Yoga… what Yoga?

asan

Beware; this post is full of irony, judgment, frustration and my personal thoughts on Yoga.

 

10/08/2014

‘’Good morning, yogis and yoginis! (Well, since, we practice Yoga we have the right to call ourselves that way, don’t we? Some of us might even call ourselves, as yogi masters, as well …OM…) . Today, we’re going to practice Christian Yoga (wtf?), followed by, Power yoga, then, Acro yoga, Forest yoga, Hot yoga, Vinyasa flow, Partner yoga and, lastly, Bikram yoga. Don’t you worry, we’ll follow the trend. Now don’t forget to bring your rubber-free, yoga mats (only 70euros, designed and decorated with beautiful chakra symbols) and make sure to follow the organic diet I have recommended in my health/yoga/beauty/lifestyle blog.  There are, also, some wonderful yoga pants you could buy, in order to feel more comfortable in the class…it’s a bargain, really, only $49.99. Now allow me to take you onto a journey of self discovery; I am a certified yoga instructor by the yoga alliance organization (thank god, I paid 1.500-3000 euro, so I can be eligible and allowed by this organization to teach Yoga, worldwide.) Now I see we are only women in this class (oh wait, there is one male also, surprise-surprise) so we are going to practice some asana good for menstruation, and to lose all the necessary weight, we gained during the holidays…Summer is coming and we must stay fit and beautiful.  But first an introduction: Yoga means Union, it is an ancient practice originated in India, but since we are in the West, we have made some slight changes for our own comfort…In fact, let’s just forget about India, that was thousands of year ago anyways..Namaste’’

Yoga might mean Union but is also a multi-billionaire industry nowadays. Mostly, evident in the US.

I remember my early shy step into this path…

It was a November afternoon, three years ago, I decided to go to my first yoga class. I remember having a walk in the forest with my dearest friend and Blanca, the naughty dog. While looking at the trees, I told her that it was about time for me to learn how to breathe properly and keep my body in a straight line…well, why don’t you try yoga, then?

I had no real clue, whatsoever, of how a yoga class could be. However I had this image in my head that Yoga should be taught through a true and respectful relationship between the teacher and the student (one to one), and certainly with no money involved. So when I expressed my desire of how I would like to start my Yoga journey at the owner of the yoga studio, he looked at me as a freak, he laughed and then he said ‘’that is impossible for now.’’ Although, disappointed, I entered the shala (after paying my class fee) and was greeted by a middle aged woman and five female practitioners. I was the only male, and immediately, started feeling a bit awkward. The instructor looked at me and said ’’first rule of this class is, Inhale and surrender.’’

Inhale and surrender… ok, I can do that…then mantra chanting, meditation,  warm ups, followed by Surya Namaskar, then so many animals have followed , accepting all, trying to figure out what the heck am I doing here? Inhale, exhale, welcoming the animals in my body: a pigeon, a cat, a cow, the dolphin, a cobra, the eagle, a downward facing dog, the fish and a camel. Stay with the breath… and then I was transformed into a warrior, a lord of the fishes, a wheel, a bow, a boat, a cosmic dancer, a child and a tree…oh when the tree posture came, I felt certain  I was in the right place. No, I no longer cared that I paid a fee, that I was surrounded by women, that I didn’t really know what I was doing there. Letting go…My body and mind took me places I never thought capable of.

After three consistent years of practice, I feel, I have accomplished so many things due to Yoga. There is no point in naming them as I am the only one who can truly identify them. Besides, I doubt that you are still reading this post.

I try not to talk about yoga to my friends or my parents, although it is a passion, an addiction to me, because I feel this is a journey inwards and only those who practice it can truly understand. Also it is changing all the time. The journey I mean. Sometimes I feel happy, others frustrated. Sometimes I feel complete, others empty. I am a human being, full of capabilities and strength but also full of emotions, desires and weaknesses.

