A scary world
Those of you who read my Facebook page may have seen the recent article I posted from Elephant Journal, in which a yoga teacher comments on the nature of yoga as it is practised in America today. For me, it made for pretty scary reading. It painted a picture of a culture in which I struggle to recognise the essence of yoga as a way of life that brings together body, mind and spirit.
The author, Robyn Parets, described classes in which the most important thing seems to be some form of gimmick that can act as a hook to draw people to the practice. Rather than helping students to slow down and find some inner space, it appears that classes are trying instead to appeal to just the opposite; the face-paced and full-on approach which typifies modern life if we allow it.
When I first started teaching yoga, I worked in gyms and leisure centres. Here, the majority of students were likely to want an exercise-style class. I felt pressure to deliver a faster-paced class, with more postures in less time. Many times I struggled (and frequently failed) to hold the class together as we practised to the tune of a thudding bass line and the grunts and groans from weightlifters working just outside. Mindfulness didn’t really come into it.
Since then, I have managed to establish enough classes of my own to not need to work in these environments. I still meet people whose interest in yoga is purely physical, but find they are not that keen on my style of teaching. I remember the ones who were pleased to have lost 2 stone in weight by attending hot yoga classes…and told me that they sometimes threw up after the session.
Now, as well as hot yoga, we have naked yoga, and just this week I saw an article on ‘Paddleboard yoga’. I wonder where it will go and when it will stop. Already it seems to me that much of it is exercises that just happen to look like yoga postures. At what point do we stop calling it yoga?
It feels as if there is an endless quest for something, that indefinable something that we feel our modern lives lack. We know it’s missing but can’t quite figure out what it is. In our not knowing, we may look to the familiar. Alternatively, we trust in the promises of the new and different, going to greater extremes in our search. All this does is lead us further away, to further distractions and greater confusion.
By running towards the solutions we run away from the answer. We may find it is closer than we imagined if we but choose to look.