Yoga is ______________, Yoga is not _____________.

Posted By Mimi on Jan 9, 2012 in O2 Yoga Blog | 5 comments


I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, or read, what yoga is and what is not from obviously biased sources. You probably have seen the latest article on Yoga that was written in the NY Times recently. Karen and Julie both sent me this link. I have a feeling that at least one of them was hoping that I would write something about it and they were right. The article is called, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.
Hmm, I wonder what the bias might be on this one. I can say so many things about this starting with the photos of the people looking like idiots but that is truly not what gets me riled up. What bothers me the most about this article is, okay, I am having trouble singling out just one thing. I am going to make a list.

1. The fear mongering. Don’t we already have enough fear in our lives being shoved down our throat by the media?
2. The constant referral to what yoga is and what it is not, and the irony of those statements.
3. The reference to experts.
4. The photos of the authors doing postures like shoulder stand with their head turned side-ways that the article says can be dangerous.
5. The perpetuation of the idea that people need experts and the media to tell them what is good and bad.

I am not protective of the Yoga industry. And I do believe it is a business like any other. I also believe yoga is a tool that helps many people find their way through this incredibly over-stimulating, dis-empowering world. I am not yoga. Yoga is not me. I am going to say something incredibly corny. Yoga can be used for good or evil. Like any belief system it can be manipulated by it’s users for all kinds of uses.

I read this article yesterday morning. I then read the comments and, although I felt that I had a bit more to say on the subject, was not compelled to write about it. It continued to marinate in my brain though. Later on, I met with a good friend of mine who works at the retreat center where we are staying. We talked about a lot of things and she told me a story that has gotten me out of bed and writing at 5:30am. There is a yoga teacher who comes here frequently. He brings in huge groups and therefore a ton of money. Over the years, I have heard countless stories about how abusive he is to the staff, how dismissive he is to his own, and how manipulative he is to his students. I have always known it but this story pushed me over the edge. Three weeks before he came down here last spring, he demanded that they have their usual bonfire on the beach. The staff tried to tell him, well actually, they speak through one of his staff, he never speaks directly to anyone here, that May and June are when the sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach. If you know anything about this process, you would know that any light will draw the baby turtles in the wrong direction, away from the water. Anyway, he bypassed the retreat staff and went straight to the owner. Guess who won, not the sea turtles. There was a bonfire on the beach in May and then again in June.

I am feeling absolutely sick over this. Not because I am a yoga teacher, but because I am someone who believes in right action. I feel buried under a mountain of injustices in which I have little to fight back with. I guess this idea of what yoga is and what is not is completely missing the point. My question is, how do I navigate through this world and not get knocked off course by these people who are either following the money, following the person who is following the money, or following the herd because it is safer?

My friend who works here said to me, “we like to say Mimi equals yoga, this other guy does not equal yoga.” That is lovely to hear but is it really true? Apparently, we both equal yoga. What I don’t get is, why do so many follow this guy, I mean like thousands of people? Quite frankly, I don’t want to be followed. I want to inspire others to follow their own path, to do what they believe is right and to make the world better. Right now, I am feeling a bit out numbered or out-gunned might be a better way of putting it.

I am trying to think of a way to tie this all up but I just can’t. the Buddhists say it is important to learn how to sit with discomfort, dukkha, not try to change it. I guess that is just where I am at, sitting in the middle of paradise and discomfort at the same time.