Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why Can't THIS Be Enough?

(EDIT 8/18: this is a response to a recent article I came across on "Yoga Woo." While I don't agree with everything in the piece, it touches on some themes that are rather close to my heart.)

I like articles like this, and I like this kind of discussion (even though I'm beyond tired of that NY Times piece). I'm wary of yoga teachers who proclaim specific health benefits of the asanas they're teaching, and I wish our community valued peer-reviewed, published, scientific research as highly as we seem to value anecdotal evidence. It's almost impossible to properly study the benefits of yoga practice—too many variables. We have to try it and see for ourselves what happens. But even though we may personally have experienced tremendous physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits, we don't need to stand before our students and give medical advice or make outrageous claims.

As for the "woo" stuff.... I love a yoga teacher who can talk about the spiritual tradition of yoga and yoga philosophy as it relates to their own personal experience. I love a teacher who has developed a deep, abiding interest in REALITY, who is transparent, humble and maintains a personal practice, who SEES their students and is genuinely interested in their well-being and progress, who is dedicated to the highest—I am intensely interested when a teacher like that speaks about spirituality in a yoga class, whether they are very green or very experienced. But when a yoga teacher chirps "Backbends open your heart chakra!" to the class, it feels like a set-up. Are we creating an expectation of a certain type of experience that may unintentionally block a direct engagement with what actually is in the present moment? Why can't THIS be enough? Why do we have to decorate and embellish our practice with flourishes and imaginings? What's so distasteful about WHAT IS, that we feel the need to constantly upgrade it?

Assumptions, projections, fantasies.... all obstacles on the path of yoga. If you have the opportunity to study the Gita or the Yoga Sutras, you'll find that both Krishna and Patanjali are constantly asking us to look deeper into what is already present here and now. There's no scarcity of wonderfulness, of sacredness, of sweetness or  brilliance in the ordinary, the mundane, the simple.


  1. Part of the author's bio from an article you cite... "became a yoga teacher soon after discovering yoga"


    1. Yeah. Did you see my comment? He never responded....

  2. Just saw your comment now. My understanding about how this whole toxins flushing thing came about (and this is just me talking - don't believe a word of it) is that Iyengar realized that certain poses seemed to help certain ailments. One of his pupils (Mary Schatz?) was an MD and said she thought that the twisting and untwisting squeezed and unsqueezed the internal organs and helped to move blood through them thereby oxygenating them and making them healthier. Seemed plausible but I doubt it was ever really investigated. It then just took on a life of its own. So we are now admonished to drink lots of water after twisty classes to flush the toxins.

    I certainly don't want the government involved in regulating yoga teachers but the bar to become one needs to be raised. A lot!

  3. I agree, life is now, yoga is union with "now", "here", "me", perhaps sometime a bit more or a bit less because mind is a monkey and some monkeys are jumping more and some less.
    Thanks for posting this, I am sure many many people appreciate.

  4. I am just entering this room, this path this journey and of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, I walk into this one. What gives? And you may ask yourself
    Well...How did I get here?