Bonus: my definition of genuine yoga: “Yoga: the ancient wisdom of Californians.”
Yoga, While Exploding in Popularity, is Nearly Dead. #walkthetalk Waylon with Amy.
Patanjali’s Key Dualism: The Seer & The Seen ~ Julian Walker
“You’re coming by Hanuman,” everyone asks me, this week.
Well, to be more precise, affluent white women in their 20s are asking me, this week. No one else is asking me. Not the volunteers of Boulder Food Rescue. Not the activist working to prevent a subdivision from building on top of a former nuclear site. Not the artist, creating pottery out of her trauma-healing dreams. Not the entrepreneurs, working on laptops or the moms and dads working 9-5 on minimum wage that is half what it was, relative to cost of living, 50 years ago.
There are exceptions: Seane Corn devotes much of her celebyoginess to the benefit of others less fortunate. Still, it’s a life of planes and big checks and negotiating with sponsors and giving speeches to 20 year old white women who have posters of Franti tacked up on their bedroom ceiling.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being white, or a woman, or 20 years old—needless to say. In fact, only 70 years ago, women actually were not allowed to practice yoga. I’m “white,” and yet my grandparents could not do business in New York City because of racism, or ethnicism. And one of the great gifts this society has given the Millennial generation is yoga.
But something is wrong with yoga.
“Come by our booth,” she said! “We’re selling yoga pants!”
We’re friends, so I grinned when I replied: “Just what the world needs: more yoga pants.”
“Well, they need our yoga pants,” she smiled back. After a pause, in which I could tell she could tell I meant it. And maybe her brand of pants are donating 10% of the 7% profits off the top to saving the manta ray or preventing dolphin slaughter or factory farming. Maybe they’re made in the USA, or fair labor. Maybe they’re organic cotton, not plastic (which is all Lululemon and its imitators like Lucy really sell—sweating in plastic, anyone? Toxic, long-term).
But I doubt it. Hanuman is a great festival, a jewel of my hometown. There’s no better place to connect with Richard Freeman and go on hikes and hula hoop and spend a weekend with your friends and take a break from your busy, busy life.
But Hanuman, and Wanderlust, and Yoga Journal (increasingly—it was not always so) conferences are no longer conferences. They’re festivals. They aren’t about learning. They aren’t, always, about “real” yoga (defined here as alignment, breath and intention). They’re about celebyogis. They’ve about partying (and, often, drugs). They’re about consumption, plastic, flying and its carbon footprint, and sponsors that are often anything but “eco.”
If the yoga community can’t love our planet, and find a path of right livelihood, who will?
Sorry, what’s that I said? I meant yoga industry.
‘Cause this isn’t the yoga community. This is the yoga industry. An industry more worked up about paying for playlists than remembering the point of yoga: meditation. An industry that is all about money, and sex, and fame.
Which reminds me of every other industry.
But the yoga community? It’s fine. You won’t find it at the festivals, easily. It’s there. But you will find it, easily, in a mother’s bedroom, in the morning, where she practices her home yoga routine so that her body and mind open and relax enough to help her through a challenging day.
You will find it in the little yoga studios that don’t fork over $20,000 bucks for an Instagram yoga star who only recently completed his yoga teacher training, but looks damn good in slomo backbends and short shorts (not that I got anything against short shorts).
You will find the yoga community in the present moment, and the gap between deep powerful breaths, cascading like snowmelt down a long-frozen dam.
Yoga is alive and well.
Yoga industry is alive and well, too, and it is calcifying around yoga and threatens to strangle it in an unloving hug.
And that’s fine. We can deal with it. We must deal with it. But as long as yoga industry pretends to be yoga community—as long as we fail to talk about the backroom deals that keep a woman-battering sleazeball on the yoga posters instead of yoga giants like Patricia Walden or Erich Schiffman, well—I’m afraid for the future of yoga.
Right now, we have the best of times: the yoga titans are alive, and well, and teaching. But many of them are in their 60s, now, or older. The next generation is talented, and has all the tools and books and props and festivals and Snapchat and Facebook and Instagram they could wish for. Most yoga teachers, however, get paid horribly by studios.
A few teachers get paid handsomely—and the difference is all money, not integrity. Some teachers are good at bringing the $$$s in, and maintaining alignment, breath and intention as the core of their teaching. But many are more about charisma, their funny laugh, their half-baked spiritual lessons, their social media followings.
The solution is simple. Search out teachers you respect. Forget celebyogis, unless they walk their talk. Practice on your own, or at home. Maintain a sense of humor, instead of the kind of defensiveness and aggression I’ve seen in yoga businesses and students burned by the fall of their yoga idol off his or her pedestal. Get back on the mat, and forget the Industry. Practice, and all is coming.
PS: maybe I’ll see you at Hanuman, this weekend—I’ll pop by after Farmers’ Market.
The aforementioned Boulder Food Rescue and its food pantry friends don’t have enough support to help the starving or the homeless:
A wonderful teacher with a sense of humor who includes meditation practice in her teachings:
Cutting yoga ambition:
Yoga with Integrity:
The definition of true yoga is one word:
Waylon and Kasey at the first Hanuman:
Waylon at Wanderlust on “Club Yoga.”