say….,.’give love, give your love away’

  6. NIcole says:

    I never usually post on articles but reading this entry and all the comments have got me thinking. I agree with a lot of what the article states….but something about it just rubs me the wrong way. You see, I am a teacher, too. I have studied with some phenomenal teachers and continue to do so. I am constantly trying to widen the scope of my experience and knowledge. It is my true passion. I teach with alignment and care….and my classes aren't the fullest, but I am okay with that b/c I know my students are safe, building strength, developing stretch and stamina for their bodies, not mine! But, some of the things I have learned along the way of teaching is that we are not Indians, but we are westerners who live in a culture or society that is vastly different than yogis of the east. Some people are visual learners, some are tactical and some are auditory, and it doesn't make me less of a teacher when I teach someone who is a visual learner by demonstration first. I have learned it is not my job to tell someone how they should feel physically, emotionally let alone spiritually during a practice. I can share my experience on and off the mat, and that is the truth. I can show someone the door, but ultimately he or she has to walk through it and take some personal responsibility in his or her own journey. And lastly, people find their own way on their own journey whether they like classes with music, only want to get some flexibility or take classes at a gym or shala. Yoga is a SCIENCE not a religion or doctrine….Pantajali offered the many suggestions in the sutras about how to find yoga in one's life but in the end stated if none of these suggestions work for you, find something that does (Sutra 1:39). I love teaching and hope to continue!

  7. I believe there will always be Yogis and Yoginis who will teach and search for the roots. For all others its still great to have Yoga as a way to exercise a healthy body and mind. If they don't ask for the means behind yoga, they still do benefit a lot more than from other physical exercises.

  8. wildjoie says:

    heard [on NPR radio] today: lululemon's stock went down two and a quarter percent due to the ending of production of their "see-thru" yoga pants. i kid you not. [i did not know they made see-thru pants, let alone for yoga, no less.]

    part of the problem, said it all, in a sign spotted at the REI one day. it read simply: "yoga accessories".

    i also did not realize that freedom, required accessories.

  9. A.L. says:

    I guess everything, even Elephant Journal posts should be taken in moderation …

    Whilst I hear you, and believe you, and have gone out of my way to find those teachers who are still on the spiritual path themselves just guiding me and not dictating to me, my personal journey would never have begun had it not been for the big corporations.

    As an ex-pat from the UK moving to Boulder, CO, I was instantly terrified of the 'crazy hippy cult' that seemed to have seeped into every aspect of life there. Why were these damn Americans so bloody weird in their tie-dye trousers and dreads?! I was also, for the record, overweight, over-stressed and exhausted. At 27 I felt like my body was giving out on me and I didn't know which way to turn. Had it not been for the accessibility of CorePower Yoga I would never have found my passion, my joy, my health and the fullness that life has to offer.

    During my first class I was introduced to a teacher who talked in simple English, watched my alignments, and simple told me to be okay with where I was physically. After several weeks I followed my friend to more "traditional" studios and I found that, knowing the asana postures, having opened my body up physically and just generally feeling better about myself, I was open to the deeper aspects of the practice. I didn't scoff when we spent 30 minutes breathing and just being, instead I relished the opportunity for something new – and why? Because I was no longer insecure, terrified, overweight and over-stressed.

    CorePower opened up a world of opportunity for me. One which has brought me to my mat on a regular basis, to 2 separate 200-hr TT courses with them (yes I am myself now a dreaded CPY teacher), and to a whole new world of spiritual learning, development and most of all patience and gratitude.

    Your article talks about 2 very separate complaints – firstly, that alignment is not covered in a lot of the studios popping up around the US. I would agree, although you barely touch on this subject, and interestingly the larger corporations (probably because of the high insurance policies they have to undertake) spend a long time working just on that. If anything they keep their students physically safe. And secondly, you talk about the number of teachers who go no further than their asana practice. Again, I agree, but please don't tar us all with the same brush and please remember that sometimes that's all people need – just an opening and an opportunity.

    I personally have fallen in love with the continuing education and learning that yoga brings – both in different disciplines of the asana practices and in different aspects of the lifestyle. Every question I have seems to be answered with 5 new questions and every day I learn from my own teachers as much as my students. I also like to bring in a more spiritual side to yoga into my classes (even within the CPY universe), however, I do so in very plain simple English that I hope will be accessible to the throngs of people that find their way to their mat because of the latest Groupon. The truth is, not everyone enjoys my class, some people wish I would just teach the postures and let them listen to the funky music I have selected for the hour (and I admit, I have some rocking play lists), however, on a not too infrequent basis I will have a student approach me after class and talk to me about yoga. Something was triggered in them the way it was in me – people who would never find themselves in a kundalini class or deep meditation, people who only came to our studio because it is mirrored and lively and hot and because they saw the latest hot Hollywood start Tweet about it. Something shifted and they want more.