However, there are times, male friends ask me how the girls in the class are, or female friends ask me if that yoga instructor was hot , and stuff like that, which really make me feel uncomfortable, as I don’t really pay attention to all this crap. If I want to meet a girl I will go to a party or a bar and certainly not to a yoga class. Also, I know many people who thought of starting yoga but felt unworthy as they are not fit enough, stretched enough. Well, blame the media and the yoga industry for that. If you do a little search on line about yoga what you’ll find, is a bunch of happy, smiley, gym freaks, showing off their –perfect-asana demonstration. They all talk about enlightenment, pure bliss, spirituality but they have polished their teeth, wore their makeup, had been photographed with their expensive yoga accessories near by a lake, in a meditative posture and, also, advertised their classes and fees. How contradictory is that? How self centered are they? Can’t they see that they look like a product ready to be bought and consumed?

Ok, yes I know, it is the Time we live in. Everything is a product and you must certainly play by the rules. You need to advertise the product and follow the current trend. But yoga is not a product. Yoga is certainly not the ‘hot’ women wearing tight pants, making videos, half naked performing the bridge pose, seriously, this looks like soft porn in to my eyes, not a bridge pose.  If I wanted to see women wearing bikinis, there are other sites and videos for this.

Up until now, although I stopped paying for classes, for more than two years, – I practice on my own- I always keep in mind to practice with awareness. And I owe that to my wonderful first teacher, who truly showed me a beautiful and introductory path to yoga. (Mind you, she is not ‘’certified’’ by these yoga institutions and organizations)

We must remember that yoga is not only for women, nor men

Not only for the fit and gym freaks

Not only for happy and positive people

Not only for people who call themselves spiritual

Not for hipsters and vegetarians

Yoga indeed is union, a solitary journey

A path full of ups and downs

One day you might accomplish a headstand, the other day you might fall

Why is that? Why have you fallen? Listen to your body each day, what does it say to you?

The important thing is to keep making that appointment between you and your body

Between you and your mind

Between you and your limitations

Finding the balance and inner peace

Finding your lost breath

Finding your ritual.

Finding gratitude and respect

Infinite love and appreciation.

It’s all there. Deep inside you. Tired of hiding.

Your inner small god.

Remember to breathe; remember to practice every time and everything, with awareness.

Remember we go to a Yoga class so we can have our practice. We are not going to a Yoga class so that, other people see us, practice.

Remember, we should keep our practice, therapeutic and pleasant. No competition. Respect our boundaries.

Remember that every posture with a breath is a Yoga posture.

Remember to let go…

Every day is a challenge.

note: there are (fortunately) numerous people, yoga instructors and online information that don’t perceive Yoga as a product, and treat Yoga with respect and, certainly, there are, also, those practitioners that may have started Yoga for the wrong reasons but soon discovered its true benefits and the spirituality within the practice and the path itself.. Lastly, i would like to recommend a funny film/documentary Kumare (2011). I think it is relevant to today’s confusing post.

 

 

 

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28 thoughts on “Yoga… what Yoga?

  1. A lovely, lovely article that touched me a lot as I’ve also thought about some of these things, though not in so much depth – especially since I don’t really practice yoga these days – but who knows, I may go back at some point!
    To add to your frustration – http://yogabeats.com/tequila-yoga/
    Keep on doing what you are doing. If we are ever at the same place, I’d love you to be my yoga teacher!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vanidio! it will be my pleasure and honor to have you as a student at some point..
      ”tequila yoga” that’s new….hm, not bad..haha, now if it was ”single malt whiskey Yoga” it would have been even better 😉

