October 20, 2012

Negativity in Yoga. ~ Erin Motzenbecker

Photo: lululemon

There’s a giant pink elephant on the yoga mat and I’m just gonna come out and say it.

How come when I go to any new-to-me yoga studio, or hang out with a group of “yoga people,” I feel more judged there than anywhere else?

At least half the time these yogi cliques are way too cool and I feel more like I just crashed the party at the Mean Girls lunch table. Spending a relaxing hour stretching and meditating with them sometimes seems quite difficult.

Yoga has begun attracting a crowd that promotes exclusivity and division.

I’d like to underline the point that people in the yoga community can be some of the harshest and meanest critics out there. Once I suggested egg whites as a reasonable light snack to have a couple hours before a yoga class, and was sternly (and seriously) asked by a fellow yogi if I’d taken my “stupid pills” that day. He was flabbergasted that I, as an instructor, could endorse the consumption of animal products despite my efforts to go out of my way to always buy organic, local and humanely raised meat and dairy.

This is just one very small incident that happened to me, but this is definitely not the only one of its kind.

In my own experience and in the experiences of tons of others I’ve spoken with about this, there seems to be a lot of judgment and what appears to be genuine aggression towards yoga teachers and practitioners who don’t fit the yoga stereotype.

Photo: Frank Kovalchek

Not too long ago the picture of a yogi was drawn out something like this: friendly, inclusive, open-minded and warm. They had a little bit of the “hippie” spirit in them, wanting to ensure everyone felt good in the space they practiced in. Now, in many places, the picture looks much different.

Studios are full of people who can barely be bothered to make eye contact, let alone build any kind of friendship. The laid-back attitude of the yoga community has been diluted to one full of self-righteous egos who are decked out in $150 mala beads, outfits that cost a car payment, and mats with a matching price tag. They can put together a great outfit, but there’s no authenticity.

I’m not saying that any of this stuff is inherently bad, and my argument is not against having nice things, to include fancy mats and malas—I’m the first to admit to spending too much on some of these myself!

My argument is that we’ve introduced a lot of frivolous stuff into the picture and it’s clouding what the real meaning of yoga is: union of body, mind and spirit.

It’s about continuing to build on the concept of following a path of low resistance and embracing people of different ideas, cultures, communities and diets.

Why be insulted that someone hates the taste of green smoothies and enjoys a burger on the weekends? Why throw out insults to someone else’s style of teaching because you think your own is superior? We already live in a world that forces you to constantly have your guard up, and it’s nice to go to a place where it’s okay not to care about what you’re wearing or how your hair is or whether your Warrior is low enough.

That’s what yoga is really about and that’s why I love teaching it. I get to create that environment for others, where they can let go of all the stresses we carry around all day in the “real” world.

Whether you’re a teacher or a student of yoga, remember that it’s okay to celebrate differences and remember why you started practicing. At the end of the day, we’re all made up of the exact same “stuff.”



A carnivorous traveling yoga and pilates instructor with a beautiful, bouncing children’s book on the way! She teaches vinyasa flow and hot power pilates classes in Tampa, FL. For daily adventures in the world and the kitchen, check out www.erinmotz.com



Editor: Elysha Anderson

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