    This is why I will always love CPY and the other large studios as much as I love my solo meditations and my small, run-down studio where the teacher has been practicing for years. Every day I am given the opportunity to help a packed room full of hot sweaty bodies detox, and unwind, and work out, every day every one of these bodies leaves feeling better, smiling more, calmer (they may put it down to the fun work out they just had – I put it down to the deep twists rinsing out their egos and the deep heart openers letting them feel again … but then I'm one of those weird hippies now and proud). And every day I have the opportunity to touch someone's heart, to heal an old wound, to bring a little light into someone's life that may just, if I'm lucky and they're lucky, put them on the never ending path of joy, love and light that I found.

  10. Jclive says:

    Good article. Waylon must not have children or at least when he wrote his piece. Yoga pants, whole foods, quinoa, 1.8 children, SUV= insulting. Wha the hell is wrong with wearing yoga pants in whole foods and trying to keep yourself healthy especially if you have a family. We are the householders, the audience for yoga journal, the presence in the yoga studios, the ones who seek inner peace and refuge from everyday chores, responsibilities, bringing our children up to be good human beings. We are westerners that seek out spaces to find pause and compassionate in our own minds so that our families could have a chance to be more loving, connected and functional. There is a bitterness expressed against the hurried middle class mum who is trying to do the right thing by stretching her mind, opening her body and feeling sensation for 2 hrs a week. Give it a chance and please won't you stop judging the scene. It can feel like the hot white single girls and tattooed guys in class have much different expectations for practice. Roots of yoga must be studied because you have the time and space to do so. Real world, hello?! – those who have very little time but the huge yearning to share their practice by teaching are doing the very best they can to be in service of others. If they don't know the sutras, the exact Sanskrit, pure alignment, one must trust that the teachers are doing their best and are on the path to healing. Take the whole image of moms doing yoga and their SUVs and dump it because it is your thought projection, your trigger. I have to say this because this type of thinking is detrimental to the yogic environment. And yeah, because I am a mom. Let me know what your thoughts are once you spit out a kid or three – yoga is a saving grace a refuge, not an empty vapid excercise. Thanks.

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  12. Sri Satchmo says:

    Agreed. I am on board! I have for some years dedicated myself to do just that: preservation of the teachings.
    You said it best: "…lest in ignoring the roots we lose the flower."

  13. Jane says:

    Yoga U online has recordings with Judith Lasater, Tias LIttle and many more. http://yogauonline.com/

  14. Jeff says:

    "We have to understand the difference between the basic truth and the vehicle. We should always remember that the truth of the Self is the same; but when presented to you through words and forms and modes, it may appear in different ways to suit the individual or the trend of the age." ~ Satchidananda

    You don't have to practice yoga like the previous generation, Waylon, to understand ahimsa.

  15. Jenny Finkel says:

    I appreciate your comments. As teachers, we are our own tiny businesses earning our own tiny livelihoods, and we have to balance the wants of our students/studios/employers with the expectations of our greater yoga community. It's hard to figure it all out. We have to make some concessions.

    When I teach, it is my priority to create a safe, responsible, fun practice for my students, to watch their bodies, and connect with them in some way. I hope to sneak a little philosophy in there, but if that has to happen while Fleet Foxes in crooning in the background, so be it.

  16. Alicia Dane says:

    Word: Yogi Amrit Desai

  17. Jessica says:

    sometimes the truth seems disguised, acting as a bridge to the seemingly unreachable

    i am a young student and teacher, ten years from now i will invite you to a class, and rest your heart there is a teacher rooted in the essence.

    see you 😉

  18. Waylon, thank you so much for this. I just wrote my own short piece voicing my concern on the same topic. I recently returned back to the US from a year and a half of living in Asia. I started delving deeper into my yoga practice while living in South Korea and did a month-long teacher training in Thailand. Coming to the US and the lululemon-soaked world of yoga is a slightly mind-boggling, concerning difference. It was comforting to read a similar outlook as yours.

  19. anouscka says:

    Unless so called yogi's look and study further than asana they merely touch the surface of what they think yoga is. There used to be a time that the knowledge was transferred from one teacher to one student. "classes" with 30/70 students were unheard of. I guess I belong to the old school thinkers that still believe that Yoga is a way of living and continues when you leave your mat (not that we need a mat to practice by the way…) and includes aspects of selfless service to our community and more. Coming out of asana practice and hanging out for a smoke or a beer strikes me as odd when you claim to practice Yoga of which asana practice is to cleanse the body to prepare for other aspects of yoga….
    Anouscka from Aruba

