I first tried yoga eight years ago when I had some pretty whacked thinking about body image, and I wanted to look like a slim and trim granola yoga girl.
I quit yoga after a year because it didn’t give me the results I wanted. If a workout was going to count, I needed to be drenched in sweat and utterly uncomfortable. I returned to the practice after my daughter was born, however, because I was in terrible physical and emotional pain and needed to find a balance that weightlifting and cardio burn couldn’t provide. Yoga was the answer I sought, but it wasn’t because I demanded it give me a ripped physique and social status among the gym elite. It was the answer I sought, because I submitted to what the practice could do for my emotional health.
Lauren Millea, an Astanga yoga instructor in Arizona at Dave’s Ashtanga Yoga, explains, “The most trendy yoga places can [still] be great. They bring the movement of yoga to people who might never find themselves on a mat otherwise.”
But, and there is a but, everyone should know that yoga is much more than just the movement. It’s only the tip of the iceberg, as Millea puts it.
“The traditional authentic practice really delves into more than just the asana or the movement of the practice. For those yogis who find themselves on their mat in those ‘trendier studios’ asking if there’s more to this whole yoga thing, there is. Living a yogic path and constantly learning more about the history of yoga might not be for everyone, and it’s very important that if you live your life studying these values, poses, breath and practice, you judge no one who doesn’t explore more, because you’d be missing the point.”
It’s fine to use only yoga as a chance to stretch and strengthen, if that’s all you want from your practice. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy the aerobic benefits of yoga without ever stepping further into a yogic lifestyle. The non-competitive nature of yoga is one of the things that makes it so great.
Yoga can serve a different purpose for everyone but you should still be mindful of the history because it is insulting to use yoga as a modern symbol of status, spirituality and sportiness. Just don’t feel like you have be the next Gandhi.
This is probably why I couldn’t stop laughing at CollegeHumor’s video, “If Gandhi Took a Yoga Class.” Because, good lord, I was the obnoxious girl who told Gandhi, “No, it’s up dog. Don’t worry. You’ll learn the terminology.”
We Americans are bad-asses at the dubious skill of misappropriating sacred beliefs, rituals, traditions and even exercise routines for our personal gain. Why wouldn’t we take a 5,000-year-old tradition and turn it into a festival of Lululemon and Coldplay and Yankee Candles? We’re Americans, damn it. We can do whatever we want. Especially since bikini season is just around the corner.
But in the words of video-Gandhi, “Bitch, you do realize this is my actual religion.” If you haven’t seen it yet, take three minutes to check out the video. It might change the way you approach your next yoga flow.