To the person standing there, slack-jawed, watching me move through Surya Namaskara,
My yoga practice is not a spectator sport.
You know what the last thing I want to see is when I inhale and look forward?
If I flow or bend or breathe with grace, I do so for the benefit of my spirit alone. Your entertainment is not my concern. Not right now.
If my movements are sensual, well, I am made of skin and curves and limbs—I am a sensual creature. That gives you no right to watch me. (Just so, a woman’s choice in clothing never justifies the violation of her space.)
Not everyone has the luxury of a private space in which to practice yoga. If I am on the beach, or the roof, or the the lawn, it is because I literally have nowhere else to go.
Not everyone chooses privacy when it is available, you might argue. And you would be correct. With yoga at risk for becoming an Olympic sport, we can have a different conversation about the future of Yoga with a capital ‘Y’ and the ethics of treating it as a sport. I have no interest in judging others’ choices regarding their yoga practice.
I’m not talking about Yoga. I’m talking about my yoga.
It’s not for you.
By forcing your presence—your watchfulness— into the space I try so hard to create, you take away a little bit of the joy I find there. You disrespect me, too.
You bring in irritation and disquiet—the last things I wish to feel during this time.
Despite my best efforts to ignore you, I feel compromised by your stare. And it doesn’t help that you’re standing right in my drishti.
Here in rural Kenya, I am more forgiving, since you probably haven’t had much exposure to yoga, and I don’t know how to ask, nicely, for you to go away. Your curiosity makes sense, at least.
But for the other you—the American you who came to my yoga classes for the scenery; the daft you who saw one playboy feature and decided to equate yoga with sex; the you who knows better and still looks on with unconcealed interest—for you I have no patience.
Understand this: My yoga is not a spectator sport.
If my practice strikes you as ridiculous, graceful, strange or beautiful, that’s nice. Now go on about your day, because it is for me. Please remember that my movements do not exist for your diversion.
When next I open my eyes, I hope I won’t see you there.
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Author: Toby Israel
Editor: Renee Picard
Photos: tiarescott at Flickr
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