let’s give ‘em something to talk about

Fasten your seatbelts, kids!  I’ve seen a flurry of articles about yoga on Facebook that SCREAM for pithy comments!

Here goes:

Tony Perkins Upset That ‘Goofy’ Yoga Classes ‘Driving Religion Out’ Of Military

Christian conservative leader Tony Perkins is upset — this time, about yoga classes being offered to military members.

Why? Because the “goofy” style of exercise has been used as a “wacky” substitute for a “personal relationship with God,” effectively driving religion out of the military.

My first thought on that was hmmmmm……maybe if yoga was not taught as strictly a fitness regimen in many places (“power” yoga, “yoga boot camp”, etc.) and the therapeutic (healing for both body and mind) aspects were emphasized, maybe this guy wouldn’t think it was a “goofy style of exercise.”  Maybe if he knew that real yoga is all about healing and transformation……  but I know I ask for too much.

I am  not talking about yoga therapy.  I am talking about therapeutic aspects of yoga in general.  I don’t separate the therapeutic aspects in my classes.  I occasionally do private yoga therapy sessions (such as trauma sensitive yoga), but I consider ALL my classes therapeutic in one way or another.  In western yoga culture, there is yoga and then there is yoga therapy.  Separation.  Duality.  No one called Krishnamacharya a “yoga therapist.”   Krishnamacharya’s principle was “Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.“   He taught that yoga should always be adapted to the unique needs of each individual.   When people lined up down the street outside his door he prescribed practices for them based on their individual needs, asana+pranayama+meditation.  It was just yoga.  It saddens me that I still have to explain to people that yoga heals, it’s not all about getting your ass kicked in a yoga class.

Actor, columnist, cook: Meet Yoga’s glamour girl Kathryn Budig

Damn, and I thought I was yoga’s glamour girl!  Ripped off again!  A comment from my Facebook page:  “‘she realized she was meant to be a yoga teacher.’  I never had that realization.  Rather, my teachers told me.  And I resisted.”

My teacher also told me to become a teacher and I resisted, too, but I became a teacher at 48, an age that some people think you’re all washed up.  I read something the other day:  in this culture when a woman hits her 50s she becomes invisible to men.  When a woman hits her 60s she becomes invisible to other women.   Good thing Ms. Budig is already a sensation at the ripe age of 29.

A New Year’s Resolution for Queer and Trans People of Color: Forget the Gym, Occupy Yoga Studios

This piece rocks!  I absolutely love it.  Although I am not black/brown/L/B or T, I feel the same way:

I’m tired of Googling “yoga” only to have images spat back at me that scream entitlement–the kind of entitlement that comes with being able to pay $18 for a class that takes place in some bourgie studio with the words “om” and “namaste” printed on everything and giant pictures of the Hindu God Ganesha everywhere.

I’ll tell you what I’m tired of:  yoga bleaching. 

yoga bleaching: 1. a form of marketing in which yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle is used to make an otherwise unrelated product appear to be in line with yogic principles. 2. the act of using yoga or an image of yogic lifestyle to sell an unrelated product. 3. a form of spin or marketing intended to deceive consumers into believing that a product is related to yogic practice or theory when in fact it is not.

The local studio is selling a natural deodorant with the name of DeOm.  Yes, you read it correctly:  DE OM with a conspicuous AUM symbol on the bottle.  It was created by a teacher at the studio using minerals and organic herbs.  You can sweat like a horse in your hot vinyasa class but not stink like a street in India:

pondicherry sign

Now I am all for women entrepreneurs and I know the teacher; she’s very nice, I like her, and I hope she makes a lot of money, I really do.   HOWEVER…..using a sacred symbol to push your product a la yoga bleaching makes me all types of itchy.  A different name and image perhaps such as LOTUS, even AKASHA?  I would probably buy a natural deodorant named Lotus or Akasha but wiping something with the AUM symbol under my arms?  But hey, that’s me.

Would it be any different if I invented some new fangled toilet paper and named it “Jesus Wipes” and put His image on it?

Just askin’.