      Like

    1. left Athens, couldn’t afford living there, at the moment, but i intend to come back at some point. early july, probably will be in an island..leave athens and catch a ferry..will be practicing Yoga on the beach-early in the morning!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Top question I get when I tell people I manage most of my MS symptoms with yoga is “what kind?” When I shrug and say “hatha, I suppose”, nobody seems to understand; they ask ‘Hot?’ (which would be really stupid; people with MS can’t handle heat!) I practice by myself now for all the reasons you mention here; the *business* of yoga, like the business of “Zen” and “Mindfulness Meditation”, nauseates me. I also like to have no set place to practice — might be in my living room, or in the back yard, or in the 7th floor stairwell at work — just so long as I keep that appointment I’ve made with myself, as you put it so well. If I blow off that date, I will pay the consequences! (PS: Yes, everyone should watch “Kumare”!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. haha!
    its true, blowing off that date comes with consequences…practicing on your own is way much ‘stronger’ in a sense you need discipline(something i highly lack off..so i am becoming better in that sense)
    i am glad you liked Kumare.. i bet Claudio is an expert in cat pose 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never been to a yoga class, but I’ve learnt some poses from other people and I do them every day as part of my parkour training. It makes me feel present and as though everything is its own reward, which is a good mindset for parkour as it makes you less likely to land on your head. Inspiring post! And I will check out Kumare 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Victor!(i almost be named victor as well, but that’s another story)so true…”being present, thinking everything is its own reward” how come i didn’t write this..this is very important, thanks for mentioning it…i guess i wasn’t present at all, whilst writing this..haha
      woof and meow!

      Like

      1. LOL! Well, it’s what I got from you as a take home message. It’s always easier to summarise other people, anyway. I hope we get to read the story of how you almost became my namesake 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. A very interesting post has appeared in my mail list, this morning. Somehow I knew, it was a matter of time for you to write such an article. You reminded me of myself, before being qualified by the Yoga Alliance to teach Yoga (Ironic, hah?). I agree with many of your points, there is too much information today about Yoga and some of it, is quite misleading as well (i.e. Yoga is only asana to name one). At first, I refused to be part of it, I had been practicing for more than a decade, living in northern India for years, teaching. It wasn’t until I came back to Europe that , suddenly, felt ‘unqualified’ as many of my potential students and yoga studios were asking me if I was qualified by the Yoga Alliance to teach -which is not necessarily, a bad thing, to be honest. People felt insecure. Do not ask me why. However, I have learnt so many useful things by the Yoga Teacher Training courses, as well. It has been a useful tool. Of course it is the Times we live in, capitalism as you claim, but there is always a fine balance between that and what you are willing to offer to this world. What is your purpose. I am sure you’ll find your way, through this, and you will be an excellent teacher one day! I just know, you will.be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good morning Alex! and somehow i knew you would come up with a comment like this, haha! thank you for this. my disappointment is more general than yoga it self. yoga is important for me so that is why i chose this example(plus i wanna teach in the future). it is the fact that no matter what you wanna do, in this world you just have to pay. this is a misconception..why best things in Life are for free? why shouldn’t be this way with so many other things? why do i have to have a piece of paper of worthless, iconic value define what i am capable of following/consuming/appreciating/enjoying, in my life?why everything is turning onto a product? i am aware of the yoga alliance system. i am aware of the so many useful parts of it, for teaching. what i am trying to say is that someone who has this (huge) amount of money to spend for the program, doesn’t necessarily make him/her a good nor a ‘qualified’ yoga instructor. pff, i don’t know, i guess i am struggling to keep that fine balance between this system and my offerings, as you nicely said..
      all the best

      Like

  6. I really liked reading this, geo and wanted the right moment to comment because the right moment is always important, ha! I watched Kumare and smiled then smiled some more. What a great journey! Here’s to journeys outside of the imposed system…. Εις υγείαν!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree that there is definitely a juxtapose inherent in practicing yoga in western culture. 🙂 But then that seems to be the same with all things spiritual. I find personally that what matters most in the long run is how I feel about myself at the end of the day. Sure, commercialism has seeped into and taken advantage of every positive movement out there – but thanks to commercialism, I do have a nice sticky mat available, comfortable clothing to stretch in, blocks, and a wonderful tibetan singing bowl which enhance my practice. I think what it boils down to is what your personal motive is for doing it, and if you’re absolutely content with your choices, then that’s fantastic.

    You’ll love this YouTube video by JP Spears, by the way… if you haven’t already seen it:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kelly, thank you for commenting. and also thank you for JP Spears. no i haven’t actually seen it before..i laughed with that ”ultra-spiritual” word and his facial expressions . however, my favorite of his, was one episode with ayahuasca. cheers!

      Like

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