Yoga Money & Spirit. ~ Angie Benton

Via elephant journal
on Oct 25, 2011
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Photo: milajake

I recently read a disheartening article about Yoga as a means of a career path, and how financially successful Yoga teachers can potentially become, insinuating that it is a good field to get involved with since we as Americans are becoming more health-conscious and many are using Yoga as a tool for improving health.

This struck me with importance, realizing that I am responsible to representing the tradition and teachings of Yoga, and this entire concept actually contradicts what Yoga is. By definition, Yoga is a spiritual practice. It is a means, a philosophy, a practice of dropping the ego; peeling off the outer layers of our consciousness, to reveal one’s true nature deep within their spirit. Yoga literally translates into “union”, or to “yoke”. It is practice and philosophy toward a realization—no deeper—an awareness, of the inherent interconnectedness of your highest Self as divinity, and an awareness that we are all that, individually and collectively.

Photo: elidelaney

The physical aspect of Yoga, is only one of eight limbs of Raja Yoga. Yoga is not mere asana (postures) with the body. We may use the body as a tool for breaking down physical and mental barriers, for opening to what essence is already there residing deep inside the self. Oneness. Divinity. Asana is not what Yoga is, but is a small portion.

Yoga as a religion? Nope. What would that religion be…Union? (With my Ultimate Self) Yoga can be practiced by absolutely anyone, regardless of religious beliefs. Even the Hindu-American Society encourages us to share Yoga’s teachings, honor that Yoga came from Hindu roots…but us

e Yoga and share Yoga in a way that could possibly enhance any religion, in a way that could bring your closer to faith in whatever God/Higher Power you realize.

Religion does not reside within Yoga, but Yoga could reside within any religion.

Whether you are practicing Yoga as a means to enhance your religious beliefs or not, or if you are agnostic; Yoga is still a spiritual practice toward ultimate oneness and personal faith. It is a practice of cultivating trust in the Universe, and trust in one’s Self (unity). So, it is our responsibility as Yoga teachers to fully comprehend this, not only on a mental level (through education), but also on a spiritual level (in our deepest heart space). And it is through this, that we can know that we share in the great honor of passing these ancient teachings of Self-realization with their original intent.

As well-stated by Dr. David Frawley, an internationally recognized scholar and teacher, is quoted in the Sept./Oct. 2000 issue of Yoga Journal:

Photo: Caro's Lines

[Yoga in the West] “has only scratched the surface of the greater Yoga tradition.” He says “The Yoga community in the West is currently at a crossroads. Its recent commercial success can be used to build the foundation for a more profound teaching, aimed at changing the consciousness of humanity. Or it can reduce Yoga to a mere business that has lost connection with its spiritual heart. The choice that Yoga teachers make today will determine this future.”

Sure, as teachers we provide a service of teaching (not mere body instruction). We invest time, effort, money, energy into education and in sharing these teachings. For this, we have fees, and are financially compensated. To become a teacher, is not to say that we should all accept living in poverty. But to use Yoga as a means of gaining financial freedom or success is in all ways a complete contradiction of what Yoga is.

An important Yogic teaching, as revealed clearly in the Bhagavad Gita, is during this path of coming to one’s Self; we release all attachment to having any particular outcome from our efforts.

Teaching Yoga brings many gifts of insight to one’s self and to others, which is the reward. Having an attachment to any financial outcome by teaching is the same as setting the “successful business” of Yoga as an attainable goal. If this is your mindset of how Yoga is viewed, you may also fall into the belief system that practicing Yoga means practicing asana.

If you are teaching asana-only classes, then it should be called “asana class” or “fitness class” instead of “Yoga.”


Photo: Kevin Cole Photography

Angie Benton believes that we all have the power to discover peace by getting out of our own way and following our innate inner guidance. Her vibrant and free-spirited energy has led her to study Yoga around North and Central America, and now teaches on the east coast. Through her Yoga practice of nearly two decades, she leads you to realize that Yoga is way deeper than asana (posture). When not formally teaching Yoga and meditation, you’ll possibly find her with a book, dirt, paint, or food in her hands. She lives in Charlotte, N.C. with her hubby, and they are proudly owned by a snuggly pug/Boston terrier. She also writes in her WP blog; visit her website and facebook page here.



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6 Responses to “Yoga Money & Spirit. ~ Angie Benton”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  2. Angie,
    In my opinion, one of the important lines in your post is 'Having an ATTACHMENT to any financial outcome by teaching is the same as setting the “successful business” of Yoga as an attainable goal.' Sharing yoga as a means of a profession and not being attached to the idea of what it will be – that is yoga, however I do personally feel strongly that by dedicating our time to teaching others, there is nothing wrong with making a living from that – and 'making a living' is defined differently by each of us. When followed that up with 'If this is your mindset of how Yoga is viewed, you may also fall into the belief system that practicing Yoga means practicing asana.' – I do not believe that thinking of what we will earn as an income from teaching yoga and spending our energy in that way means that we believe yoga is merely asana. I get the concept of your post and as a fellow writer for ELE I know it can be challenging to get across everything that we want to in a post that is not so long so people will actually read it, but I feel some points could have been enhanced. The other point that I wanted to make was related to 'asana class' or 'fitness class' labeling. I think it's important to meet students where they are at and for many student first arriving to the practice of yoga, they do not even know what asana means…. so we call it yoga, we educate them and we hold the space for them to transform during their journey on the mat.
    It's a complicated topic and I appreciate your taking the time to write about it, however – we are in America – we are not in India and yes, yoga will look different here. I think about the many people who would not practice if we adhered to some of what you state here….. your post does give us something to think about and then it will unfold exactly as it is suppose to.

  3. Valerie Carruthers says:

    Gotta agree with our ele writing colleague Maureen, here, Angie. Being able to make a comfortable, worry-free living from guiding students on the path that we love, doesn't necessarily mean attachment to that kind of income. And for better or worse, the distance between the greater proportion of Yoga teachers and said income means hanging onto day jobs or juggling minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. And what of superstars such as Shiva Rea to Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman? They are the trailblazers for thousands in the Yoga community, yet their incomes have reached mega proportions. Does that then become adharmic?
    Not every traditional form of Yoga puts the spirituality front and center. Iyengar, for instance, looks deeply into opening the joint spaces and through that opening, spiritual awareness can happen spontaneously. Dr. Frawley's comment prophesied the schism we are currently seeing in the US, but it's possible that from this schism that both approaches can peacefuly co-exist. Say a student begins in a "yoga" postures-only class at the gym. When that's no longer a sufficient experience, chances are that student will search out a more spiritually-oriented class. Whatever form of practice we do, keep in mind the question rhetorically posed by the great Ashtanga teacher Richard Freeman: "Are you really doing Yoga or are you just making an asana out of yourself?"
    Peace and Blessings

  4. Just posted to brand new Facebook page, Elephant Work & Money.

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  5. Hari Prem Kaur says:

    I agree with Maureen & Valerie and will add my belief. It doesn't matter from which door the student enters, the important thing is that they come in.
    Sat Nam,
    Hari Prem Kaur

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