Not Your Parents’ Yoga

Jason Brown once again knocks it out of the park:

Among serious-minded practitioners, there is palpable discontent with the course the yoga industry seems to be on. Teachers, who in the past were voices defining what yoga is in the 21st century, are now understandably more concerned with enjoying their latter years than attempting to push back against entrenched forces that care little for the soul of yoga. The newer generation has often been thrown out into the wilderness without the tools or knowledge to fulfill their impulse to carry the torch. In the absence of teachers framing the conversation and defining yoga in authentic ways, the market will always fill the gap with whatever sells….

One of my readers here wrote to me and said how refreshing it was to see someone doing “old school” with no apologies. There is much to be said about staying true to yourself and not caving to mainstream.  I may not have lots of students because I no longer teach in studios but as a friend told me, I and my students have created a true sangha, old school yoga way.

Folks are not buying just anything as yoga anymore. And they are telling their friends. The rampant commercialization and co-opting of yoga has become so overblown that even the unfamiliar are skeptical. Times remain too tough to effectively continue hocking candy-coated platitudes. From out of the daunting malaise of pressures and seeming demise, conditions are becoming more ripe to slough off obsolete thinking. No more will we be led around by false gurus or complacent with hypocrisies. No longer will success be defined by status or achieved at the expense of others.  We can and will do better. Let us have the courage to imagine it so.

I’m certainly not a yoga sensation like Ms. Budig but when a woman younger than her tells this Crone, “You are a life saver.  Without you I would be a stressed out 20 year old bitching about everything.  Now I live my life and I’m writing my own story and I have never felt better.  I tell everyone about you and how you guide people to find not only  happiness but themselves.  I thank you for opening my eyes to that.”….

….. THAT is success.  Priceless.

The New Mantra: Replacing ‘Om’ With ‘Glam’

The athletic-wear company Lululemon, known for its yoga togs, introduced a meditation-specific capsule collection in fall 2012, with pieces retailing at relatively affordable prices, including a Devotion Long-Sleeve Tee ($68) and an Intuition Sweater Wrap ($178) that doubles as a meditation blanket. With its extra-deep hood, the Please Me Pullover ($118) is perfect to wear during Zen Buddhist meditation practice, said Amanda Casgar, a spokeswoman for the company, since during the process “you keep your eyes open but focus on a point on the floor in front of you. Pulling the hood right down over your eyes automatically creates that line of sight,” she said.
For the more affluent enthusiast, Donna Karan’s Urban Zen line, affiliated with her charitable wellness foundation of the same name, has become a popular choice (sweat pants, $995).

Oh.  My.  Goddess.  How the hell did anyone meditate before the Please Me Pullover?!?  I mean, really?  Apparently these guys don’t know a damn thing about yoga and meditation ’cause they’re all nekkid!  How did they survive all these years?

IMG_1373

Real Yogis, Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, 2010

“When meditating, the author Gabrielle Bernstein avoids belts or drawstring pants. “Tying anything to your body blocks the energy flow,” she said.”  Please show me the palm leaf in India where that is written.   Is that in the secret palm leaf library in Tamil Nadu?

Note the traditional red string tied around the waists of these babas.

Just sayin’.

Lastly, while this is not a post on yoga per se, I believe it is relevant considering the NYT piece.

Creativist Manifesto:  Consumer v. Creator

I think it absolutely ties in with modern yoga.

Being a consumer means accepting an essentially passive role in our life, one in which we seek fulfillment through the accumulation of stuff, whether it be material goods, a high status job, or even in terms of our relationships.

And yet, increasingly, we know that living our life as consumers is damaging us—damaging us as individuals and as a society, and damaging the earth that supports us. As consumers, we are left searching for that which will give meaning to our lives, as we fail to find lasting satisfaction in consumption….

Instead of seeing ourselves as consumers, I believe we need to see ourselves as Creativists.

A Creativist is a person who creates and connects and acts. Creativists are connected with who they are and are driven from the inside out, rather than being defined by a position as a consumer in society. Creativists fulfill their need to create which is part of all of us. Creativists use their gifts, and in doing so connect with others and in turn society benefits.

The distinction is clear. Consume versus Create. And the forces of consume versus create contain within them a series of choices that we make everyday in our lives—in our relationships, at work and in our communities.

And that’s why Yoga — REAL Yoga — is a radical act.  As Krishnamacharya said, “Yoga is a process of replacing old patterns with new and more appropriate patterns.”  Real Yoga enables us to make appropriate choices for our relationships, work, and communities.

