February 23, 2012

I’ll Take One Yoga Class, Please. Hold The Gimmicks.

*Warning: Article contains partial nudity.


Naked Yoga, Hip-hop Yoga, Acro Yoga, Partner Yoga, Yogalates, Fit Yoga, Rock and Roll Yoga, Yoga competitions, Cirque Yoga, Hot Yoga, Chocolate and Yoga??

photo by asterix611

Who knew when I finally took my yoga teacher training so many years ago that in order to keep up with the changing times, I’d also have to become a DJ!? (A career I have no interest or talent in whatsoever.)

I’ve been challenged to do yoga floating in the air, suspended by tiny little straps that from my aviophobic eyes looked as durable as a toddler’s wrist watch. The pressure to become an Olympic level gymnast in the yoga room, like Nadia Comaneci is insane. Especially when I’m an aging 35 year old trying to do the dynamic moves of a professionally trained 10 year old.

And now I’m faced with students who want to do…

Happy Baby Pose, naked?! (Good luck hiring staff who will clean those mats after class.)

Are all these trends really necessary on the path to enlightenment?

Photo by Curlybird (Judyth Greenburgh)

As a yoga student, I suddenly feel a little old-fashioned. I’m all too aware not everyone has the same motivations and goals to practice yoga as I do.

I’m beyond thankful to have studios like Dancing Shiva in L.A. or Dharma Yoga Center in N.Y.C., where I can practice the basics of “plain-ol’-yoga,” which focuses on the bare minimum.

Just give me a mat, blanket, cushion, and a quiet space—I can practice my asanas, pranayama, mantras and meditation. That makes me one happy yogini!

As a teacher and businesswoman, I certainly like to keep up to date with the ever-increasing yoga trends (whether I like them or not). Continuing education is important to both students and myself. It helps to keep my class fresh.

However, repetition of more traditional themes, such as remembering to breathe slowly and deeply, are also important. Repetition helps to bring knowledge out of the mind and into a place of action.

Being a teacher is about listening, caring, educating and communicating. At times, it’s also about discernment. With all the yoga variations out there, as teachers, we must consider wants versus needs of our students.

At some point I have to ask myself, “If the Yogini in me aspires to Pantanjali’s Eight-fold path on yoga, where the ultimate goal is Samadhi (a state where you and the universe are one), don’t all these yoga gimmicks and trends just add more distractions?

No yoga this night, but I got a t-shirt!

I saw several concerts this past summer. And you know what? I wasn’t motivated by Anthony Kiedis and The Red Hot Chili Peppers to do a single Warrior 3 during his concert. Also, I never got the urge to practice Nadi Suddhi (alternate nostril breathing) during Janet Jackson’s performance of Rhythm nation. As for yoga competitions…really?

Yoga Competition is an oxymoron. Those two words shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

I am by no means a yogi purist in any sense of the word.

After being a very strident, ill-suited vegetarian yogini in my younger years, I now happily eat meat, meet friends for drinks and couldn’t recite a passage from the Vedic Scriptures if I tried (Yes, I have tried).

I read lots of new-age books, take workshops and give help to people as often as I can, while also relishing my fiery imperfections. I love meditation, pranayama, asana and kirtan. I think the Yamas and Niyamas are an inspirational “schnizzle” I may never fully embody.

I am always happy to try some new version of yoga in the market…

As long as I don’t have to see some dude’s schlong hit the floor during Chaturanga and pretend like I’m not giggling inside about the absurdity.

Photo from RonSombilon Gallery

Call me old-fashioned, but I was never the yogi who wore labia-level shorts and a bathing top in the classroom either.

For me, yoga is a look into my mind. I like to discover what habits I’ve developed over the years. The goal is to apply brakes to the habits that act to only increase suffering.

Finding a trend filled yoga practice is a great place to start. But, as time goes on, try to stay open to exploring your inside world. After all, an unhealthy mind truly is the root of all our suffering and the one element we can learn to have control over (excluding those who suffer from mental illness).

The next time you get to your acro-hip-hop-chocolate infused-naked yoga class in a sweltering 105 degrees ask yourself,  Why am I doing this?

What is my goal? Besides external motivations like six-pack-abs, a yoga butt and flexible hamstrings (all of which will deteriorate for every yogic and non yogic human being on the planet as we age), what quality of mind am I developing? Start asking yourself how deep can I surrender into these asanas rather than wondering how many more things can I add to my practice.

I wonder what the ancient yoga Guru, Krishnamacharya, who taught all the yoga greats like B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabi Jois and his first Westerner Indra Devi, the foundations of the yoga most of us practice today, would think of these ever-expanding Westernized versions of yoga?

I can only imagine Krishnamacharya in a Yogalates class…

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