The yoga community is all about peace and love.
Yes, we get it. Yet lately, this whole saccharine, over-the-top, being-swept-up-on-the-love-boat, has my teeth aching and leaves me in need of a shot of insulin.
I’m generally all about peace and love. In fact, I once traversed through this initial phase of blissed-out, hooey-gooey, warm load of unicorn jizz; while practicing the primary series, it felt as though a tantric feather was tickling my brain.
The bubbling up in my forehead made my third eye tingle. I went from marathon-runner-endorphin-addict to shooting up doses of dope yoga poses. The satisfaction of accomplishing Tittibasana balance, the feeling of binding in Marichyasana D all contributed to the high.
As do cocaine, honeymoon sex and cheese.
I could crack coconuts open with my bare hands and all I could think of was becoming a yoga teacher. In my mind, they were all on some separate spiritual pedestal, or so I thought. Nowadays, certified instructors are spat out, as if from a wood chipper, to everyone and their dog, whether upward, downward and wayward.
Throw on some mala prayer beads, sport a nose ring and voila, Gurus-R-Us.
As a recovering vegan, I thought what I ate and in which studio I practiced was what made me one elite scenester. As my throat chakra opened and my kundalini detonated through my crown, my yoga bubble also shifted.
There were a few contributing factors that catapulted me right through to the other side into Opposite-Land, and soon after, my heart and spirit poured into some bubbling volcanic pit of anger. I found myself bitter and frustrated when others diluted the idyllic image of yoga I had created and held in my own mind or when I witnessed the branding of asana sequencing into Sanskrit named businesses for the sake of a buck. It was the anti-yoga.
I lost my lust for the game and no longer was inspired to teach, let alone practice. The spotlight dimmed and I lost respect for those in it.
I lost respect for the culture.Illustration: Vanessa Fiola
I couldn’t stomach yogis carrying on with all this lovey-dovey hokey-poke, spewing, “Have a beautiful day!” “Discover your bliss!” “Authentic abundance!” and more.
Pictures on websites and social media of Chiclet veneers sparkling and supple arms thrown into the air in some victory pose with sun rays beaming down on them from the heavens. Or the staged casual snapshot profile-pic-cum-ego-yardstick of a handstand on the beach. Maybe it was some faked-out, ridiculously near-impossible yoga pose only the long-time gymnastic ballerina yogi might conquer, like Eka Pada Sirsasana.
Actors performing happiness: life complete and perfectly executed, their effortless asanas so easily achieved. It nearly drove me over my lithe edge as these boastful images chafed my very last parasympathetic nerve.
Not to mention those hoochie-mama outfits exposing every hint of legal skin, like booty shorts and a tube top. How do those even stay in place during a vigorous practice like Ashtanga? Are you for real or really just selling sex as part of publicity?
There was a story I heard while practicing at the shala in Mysore, India. A yogini showed up to practice in a thong bikini and Sharath told her to get out and not come back. Not sure how true the story is, but it reveals plenty, especially in regards to the ethics and efficacy of practicing a grueling system in such teeny weeny clothing.
I questioned further: Is yoga really about a glamorously hippy-chic guise, done au-naturale? Peddling coaching and transformational seminars and asana workshops? Is it selling out to the illusion of a stellar website, international speaking gigs and plentiful fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Funded by credit, a sugar daddy or rich hubby to bankroll this portrayal of a false image?
It merely gives a fabricated impression of success, that yoga is big business.
Because we do it for the money, right? Usually the yoga teacher is the most broke person in the class. We spend a fortune on training, traveling, commuting to various studios and healing our bodies, leaving less time for our own practice.
We maintain other jobs which actually pay the bills, in addition to juggling kids, partners and households.
Sure, studios may make big bucks, as do a handful of speaking-circuit sadhus. Yet celeb-yogis may be doing a disservice by creating a yoga illusion when what’s really important is recognizing the maya and dissolving illusion. I’m Confucius’d. It’s like an episode of the Krishnamacharyadashians.
And since when did voicing one’s opinion give rise to being a rabble-rouser?
I’ve piped up often about this on social media forums,finding common ground from other teachers:
“Truth be told I have had similar conversations in my head. I used to express myself a hell of a lot more but feel as though this can be a faux pas in the yoga community. Such pressure/expectation to be positive and non-critical. I’m not too sure how any community can evolve if we aren’t critical, if we don’t question. Hope to see my gutsy self, reveal itself again soon. You have most certainly inspired me to do so.”
It’s not my intention to bash and smash other instructors or yogi-celebs. But it’s like the universe has become some ecstasy vending machine propagating yoga paradise. And people are drinking the Kool-Aid, worshiping the individuals who bring them the yoga. It’s not about the teacher; it’s all about the yoga.
Simply keep your mind on the practice.
Back to basics, baby.
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Assistant Ed: Katharine Spano/Ed: Bryonie Wise