The renouncers of the Vedic rituals, the ancient yogis, the sramanas,  were radicals who made the choice to break free of mainstream 8th Century BC.

No special clothes required.

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19 thoughts on “let’s give ‘em something to talk about

  1. Thanks so much for this post.
    I was just feeling sorry for myself because for the first time in about 5 years, I cannot afford to sign up for a weekly yoga class at a nearby studio. Your post gave me a much needed ‘smack upside the head’, especially the part about the $18 a class studios because that is pretty close to what I was paying. I know in my heart that I don’t need to go to a studio to practice my yoga and after reading this post I can and will accept that, and roll my mat out in my own home. As for the clothing, and fancy mats – that was never my thing and I think it’s a shame that so many are caught up that kind of thing and are possibly missing out on the true value of yoga in their lives.
    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks …. I really appreciated your post today.

  2. Hi Linda, I’m working on a contemplation that has to do with teaching or guiding students to self practice. Perhaps without the committed intention to teach home practice, yoga teachers are prone to becoming baby sitters, enablers, or entertainers with themselves being their number one student.

    • “entertainers with themselves being their number one student.”

      No–more like slow learners with their paying students being THEIR teachers, is more like it.
      Any entertaining done by the teacher (the one up at the front asking for admission fees, that is) is so that the students feel they are gettting their money’s worth …

      [that's how I see it, anyway ...]

  3. This is part of an IM exchange with someone who has been following my blog for years, from just the other day:

    D: I was reflecting back this weekend on how far I’ve come in eight years (of practice). Cleared up all back problems.

    Me: I know, right? True change, true transformation – it’s wonderful stuff.

    D: I’ve had a nagging knee for years that I’ve just realized is strong and not giving me weird jolts of pain any more.

    Me: Yes, the work is worth it. I used to see a chiropractor on a regular basis, but not for years now. Not since my yoga practice got serious.

    D: Me too!

    Me: I don’t know how all these yogis are getting injured via their practice – what are they doing to push themselves so hard?!

    D: My “helpers” have all fallen by the wayside. Even yoga teachers.

    Me: Ultimately the practice is your teacher. Yoga teachers are only meant to be a guide, not a crutch.

    D: Yup. It does take time to realize it though.

    Me: Definitely. For years, before I got serious about my yoga… I was so disempowered in my practice and I didn’t even realise it.

    D: Disempowered?

    Me: Well yes… feeling like I didn’t know what to do, how to build a practice etc. I never felt like teachers encouraged me to learn how to either. But that could’ve just been where I was at, at the time.

    D: No I think you’re right. I also think that most teachers have no clue about what they are doing.

    There is an issue with teachers not empowering students. I suspect it’s all tied up in the murky grounds of the persona of the teacher…

    All of these crazy articles about yoga are in part, a result of the desire for some to be famous and put themselves as “rockstars” before the teachings.

    It has always been impressed upon me by my teachers that the teachings come first and teachers are just the channel for distribution.

  4. Linda, thank you for this post. I am a true practitioner of the old school way (as you so pleasantly put it). It is just yoga to me. Yoga is about awareness. Yoga is about finding the point of stability, within that awareness, and maintaining it throughout the practice.

    I am feeling sad because I am in an area wear highly stylized calisthenics (via yoga) are holding sway within the health clubs. I am not able to get any classes. However, in one of the places that I do have classes, I received an interesting compliment. This particular student was saying that, even though she enjoys flow/vinyasa type classes, she is finding that what I teach is instilling, within her, a sense of awareness. She said that she feels ‘stronger'(?). she has also begun trying to practice own her own more while ascribing to the particulars that I stress in class. Maybe there is hope for the promotion of the ‘old school way’.

    I teach stability, alignment and breath while transitioning, with awareness, from pose to pose. I will not compromise what I teach. However, that may mean that I will need to supplement my income. I cannot afford a $18.00 drop in fee but my home practice is ‘Strong and Consistent’. I will always keep up my meditation, my pranayama and my asana.

    Thank you, again, for this post.

