September 9, 2020

Redefining Yoga in 2020: dropping the Guru & adopting this Mantra Instead.

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and cannot possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.


Prior to 2020, most of us could have predicted many things.

We could have predicted increased political polarization in America and possibly (sadly) more forest fires on the West Coast.

But along with the surprises of a United States toilet paper shortage and a novel virus that shut down global economic markets, I would have never expected the collapse of yet another yoga community.

Normally, we could turn to our sangat or yoga fellowship as a distraction to growing political division. We could have turned to our yoga practice to mentally sooth us from a pandemic where 55 percent of global deaths are occurring in the U.S.

Or we could have taken a virtual yoga workshop amid infighting between pro mask wearers vs. non-believers. And then we had the fall of another yoga guru, this time affecting one of the most spiritual yoga practices knows as Kundalini Yoga.

Kundalini, devastatingly, is facing turmoil and increasing controversy similar to sister yoga practices like Ashtanga and Bikram.

Undoubtedly, Kundalini Yoga lifted my spirits and placed me on a healthier path. It helped me transition from a dark and cutthroat world of pure politics in Washington, D.C. to ironically living a healthier and more peaceful existence in Las Vegas (another dark environment with more obvious imbalances).

I suddenly learned to interact socially without using alcohol abuse as a crutch and learned to live a fuller life that no longer revolved around politics, in and out of work. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Even my Catholic upbringing couldn’t overshadow my new yoga approach to being “gentler with myself,” and I learned to embrace and honor others despite their starkly different paths and journeys.

But 2020 came along unapologetically, like a freight train that isolated the world even from the gentlest and purest-appearing practices.

The alleged abuses and indiscretions by the leading guru who brought this practice to the U.S. are bad enough. But what’s also been increasingly heartbreaking are the divisions that this unveiling has caused within the yogi and yogini community.

Many are morphing and forming along political party lines but mostly engaging in “conspirituality.” Yogis who are skeptical about the “stories” of the abusers are ironically simultaneously embracing “child trafficking” conspiracies and mimicking “save the children” hashtags.

What is happening in the world? 2020, we’ve had enough! This really tops any political campaign scandal that I’ve ever experienced.

So what next? Maybe we all need a new mantra.

If we want to embrace our yogic beliefs and really follow the purest teachings and “sit through our discomfort,” maybe it’s time to do real work. Internal work is, of course, critical.

What’s driving us to react or withdraw? We’re sharing hashtags because the policy issue sounds impactful, but are we doing the work to find out how we can really help? Are we interested in fostering, volunteering, or mentoring abused children?

During the Age of Aquarius, where we’re flooded with so much data and news articles (legit and not legit) at lightning speed, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and do the real work at the grassroots level.

Sign up to volunteer at a shelter for battered women, donate to your local foster care agency, or help prepare back to school backpacks for foster children.

For good or for bad, many of us increasingly dedicated all of our time to our mats. But along the way, we forgot what the teachings are all about (me included)!

Being a good citizen, being a good yogi, and showing compassion isn’t just practicing those actions toward ourselves. Sure it starts there, but giving back isn’t just about reposting whatever we read on social media that “sounds great.”

There are many ways to get more involved at the grassroots level and in your local community. Even if it’s through a virtual campaign.

And don’t forget to breathe! Breathwork is one of the keys to yoga that has remained untapped and uncorrupted throughout all yoga disciplines. Your breath belongs to you.

Practice breathing deeply, using your lungs to their full capacity, and to reconnect with your inner knowledge. You will thank yourself later. Namaste.


“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” ~ Dalai Lama

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