November 22, 2013

An Urgent Call to Free Yoga. ~ Keri Mangis

Yoga’s pissed off.

And she’s on a rampage: an eight-limbed, skull-wearing, black-tongued, red-eyed, fierce kind of rampage.

Because despite what we may think, she doesn’t care a wit about being popular. She doesn’t care about fitting in.

She’s angry because her message, her great gift to humankind, is being cut off, suppressed and sacrificed at the feet of consumerism, power and greed. And she’s angry with those of us who claim to love her most.

Why are we reaping this scorn from her? Because out of our overwhelming, blinding desire to share yoga with as many people as possible, we have turned her over to the over-zealous patriarchy and sent her down the chute of Western consumerism.

To fit into this chute, however, we had to make some alterations and adjustments. We cut off most of her limbs, stripped her of her spirituality, yanked out her heart, carefully translated her language into some safe, pleasant sounding words and then polished her exterior with a tough and powerful new look that’s easily modified depending on the audience.

Next, we put her in a three-piece suit and tied the tie extra tight, combed down her unruly hair, then blithely allowed the masculine ways of our society—power, control, “doing”, personal gain, competition, and being right to have their way with her.

We mixed and matched her with anything that would increase her exposure and likeability—pilates, fitness, dance, weights, Christianity, Zumba, golf, running and celebrities. We made her a trend and a plaything for the marketplace to buy and sell, right next to electronics and automobiles.

Now, look around and see what we’ve done to her in our oh-so-noble desire to spread the word.

We’ve give up authenticity, spontaneity and creativity for canned classes, rote sequences and flash in the pan yoga gurus.

We’ve given up true peace, stillness and self-compassion for the promise of weight loss, a better butt and Lululemon leggings.

We’ve given up experiences with wise teachers sharing stories and lessons from their heart for canned young teachers fresh off an assembly line (which is where yoga studios make the most money) complete with preprogrammed new-age lingo, a fake smile and someone else’s poem.

We’ve given up silence and introspection for constant, jarring music, florescent lighting and myriad distractions.

We’ve give up sitting with periods of discomfort to never having to face it…at least not in our yoga classes!

And we’re losing Savasana, that one, glorious pose at the end, one minute at a time, for one more round of Sun Salutations and reminders to hurry and register for the upcoming arm balance workshop before it sells out.

Our love for her evidently had a shadow side: a lack of total and complete trust in her.

We didn’t believe she was enough. We didn’t think she’d be accepted as she was. And we forgot that she is inherently feminine and that her true power and gifts lie in her femininity; her grace, gentleness, compassion, community, vulnerability and unconditional love.

Now she is fighting back.  I hear her powerful voice roar, “Who the hell dressed me up in this masculine costume?  Who thinks they know so much more about me than I do myself? Leave me be, I tell you, I have more power than you can possibly imagine! And I am only interested in teaching those who have ears to hear my message!”

Our world is at a desperate tipping point.

We see pain and suffering living right next door to greed and narcissism. We go about our days in hidden fear, self-loathing, judgment and isolation. As a nation, we have never been more divided.

Yoga’s raw and un-muffled teachings of oneness, compassion, acceptance and surrender are critically needed.  We urgently need the promised healing and balance of yoga and the inner transformation she is capable of cultivating within us. But only in her completeness.

We have nothing to gain by continuing to strip her down and cut her off. We do not win by handing her over to the capitalist markets to use and abuse her for personal gain and profit.

Now yoga’s talkin’ and it’s time we listen! No more trying to make her popular. No more changing her form to fit into our ways. No more marketing gimmicks and neon lights. No more odd pairings. And no more parading her through the streets on a leash!

Let’s answer her call with a Hell Yes!

Let’s show her our true, fearless, radical love for her.

Let’s come together and free her from the stranglehold of Westernization and commoditization! Let’s free her from our desire for higher profit margins, sold-out workshops and a potential placement on a magazine cover.

Let’s take her back and restore her wild, free-flowing feminine self!  And let’s courageously share her—completely and unapologetically—finally unleashing the richness and fullness of her wisdom, power and love into our world!