  5. I met Kathryn B when she first started teaching small, late morning vinyasa classes at YogaWorks Santa Monica. She was much younger than I was, and a far less experienced practitioner. She dabbled in ashtanga, but that was my daily practice, so my whole world was a different one than hers even though she had a genuine appreciation for ashtanga culture and practice.

    On full and new moons, when I took a break from my regular practice, I’d always take one or two other classes in Santa Monica. There we so many wonderful “old school” hatha yoga teachers around, and I enjoyed dropping in with them every couple of weeks on my days off from ashtanga. Everything about the way that I practice values the older generations – all my teachers are over 50.

    But after Kathryn started teaching regularly, I made every effort to drop in with her, rather than with one of the dozens of other very experienced teachers available in Santa Monica those days. I’d already had a good, long exposure to the established, old school teachers in LA.

    But moreover, Kathryn was an excellent asana teacher. She didn’t fit my stereotype of a teacher worth my time – not in her age, approachability, or playful attitude. And to this day I am oblivious to any marketing or pop culture stuff she may engage in because I just don’t have an interest ing giving my attention to commercial yoga stuff. None of that bothered me though. I just enjoyed and respected her ability to teach an astoundingly good asana class.

    Sincerely, Angela Jamison

    • You gave me an idea, Angela Jamison. Since I am totally a home yoga practitioner these days (even using media sparingly), perhaps I should give absolutely no attention to pay-for-play yoga, which may include a young Kathryn Budig or a yoga rockstar, or anything in between. What say I tune all out?

      • I don’t know, amphib1. It’s kind of the cave yoga question, right? If your projections are making you either miserable or holier than though, then yeah, tuning out might be really nourishing.

        But then maybe you’d be able to sample selectively from the bullshit parade of contemporary yoga, and – based on the months or years of quiet time – be able to discern the genuinely good stuff hidden in plain sight?

        I don’t know. Personally, I struggle with this. I tried to write about my initial process of reactivity against modern yoga, and my ways of guarding myself from taking too much of it in, in my chapter in Carol Horton’s book, 21st Century Yoga. Starting my yoga practice in Santa Monica was hard for me. And now I still filter heavily.

        My projections are somewhat chilled out – I don’t get as judgey or angry or righteous as I used to… even though I can still be really critical in ways that I don’t think are just based on personal issues. But I still get REALLY fragmented mentally if I spend a lot of time on social media. When I catch my mental process (on the underlying grasping or loneliness that drives it) becoming especially vrittified, I step away for awhile.

        For example, I’ve been on a Facebook fast since Jan 1, for example. I love Facebook and am so grateful to have it as a tool. But taking a break from it is like a steam-cleaning for my brain. I’ll probably appreciate it more, and not overuse it to the point of regular hangovers, when I go back in a couple of weeks.

      • @(0v0), I have avoided Facebook for about 4 months, and counting. Don’t miss it.

        The thing about yoga that is the crappiest, and the next time I run into it and if I find it, go ONLY ONCE and never look back, is the bait-and-switch. Now, my actual physical living conditions and my lengthy commute are very stressful–and I do NOT want the insulting gentle, senior or boomer yoga … I wanted the yoga where they told you you would relax and it’s for everybody … so I round 60 years of age in a few years … but if someone teaches yoga claiming “you will relax” … but suddenly, in class “you’re in the Army now!” and they forget yoga was all about the modifications … yes, it’s back to my “cave” … (complete with rumblings in Sensurround from practically dormitory-age neighbors with their late hours and computer games) …

        The price is right, and if I need a workout from yoga, I learned how to do JUST THAT, from a studio I had to prehabilitate and cross-train to, and thus would not pay for it under those circumstances …

  6. Hello, sister traveler from the Southwest Side!

    I discovered your blog today and plan to jump in deeper. About to leave the house for awhile so wanted to say a quick hello and SAFE TRAVELS on your upcoming trip to India during this transformative period of your life’s journey.

    Just returned from a long-awaited trip to Egypt. During sunrise the day before the New Year, I stood beside the right paw of the Sphinx and watched the full moon rise over the Pyramids. Ahhhh….life is good.
    Am home now and ready for what comes next.

    Can it be that a couple of Hubbard ‘freaks’ are front and center in this life’s parade…?

  7. Pingback: Pole Dancing Yoga-when is yoga, really yoga? | Samsara and the City

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