As a yoga teacher, you’d think I’d be all about the whole yoga thing. But yeah, not so much. Oneness, transcendence, bliss - I hate that crap. I hate letting go, seeing the good. If you’re going to use the words “tribe” or “authentic”, you’d better be an anthropoligist or an antique dealer, and when someone tells me not to judge, I judge them. Hard.
I mean, I love yoga. I love the moving part, and the way doing the yoga poses makes me strong - I even love it on the days when I don’t feel strong. I love breathing. I LOVE the weird lived metaphors that happen, the way movement generates insights that fall right in line with whatever is happening in my day to day life, and somehow make me better at it. Better at life I mean.
It’s hard to explain if you don’t do yoga, but the process of working through the little challenges of interacting with gravity and just having a body gives me a sense of how to work through other kinds of challenges that come up in life, non-body ones. It even helps me identify those challenges - to figure out, for example, which parts of my life need stronger, firmer boundaries, and how to shore those up. Or how to hone in on and dig into the resources that are available to me because they are a part of me, and make use of them. Or find my proverbial footing, and maybe even take a step forward. There’s no one way to walk through a life, but the trick is to somehow keep at it, and figure it out as we go, and I think yoga helps me know how to do that.
But Jesus, the monster that is the modern yoga industrial complex, there’s so much to be actively unenthused about. Instagram photos of skinny white twenty-somethings doing backbends at the grand canyon or on a surfboard in bali or whatever. Eating disorders disguised as juice cleanses. The reams of paper waste that lands in my actual mailbox every day trying to sell me my own integrity or wholeness.
I didn’t mind that stuff so much at the beginning. Well, aesthetically, maybe the lifestyle didn’t appeal - the stretchy flowy outfits and what not. When I stepped onto my first yoga mat, I was a former punk rock teenager turned eccentric bohemian socialist in grey Dickies pants and Redwing work boots. Interestingly, the outfits make sense to me now. They’re pragmatic, and I can always get behind pragmatism, plus the truth is, colors are nice. Life is brutal and sometimes it helps to just look at something cheerful, and I’m happy to be that something, especially for my yoga students. But the closer in I got to the mechanics of the message - it’s all good, the universe loves you - the more I came to understand it as just another way that society’s controlling systems serve to disempower the unsuspecting. That western-world yoga talk, and frankly, much of the tradition it’s rooted in is just the same old garbage served up by every other religion you’ve ever condemned or run away from. Beware the good vibrations, my people.
There are great people in the yoga world, of course there are. Some of my best friends are yoga teachers. But you’re vulnerable when you’re sweaty and full of endorphins, and even the well-intentioned can get caught up in the Guru hype and then pass it on to you. Like with anything, you just have to be discerning. And you know what discernment is right? Judgment.
As the saying goes -
“It’s good to have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.”