As with many things in life, opinions change, tastes change and expression changes. After teaching for just over a year and a half, I’m now a little more mature, skeptical and rebellious of the industry. Not with regard to Yoga itself but the way in which contemporary Yoga culture is. Yoga has never been, and is not about: What brand of leggings you wear, what vegan produce you consume, what super detoxifying smoothies you drink, what body type you are, being a holier than thou snob. You’ll also see the recent trends of 90’s & 00’s Yogis adorned with: Tie-dye shirts, alibaba’s, headbands. These trends build identities in our heads, of what a person who practises Yoga is and might behave like. They dominate our present yoga culture, and in doing so distort Yoga, blocking its accessibility to new comers and those who do not fit into the prerequisite of what being a Yogi supposedly is. When you strip all this bullshit and pretense back, you get human beings, and that’s all Yoga is aiming towards – everyday, real human beings as they come. No changes of diet, no certain world view, no prerequisite level of flexibility or body type.
During my first year of teaching, being excited by all things new I admittedly got sucked into this new yoga culture. But now I find myself (as with many things in life) wanting to rebel against the mainstream (as corny and cliche’ as it sounds, but I couldn’t think of a better way to put it). This now seems to be the only way I can partake as a Yoga Teacher, I just want to be me. So I now find myself fitting into what you might call the counter culture of our modern day yoga world. But really this is a juxtaposition with yoga 500 years ago. As Yogis were always outcasts and against materialism and excess. So this counter culture isn’t really doing anything new, apart from as a tool to expose how fake this new yoga culture is. I want to make it clear I have the up-most respect for Yoga, otherwise I wouldn’t be teaching it. I also want to make clear that my Asana & Pranayama based classes are based on traditional postures, breathing techniques and sequencing, as they have been proven to be the most effective. But all this begs the question: Who makes the rules anyway? Who are we answering too? Who owns yoga? Dig deep enough and you’ll find no one does. Of course there are books and ancient scriptures, but there is no Yoga Police or Authority. So as relatively new yogis and yoga teachers on the time-line of yoga history, we are the new branches in an ever evolving tree of yoga, that if we’re brave enough holds no binds. I want the future of yoga to be more accessible to all, without pretense and prerequisite. With a simple message: Don’t let the culture of yoga (new or old) restrict you or put you off. Don’t try and fit into Yoga identities, remain honest and true to yourself.
Looking way back at traditional Yoga practises, it is important to remember that they were written hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, in a completely different social and cultural context. Therefore they may seem odd, outdated and difficult to fit in our present day world. As a result a lot of them are not practised at present, for example the Kriya’s listed in Hatha Yoha Pradipika. This disregard of old practises is proof that Yoga is constantly evolving. From what I’ve read and seen it would seem the more bizarre stuff is conveniently forgotten. So this begs the question – if we answer to no one and past practises have been forgotten, then why follow something that you dislike in your Yoga practise?
On the whole this evolution of Yoga can only be a good thing, if we want Yoga to still be practised in future. I say let it evolve, but it cannot if practitioners and teachers aren’t open minded and experimental. So try Yoga, be open-minded, experiment with it. See how it affects you, let classes you attend be absorbed and let articles and books you read on yoga be processed, then question them, adjust and avoid blindly following. Find your own path, whilst still respecting the Yoga tradition. Right now I want to break the mould and perception of what it is to be a Yogi & Yoga Teacher, allowing unrestricted and free-thought on Yoga philosophies, to give space for Yoga to evolve and grow.
With love & light