As you get older you notice trends. Fads come and go, fashion recycles itself, and information once fringe becomes the truth du jour, only to be surpassed by the next latest truth. I am so old that my first Yoga classes were in church halls and community centres and populated by women in full leotards! I am talking Flashdance leotards!
Teachers with the best intentions tried, unsuccessfully in my case, to contort you into these seemingly random shapes that they deemed important. My favourite class was an Iyengar class where the first pose you always had to do was Supta Virasana, that consisted kneeling on the floor and putting a strap around your thighs just above the knees so they didn’t drift apart as you attempted to lay back flat on the floor or if you had any ounce of common sense you would use a bolster to lie upon. I somehow lacked the necessary self compassion and would suffer horrendous agony in my knees and especially my lower back trying to make this shape.
I have an option here to be one of those born again woke Yoga teachers and so easily jump onto the blame the patriarchal Yoga systems bus, but one can only live with so much hypocrisy in one’s life.
As misinformed as the teachers were and as ignorant and gullible we were as students, there was still a magic to what we were doing, despite drowning in dogma and superstition.
Now in this day and age, there is very little excuse for Yoga teachers to be maiming students and beguiling them notion that spirituality and flexibility are somehow synonymous. In turn there is little excuse for students to be hoodwinked into thinking that if they could just open their hips enough their problems in life will disappear and they will somehow be a better person.
To my dismay though it seems the Yoga industry has sat on its hands for the last 30 years and been completely beguiled itself by capitalism and itself has become a product. The focus to monetise every aspect from clothing, to mats, to music, to studio booking software and the endless teacher training courses, has come at the cost of not pursuing and articulating the essence of the practice.
This leads me back to trends. Now I see everywhere the hugely popular uptake of moving, breathing and mindfulness. Now physio’s are not content to spread a cold gel on you with a magic light machine or stick needles in you, they are teaching you to breathe and move properly. Crossfit used to be the domain of kick arse exercises moving as much weight in the shortest amount of time. Now they too are adjusting and including breathing and mindfulness practices.
There is no right and wrong here but I love to rib my physio and fitness friends that they are finally practicing Yoga.
But what of Yoga? What is that magical essence that you feel and experience when you have a committed practice? Is it all just chemical, a mix of dopamine and endorphins etc…
What part does focus play and our ability to control neurotransmitters like acetylcholine? Will this newfound science one day explain the sense of oneness and transcendence that Yoga can bring?
Yoga will self implode and get left behind if it doesn’t embody the latest trends, communicate them authentically and see that it is what we have been doing the whole time but in a gross and clumsy way, shrouded in woo woo and spiritual deprivation.
That may well be a good thing :)