Yoga is defined as “a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.” (Merriam-Webster)
Yoga has always been about mediation practice, of finding inner peace. Yet lately it feels as though, for some, yoga has become the latest trend and popularity contest.
This morning I was at my local farmers market, which has a lawn that people use for yoga during the market. It was full, but it looked less like a yoga session and more like a competition. Each person was twisting into a complicated inversion or a series of acro-yoga, and the next person was working to beat that pose.
As I approached the group, I asked one of the women what type of yoga they were practicing. She replied that they weren’t doing a specific type, but were more just us showing off their skills. Then she smiled and added that you’re more likely to get men once they see how flexible you are.
I watched as she joined a group of others, and they made a pyramid by combining poses with acrobatic moves, and then fell to the ground.
I left frustrated and annoyed because I’m in their age group—another 20-something.
I look like most of the women there: young, fit and white. We’re part of a stereotype that has gotten so much flack recently in the yoga word. Words like “yoga porn” have been used to describe people like us. But I’ve always defended myself and other young, fit yogis. Just because we may look this way or take pictures of ourselves while practicing doesn’t mean we aren’t pursuing yoga for the right reasons.
Today left me angry because this group of young yogis was proving the stereotype right. They weren’t practicing yoga for inner peace, they weren’t looking for meditation, or how to control their breath.
They were simply using yoga as a competition, as a way to show off how fit and flexible they were. Their practice was about the outward appearance and drawing people in. Somewhere the sense of what yoga is meant to be got lost.
I began to worry that we as a whole are losing sense what what yoga is. It was never meant to be trendy or a popularity contest. Yoga isn’t just for the young, fit and beautiful. Yoga is for everyone. It’s meant to be so much more than physical practice. It’s spiritual. It’s less about defining our abs and more about finding inner peace.
Those of us who love yoga, who find peace and tranquility each time we step onto the mat, need to remind others what yoga is meant to be. We need to welcome all those who wish to learn and grow and rejoice when we conquer a difficult pose, but not just because it appeals to our vanity.
We need to remember that yoga is so much more than a trend or a way to catch men with our flexibility. We need to start focusing on yoga as it was meant to be.
Author: Michele Genzardi
Editor: Evan Yerburgh
Image: Elephant archives