Yoga: Is it Just Fake, Watered-Down Bullsh*t for the Pseudo-Enlightened?

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Brace yourselves, warriors, I’ve got bad news: I’m beginning to wonder if anyone knows what the hell yoga really is.

The time may have come for the skeptics and the doubters to take to the streets with megaphones and cry out to the masses, “You’re all being brainwashed! Stop spending your time and money on the LSD-inspired, empty promises of a long gone hippie generation!” 

They should have stopped at “Make Love, Not War.” That would have been just fine.

In case you can’t tell, I’m right smack in the middle of a pretty serious existential crisis. And I wonder: after 18 years of yoga practice, where did I go wrong? Was my back foot not squared off enough in Warrior 2 that one day? Did I set an inappropriate intention for my practice that time I was thinking about hamburgers instead of keeping my inward gaze on the breath? Maybe a beautiful, red bejeweled chiffon piece of fabric will drape itself over me and whisk me away like a magic carpet ride to a picturesque rocky formation in the desert for some bitchin’ selfies…

What can I say? My major coping mechanisms come from watching Quentin Tarantino movies and listening to Dark Side of the Moon over and over. When I got serious about yoga, I knew I was going to need a bigger boat. But right now it’s 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday, and I’m in bed eating Oreos. I’m not so sure I’m in the mood to explore an imminent psychic shift wrapped in an identity crisis.

Bring on the Pink Floyd.

I’m here to tell you, just wishing for a lightning bolt of enlightenment to crack you open and throw glitter on your wounded heart will get you nowhere, friends.

Lately I’ve found myself imagining a world with no illness, decay or death, all of which I’ve had experience with in the recent past, along with the trappings of overwhelming fear and emotional pain about, well, everything. I’ve wished for health and happiness for all living things on earth, and for peace in my own life which, no matter how many chatarungas I do, is kind of a mess.

C’mon, yoga. It’s a scary world out there. Give me something to believe in, ‘cuz blind faith ain’t my style.

I’ve been gullible in the past. My brother used to tell me Charles Manson had escaped from prison and was coming to get me—and, of course, I believed him. I bit into a raw clove of garlic once on a dare and because I was told it tasted like candy. (It doesn’t.) These days, I’m having a hard time not letting my skeptic side get the better of me.

“Open your heart, and let the Divine sit down.” ~ Anonymous. Is the “All Knowing One” really that lazy?

“Take one step toward the Divine, and the Divine will cross galaxies to reach you.” ~ Hindu saying. Who’s the lazy one now?

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~ Rumi. I’m tying my running shoes, and I’m already out the door. You better be there, dude.

I can see the flashing neon billboard. “Spirituality: Just Do It.”

I’m onto you, yoga. You’re trying to deconstruct the ego, so you can build it back up the proper way. Some people call this “enlightenment,” when the seekers and the hunters untangle their restless spirits from the bondage of self-limiting boundaries. Others don’t know what to do in the in-between time, so they end up doing mighty drastic stuff like shaving their head or getting neck tattoos.

I know there’s a place between heaven and earth for real transformation and all, and I’m tired of being on the outside looking in. Hook me up, yoga. I need what you got.

Before there was internet, TV, Pharrell Williams and the “Happy” song—which I love—before flavored vodka, Über (or ümlets) and every other modern amenity, a bunch of dudes got together and created a daily discipline that would take them closer to their maker and improve their chances of coming back to this world in the form of something other than an unevolved, bottom-feeding mini-monster.

They spent their time mulling over stuff and philosophising not about Down Dog variations, but on the meaning of life and the cyclical nature of the law of cause and effect we call karma. And it’s more grave than we once thought; thanks to some dirty deeds done by the sinners and scamps of the world, we’re now walking among former murderers, thieves, con artists, deviants and dancing tricksters.

Is no one afraid of hell anymore?

Screw it. 10 million Hindus and truth seekers can’t be wrong. I’ll be at yoga with the other broken toys, hopefully moving toward something authentic and beyond beautiful together.

Who’s with me?


Author: Anne Clendening

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Photobucket

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Anne Clendening

Anne Clendening was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is a yoga teacher and author of Bent: How Yoga Saved My Ass, published January, 2018. You can read her darker thoughts on her blog Dirty Blonde Ink. She is currently living in L.A. with her husband and their boxer dog Sabina.

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anonymous Mar 13, 2015 9:20am

Got new Hard Tail pants. Recommended by a receptionist at a distinguished yoga studio, who was very high on spirituality. I love them. Now I have to make enough money to afford them.

Every time I pass a joke about spirituality I feel someone wants to crucify me immediately.
Yet, not joking about it puts you in a cage of it, which defies the point.
I got my shoe laces done, see you in the field.

anonymous Mar 11, 2015 7:56am

"Brace yourselves, warriors, I’ve got bad news: I’m beginning to wonder if anyone knows what the hell yoga really is."

…er…isn't that the point? If you think you know exactly what it is then it isn't that. Neti Neti.

Last month I listened to all of Dark Side of the Moon on the coach drive through the West of Scotland on my way back from 5 days of yoga in London. I hadn't listened to the album in full for years. I wept during Great Gig in the Sky. Amazing.

All I wanted to do was learn some stretches for my back. 5 years later I'm crying in the car on the way to class for no reason other than I'm feeling all the physical sensations under my emotions. Fuck enlightenment, just being alive is miraculous.

Nice article. Thanks.

    anonymous Mar 11, 2015 12:43pm

    OMG I love that. so awesome!!!! Thanks Richard, nicely said 🙂

    anonymous Mar 15, 2015 4:01pm

    Hi Richard, hit me up, I have a question for you…

anonymous Mar 10, 2015 3:55pm

"10 million Hindus and truth seekers can’t be wrong"

Why not?

Fact is there are as many definitions of "yoga" as there are practitioners and much of the "philosophy" they endorse is at best poorly thought through.

We don't really know for sure what "original" yogis believed or practiced, though what we can know is that some of what they practiced historically is a very bad idea to imitate, some far too extreme and damaging to the body to imitate, and that what we would now call "hindus" rejected "yogis" as not interested in the spiritual but only interested in physical advancement. For far too many people, for far too long, "Karma" was nothing to do with "cause and effect" and everything to do with keeping the masses subject to a brutal social order. Even without the caste system it's so obvious to the meanest intelligence that "Karma" doesn't apply in every case that reincarnation has to be tacked on as an invisible and unprovable restorer of the balance.

Become a Hindu, study "Eastern" philosophy, blend both with practicing some watered down gymnastic routines from the 1920s-30s and mix in some more traditional asana but do it with a clear intellect. Remember that the body likes to move well, the brain is part of the body and feels better when the body feels better, and sometimes it's as simple as getting the right variation on down dog.

    anonymous Mar 13, 2015 9:10am

    You are not into sarcasm, are you?
    Try it. It's fun. You might like it 🙂

anonymous Mar 10, 2015 12:31pm

~ THIS is AWEsome! To the Dirty Blonde, from the dirty brunette ….. Never have been afraid of hell, I will save you a seat.

    anonymous Mar 10, 2015 4:59pm

    Hi Debbie, you are AWEsome! Thanks for reading and for the hell coment hee hee 🙂