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Compromising the foundation to raise the structure?

April 4, 2011

Yoga needs no help from me or anyone at this point. It is going and growing strong as can be and a large part of that is all because of the traditions of yoga that started with T. Krishnamacharya: Vinyasa Yogas, Ashtanga Yoga, and Iyengar Yoga. Yes, of course there are other iterations of yoga out there that have nothing to do with this “grandfather of modern yoga” but these three styles that are linked with his life’s work are vastly popular and influential. It should be noted that, although they all sprung from the same fount, these schools can be extremely different and even a little competitive with one another about what is right and what is traditional. Hold the phone.You may ask, where is this going?

My whole approach is going to seem roundabout so hold on to your hats ladies and gents. The question: Is yoga celebrity ok (and can I justify trying to become one?) I start this discussion with Krishnamacharya, who by no means had the same goals or motives as yours truly, because he is largely responsible for beginning the popularization of yoga, especially in its appeal to Westerners. Again, stick with me here. He did this by (are you ready?) going on tour and taking his most advanced and impressive pupils with him. Yoga did not always have a shining clean name,  and in fact, was viewed as a nasty taboo.  Nobody wanted to practice yoga next to the freaky unwashed guy with the dreaded beard who sleeps on a bed of nails…(ok, so if you lose the bed of nails I actually probably practiced next to this guy plenty of times.) Plainly put, yoga was in a bad way and Krishnamacharya took to the streets to right the good name of yoga.

Can’t I do the same thing? If my intentions are pure can I not travel the world spreading the good word about yoga? Forget the fact that I wrote a questionable post about Tara Stiles for one moment, because she sort of has the right idea.  Most people, if not outright idiots, are very scared down to the core. Anything that is novel or different just sets them a-shaking in their proverbial boots. I myself remember tormenting a girl in 6th grade because she was ethnic and brought “weird” food to lunch from home that was fragrant and did not look at all reminiscent of my daily ham sandwich (which, due to conservative household finances, probably turned out to be far more questionable in reality). Now-a-days I will readily obliterate any ethnic food. YUM. But, something had to open my eyes to these experiences…I could have just hoarded slimy ham sandwiches for my entire life. But look at me now. Yeah.

My long belabored point here is that people are missing the point of yoga so much of the time. Yoga and asana are not synonymous.  Asana practice is just the catchy hook that mires a song in your head until you know all of the lyrics by heart and belt it out (at an embarrassing volume) when you’re alone in the car. An asana practice is inextricable from a yoga practice but it is by far not the most important part – it is more of a building  block. The thing of it is is that the meat of yoga, so to speak, is a little bit tougher for most Westerners to hunker down with. Not because it is weird but because it isn’t a ham sandwich. (What is that GREEN thing on your lunch, Uuuuuthra? Is that a FROG? Gross. It smells.) It’s like trying to describe something for which you’ve not built a vocabulary and that makes us terribly uncomfortable.


Being a total worshiper of the written word, I feel I could be the vocabulary teacher (not that I haven’t gone down that road before…) to the masses curious about the language of yoga.  What they need (at first, only) are more Tara Stiles to bait that hook, and then more Krishnamacharyas, Dharma Mittras, Desikachars, etc. to really cultivate the true tenets of yoga. But what if there were an all-inclusive deal? I make no such claim to be all at once Tara Stiles and Krishnamacharya, but I’d be willing to give it a go in the future! Don’t be sore with me, I’m just saying…It’s OK to dream, right? C’mon….sheeeeesh. FINE. FINE. FINE…

Delusions of grandeur again…don’t tell my shrink.

[images (in order) via: Wikipedia, Elephant Chronicles, Duck and Cover]

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One Comment leave one →
  1. snakey... permalink
    May 17, 2011 3:33 am

    I’m proud of you. Keep spreading the word. Simultaneously I struggle to put my socks on, yet yearn for redemption. Remember these wise words.”A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.”

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