  20. Naomi says:

    Hi Waylon, When I lived and worked in Hong Kong I had the opportunity to practise at the Pure Yoga studio. Though very much a boutique yoga studio with something like 26000 students across Hong Kong it also offers the opportunity to attend workshops with many of the worlds leading instructors. I also trained with some amazing young yoga instructors including Sara Avant Stover (pregnancy yoga and women's yoga) Kristina Pao Cheng (Tibetan Heart Yoga) and other more established teachers like Ellen Heed (Yoga anatomy). I believe a lot of these teachers also trained with many of the yoga 'leaders' you mentioned and they work from the traditional understanding of yoga then 'specialised' (as such). I found their passion and commitment to all aspects of yoga inspiring especially watching Sara Avant Stover establish herself over the past 5 years as a leader in women's yoga. I recently listened to a webcast by Laura Cornell on Women, Yoga and Finances and the many teachers interviewed nutted out the process of balancing yoga as a sacred business and how to match the yogic principles to the day to day practise of running a business in the modern world. I know that I experienced a very flawed yoga community when I taught in Brisbane Australia lacking in support, structure and definitely not reflecting the yogic principles in their business practise: the practise of 'yoga' in all its forms remained in the yoga studio itself and played no part in the day to day aspects of communication, the handling of money or decision making. Alignment was often a poor second (unless you went to the class of a relatively unknown teacher who was a little more austere in their delivery) as teachers focused on creating a psychological experience of wonder and awe in their students. There are some good studios on the Gold Coast now like The Gold Coast Yoga Centre and Essence of Living Yoga which focus on alignment and traditional yogic principles. Both very different in their approach: Essence of living, lots of sexy beach babes who have worked with rockstars like Sting, GCYC wear old clothes, trainee teachers are required to attend vipassana retreats and clean the studio as service while completing a 'two year' training! I am considering teaching yoga again and this time working for myself (although I think my ego may not be big enough)…I am nutting out things like intentions, getting clear on how yoga looks to me when I live it in my life and my impact on other people. I suppose these are the roots that I am putting down. So maybe this is all teachers need to do before they begin to teach so that when they come across all the practical day to day issues of 'working' as a yoga instructor it will be a simple thing to reflect back to those initial spiritual concepts. The challenge still seems to be how to match them to daily life. A work in progress I guess:)

  21. brookewestyoga says:

    I like it. I teach it. You're right.
    Ananda Yoga keeps it's roots in the soil. The teachings are deep and old.
    We meditate.
    It's not flashy. It's Yogananda's vibe.
    Keep keepin' it old school and real.
    AUM

  22. onesadhaka says:

    Really nice, Waylon. Brings up some important points. I can answer for myself who will practice this…I will. At CorePower, at the big and small studios, every time life becomes challenging. As to teaching it…does anyone really want to know? Does anyone truly want to miss Fox Tuesday Night or their time at Shine to sit around learning about citta-vrtti? Unlikely. That's okay…we can teach ourselves, improve ourselves, change the one person we can hope to. Namaste and AUM to you …. : )

  23. onesadhaka says:

    I must admit, the vapid articles also serve a purpose beyond entertaining and informing. They give us a lens through which aspirants share their vision of yoga. Trite or self-centered or not, off the point or on it, they allow us to witness the effect yoga has on us, and to share our slowly-uncovered wisdom. In our Merikan ignorance and materialism, we reflect the unfolding of ourselves that yoga brings. That means we go through stages of ignorance before we come to enlightenment or understanding. Love them all, especially the ones that piss me off (why do they do that?) or make me scratch my head in…wonder…disgust…awe.

  24. onesadhaka says:

    There's a really groovy yogi who deserves props and shameless promotion as well…Patanjali. Don't forget Krishnamacharya, either. All these other famous yoga teachers are mostly parroting and repackaging what they already said. Do we need more teachers…or more real sadhaka (aspirants)?

  25. onesadhaka says:

    You only need to make concessions if you are trying to sell yoga to people. If you are trying to truly teach it, then I suggest concessions are exactly what we (or the students) don't need. There's enough people watering down the wisdom of the sages. Which of these modern yoga merchants has added anything to the already existing wisdom and practice? Freeman? Baptiste? All good stuff, yet all regurgitated and repackaged for sales, for merchants to sell to consumers. We have all we need to know right now…and had it before any of those super stars came on the scene. They have added nothing new…just money to their coffers…in my non-famous place-trained understanding of the moment….

  26. Mai says:

    sorry Nadine, your description "remote Africa" surprised me….remote from where? and by Africa you mean a continent with over 52 countries (nation states) …

  27. craigdrummond says:

    It's as simple as the following question…

    "If asana was not part of yogic practice, would you still continue to practice yoga".

    It's all about intention. Most 'yogis' I meet have no intention for liberation and no real desire to understand the nature of reality. They're happy in their own world, assume thats how it is, and yoga is just another way to build their ego world.

