October 23, 2013

How to Avoid Being a Yoga Evangelical.

I make no bones about the fact that I love yoga.

As I have expressed several times, yoga changed my life for the better. In fact, I am such a devotee that I even teach it.

However, with that said, I am not a fan of foisting any of my beliefs, be them religious, political, etc. on others. This includes yoga.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the yoga community probably knows what I am referring to when I mention the term yoga evangelicals. Usually, but not always, they are people who haven’t been practicing yoga for a very long time but are eager to tell everyone and anyone who will listen why they, too, “must” do yoga.

Interestingly enough, when they mention yoga, they usually only refer to one out of the eight limbs, hatha, or the physical practice. Without being asked, they share stories about how yoga improved their sporting life, their personal relationships and even their sex life.

While I cannot begrudge anyone who shares what they consider to be important things in their lives, many of these people who are so vocal about their love of yoga and believe that everyone should jump aboard the yoga boat manage to repel the very people they want to attract.

Why is that the case?

I believe that it has a lot to do with how many of them “sell” yoga as the perfect panacea to all the world’s ills. The truth is, it isn’t.

Yoga also isn’t all positive or feeling great 100 percent of the time, either. Speaking from experience, there have been more times than I can remember when yoga has left me feeling frustrated and in actual tears. As someone with perfectionist tendencies and a habit to keep things bottled up inside, yoga has brought up all manner of things and emotions that I sometimes didn’t even know were there.

Plus, like many fellow yogis, I came to yoga during a tumultuous period in my life. Frankly, if I had been bombarded with stories about how great life and the world was and how yoga was going to help me see all of this, my reaction would have been to run as far away as possible.

The people that have inspired me the most were not the people preaching from the rooftops about the benefits of yoga, but rather the ones who quietly showed how yoga helped them in dealing with some pretty big challenges.

For example, one fellow instructor I know who lost not one but two husbands before the age of 40, leaving her with two young children to support, really exemplifies this. While I am not suggesting that everyone has to have a story as extreme as hers, it does show that it’s not just about talking the talking but also walking the walk as well.

Experience has taught me that, in general, the best way to extol the benefits of anything is to show them rather than talk about them. Yoga is no different.

While I don’t set out to inspire or covert anyone to practice yoga, my hope is that students can see me for what I am: an incredibly human, and flawed person who does not claim to know all the answers nor pretends to. If someone wants to come to yoga and make it a part of their life, I am happy to help, but I will never suggest that they should.

Plus, I’d much rather practice my yoga—all eight limbs of it—than talk about it.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Pixoto.}

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