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Assistant Editor: Paige Vignola/Editor: Bryonie Wise

{Image: Kali by Raja Ravi Varma via WikiMedia}

Reply to Aimee M cancel

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Aimee M Dec 3, 2013 8:54pm

Thanks Keri, I've seen my health club transform from mostly spiritually based yoga classes with time for meditation, breathing as well as asanas and movement to heated power classes that feel like an aerobics class. I seek out and cherish the yogis who still teach classes which nourish me on all levels.

Keri Mangis Nov 30, 2013 4:54pm

What I hear in your message is that you are following your truth and expressing it. Following your heart. That is what I am calling for – truth, authenticity, and paying close attention to what is motivating us at all times. But why is it that if I ask for this (authenticity and truth), it automatically becomes yoga snobbery and elitist? Why is it the only way to be a true yogi(ni) is to be smiling and accepting of everything? Sometimes pointing out that the emperor is wearing no clothes is the most important thing to do.

My call is nothing more than to bring out the best in yoga, to share it without restraint. As teachers, to stretch ourselves, literally and figuratively and dive deep! Take our students deeper (you are of course right that not everyone will want to but there are many, many others who are spiritually hungry and go to yoga, and come away without a crumb – while at the same time finding classes with no spiritual undertone is pretty easy). Listen – you put out that plea for unity, support and discussion and I am there! We are, truly, wanting the same things.

Isis Phoenix Nov 30, 2013 9:00am

Hmmm interesting Keri. I hear your message and absolutely am in support of the return of the feminine. I too find my eyes rolling in classes that feel too commercial, when a teacher chants in a sing-songy way that has no authenticity to their own voice and own teaching, and at the same time some 'marketed' branches of yoga feel like they've evolved the practice rather than devloved or corrupted the practice. Lotus flow of Laughing Lotus gave me the freedom of expression to truly find the Goddess and art in the practice of yoga. I will of course speak to naked yoga for a moment that being my area of personal experience came from a transformative journey where I felt a true authentic connection with the mother goddess deep within myself. The impulse arrived how can I practice like this in a group. One wasn't available so I created one. I wanted to share my experience and continue deepening it. People showed up. Some people showed up who would never practice yoga otherwise. I had a Brooklyn NY cab driver as a student this week who told me this was the only way he could find the inspiration to take care of himself was to explore the practice naked. Should this practice be removed because perhaps a 'gimmick' got him in the door. I am an advocate of having an entry point for everyone. Every effort to rise raises another. It's like saying, if you can't read the classics don't read at all. Or if you're not a serious yoga student you shouldn't practice yoga. Some teachings need to be diluted and students need to be met where they are. Is a little yoga better than NO yoga? Because one cannot absorb all the teachings should the teachings be removed completely? That reeks of privilege and yogic snobbery to me and is dangerously close to being elitist. I hear the articles plea for authenticity and tradition, and also wonder of the separation this article creates. There is a rise in the "new-age-y" yogic community of spiritual elite-ism and I question the radical views in the article as a claim to authenticity that perhaps the shadow of the article is "I'm a better / more authentic yogi than you." Double eye roll. Of course as I write this and look at the judging in the article that I'm judging. Triple eye roll. I have been reflecting recently that it's easier to focus on the 10% that separates us rather than the 90% that brings us together. My counter to this is a plea for unity and mutual support and open discussion around these powerful issues to to remember we are wanting to ascend as a human species into one-ness and yoke ourselves together – the true meaning of yoga.

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Keri Mangis

Keri Mangis has studied and/or taught yoga, Ayurveda, Buddhism, Hinduism, Tantra, and any other spiritual teachings and healing modalities that has sparked her endless curiosity. She is a freelance writer/speaker whose work has appeared in Elephant Journal, Urban Howl, The Sunlight Press, and more. She is self-publishing her first book, Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness, in October of 2019.





You can connect with Keri on her blog, as well as on TwitterFacebook, Instagram.