    I'm not a teacher, simply because the more I learn the less I know, as stated in the article. But I love yoga, love Buddhism, love studying the sutras, meditation – and all this take time & dedication – and a genuine effort to soften the ego. When I see the next lines of teachers assembled and pumped out of the yoga factories, I realise that I may never have a chance to share this with people – how can I ever hope to keep up when everyones too concerned about Adho Mukha Vrksasana Padmasana and the Facebook likes that come with it!

  28. gdr23 says:

    I am a 200 hr yoga teacher. I have taught hatha yoga for 7 years. I trained in a "more spiritual" tradition(Ananda yoga) that opened me to the totality that is yoga. I teach yoga philosophy in bites along with asana, pranayama, meditation. Students who are interested in the full practice of yoga, make themselves known to me and they then begin their own self-education on the tradition of yoga. I think that exposing folks to yoga wherever they are in their lives, is what matters. I am interested in the history, literature, art and culture. Not everyone is. Yoga is my spiritual path. I hope I practice what I teach, which will lead others to find their own unique path.

  29. Dana says:

    Interesting. What is your views on change? Nothing stays the same. You can still honour "the roots" of he practice and transition to what will work for the people of today. We are not the same individuals we were when the great yogis taught. We have abolished slavery, developed equal rights for women and have seen such heart openings in allowing marriage in all genders. Whose to say sticking to "traditional" is the only way to enlightenment. We have to be open to change, it is part of the process of yoga. When you do that you are lost in DOGMA, on your own dharma.
    One of my students is 87……..imagine if alignment and sitting in meditation was the only thing I shared with her, it would not be enlightening for her at all. Teach to the student that shows up, teach to what they are ready for and learn as a teacher. NAMASTE

  30. yogijulian says:

    1) great article, fun meme/graphic!

    i wanna also point out that "alignment" is largely a construct of the modern iteration of yoga, and may indeed be part of the wisdom of the californians….. check out the photos of krishnamacharya in desikachar's heart of yoga and you will see asana that any yoga works TT grad would be "correcting" all day long!

    sure, iyengar may have come up with some very precise cues on doing asana correctly, but this may well (according to folks like sovatsky and singleton) been, like the language in "light on yoga," part of a project to get the colonialists to respect yoga as more scientific and precise rather than the associations they would have had with a more rootsy contortionist/fakir/sadhu aesthetic on the one end and even free form tantric rapture on the other…

  31. yogijulian says:

    2) the dichotomy between packed "modern western" group yoga classes and their pumping music, lack of technical precision etc and the supposed true traditional practice that emphasizes "alignment," patanjali and inner peace is largely a romantic construction too that evaporates when we try to substantiate it….

    the solution to the problem at hand seems to me not to lie in an attempt to find a historically legitimate and pure form of yoga that somehow is rooted in ancient authority, but rather to keep participating in this massive cross cultural evolving experiment, own our place in it and ask how we would like to participate in shaping how yoga meets our needs.

  32. yogijulian says:

    3) this may include an emphasis on "alignment" based in a well-educated understanding of our bodies, the problems with certain poses for certain joints, a kind of modern physical therapy perspective on stability vs flexibility and how to rehab injuries using a variety of techniques.

    it may include an emphasis on psychological integration and exploring how body awareness, mindful attention and the cultivation of compassion can be used to more fully embrace our humanity rather than trying to transcend or deny it in true ascetic style….. as well as how neuroscience and somatic psychology can inform the uses of yoga/meditation for trauma healing and a model of transformation not rooted in outdated metaphysics.

    it may include an inquiry in philosophy that examines the distinct differences between patanjali, tantra, advaita etc and between those metaphysical stances and the split between idealism and materialism viz "western" philosophy, as well as what advances in physics, neuroscience and psychology might tell us about how a modern philosophical remix might not only serve our needs as yogis, but might be congruent with current knowledge of the human being and indeed the cosmos itself.

    just sharin' 🙂

  33. yogijulian says:

    PS: it may also include a social justice emphasis that examines (amongst other things) the caste system, civil rights, gender and sexual orientation equality, cultural appropriation, orientalism, and offering yoga to less privileged communities in the west.

  34. Amanda (2) says:

    Now this would be interesting to know more about, because my understanding is that the asanas are fairly new (like in the past 150-200 years).

  35. Amanda (2) says:

    Agreed. However, I will say that I found a lot of emphasis of physical appearance during my month there. Perhaps it was beause it was during June when all the college students have a chance to attend. Truly enjoyed the older teachers from the Kripalu ashram days. Those were beautiful classes.

  36. Amanda (2) says:

    I have music, but it's either gentle instrumental or in another language so it's not distracting. Playing pop/rock/hip hop, etc. is weird (to me). How does that help you get into your mind?

  37. Amanda (2) says:

    The highly defensive tone to your post might be worth self-exploration.