So Many People Are Starting To Do Yoga….And Apparently That’s Horrible? – by Kyle Weiger

When did we get so heavy about our lightness? Is anyone really holier than the person on the mat next to them?

First and foremost, I love reading articles about yoga, and hearing how vastly different the views of our practice can be from person to person. With so many different styles and methodologies available, it’s safe to say that there is some kind of yoga out there for everyone. I personally think this is one of the best characteristics of our community.

However, lately it seems that my news feed has been filled with blog posts and comments that are not viewing the surge of yoga in America as a reason to celebrate, but more as a dark cloud engulfing the practice. I’m seeing an influx of negative articles like “The Top 10 Reasons Your Yoga Class Sucks” and so on. But the question I keep asking is: Why so negative?

Controversy gets attention, unfortunately

Simply, the controversial articles get more views. Even some of the commenters join in mocking the example students/teachers ridiculed in articles like these. It’s unfortunate, but apparently even yogis like to commiserate with each other online and make fun of others within our own community. When you take a jab at another student or teacher in an online forum, you are doing so without knowing their past, or what they’ve been through just to be on their mat. So instead of immediately poking holes in their character, what if we started by assuming they are a good person, trying to do something good for themselves and others?

On the other side, I recently read an article titled “18 Way to Make Your Yoga Class More Awesome.”….now doesn’t that have a much nicer ring to it? Instead of pointing out what “sucks”, offer constructive suggestions on how to improve. One is heavy, and one is light.

Some, definitely not all, but some of the yoga world seems to have caught a case of the “my-yoga-is-better-than-your-yoga” virus, and I don’t believe it’s serving anyone particularly well.

The most oft-cited example I can think of: “It annoys me when people only do yoga for the physical asana.”….Why? Why does that bother you? I thought this was an internal practice, focused on development of the self. Other people’s motivations should have no place on your mat, or in your mind, correct?

It doesn’t matter why someone starts practicing yoga. Their motivations are theirs alone.

Sure, many people start yoga for the only physical side of the practice. Big deal. Some will keep this approach forever, and still have a great yoga practice that serves them for a lifetime. And some will move on to other limbs, and find a deeper appreciation in a different way. With both in mind, I can’t honestly believe that one is right/wrong, good/bad, better/worse for any individual. I say, let everyone enjoy it for their own reasons, without the heaviness of telling them why they are “wrong”.

As I often tell my non-yoga friends – I don’t care why you start, just get started. Your personal path in yoga, be it temporary or lifelong, has a beautiful way of unfolding naturally.

Oh, you want to trim your belly fat? Great, come to yoga with me.
You need to de-stress after work? Great, come to yoga with me.
You’re bored with your current workout routine? Great, come to yoga with me.
Interested in cultivating a calmer mind? Great, come to yoga with me.

For the people in the above four examples: If they have their own reasons for going to yoga, manage get to their mat a few times a week, and feel great while doing it, are they not “doing yoga” just because they can’t recite the Sutras, or know all the Sanskrit names of the poses?

Thus, the rants about people “abusing” our sacred practice by only using it as a workout seem to rain down an air of exclusivity and an elitist attitude that does nothing but build a moat around the yoga world. When in fact, we should be welcoming to all, and open to other’s interpretations of the yoga experience.

I learn a ton from my beginner students, as they help me revisit what it was like in the early days of my practice, and how the “you’re-doing-it-wrong” type of classes made me feel very unwelcomed. Just because someone doesn’t have a daily meditation, or enjoy chanting in their early yoga experience, does not mean that they are not being yogic. If they are on their mat, moving their body, and engaging a mindful breath in some fashion, they are at least on the right path. I think we should honor and celebrate that, rather than try to nit-pick the reasons that they’re not being a “true” yogi.

Also, just to point out the obvious hypocrisy: Pointing the finger in negativity, and having no compassion for others, is pretty un-yogic in itself, correct? Those holier-than-thou statements stem from the ego….you know, that thing we’re trying to cleanse through yoga?

Growth is good.

Being light vs. being heavy is a choice. And it breaks my heart when I hear experienced practitioners make very heavy comments about how upset they are that gyms and studios are “diluting” yoga by making it more marketable to the public. Sure, the “real” yoga is arguably 5,000 years old, give or take, but the asana practice as we know it in America is barely over 120. So I personally don’t think any of us are in a position to judge anyone else’s reasons for practicing. Just be happy that they are practicing, and that our overall community is growing.

When I see a traditional gym add yoga to the schedule, or a CrossFit studio compliment their intense programs with yoga classes, I see a good thing happening. Granted, it might not be the super meditative class that experienced yogis prefer, but consider the audience they’re trying to attract. When a new student accidently walks into an intermediate/advanced class, and can’t do most of the poses but tries anyway, I see good things happening. When a new teacher is sweating bullets because they are nervous as hell before their first public class, but they move forward anyway and do their best, I see good things happening.

And yes, I’m aware that this article, in some regard, has its own “you’re-doing-it-wrong” feel to it, by saying that judgment of others is the wrong approach, but it’s hard to write about the heavy vs. light without bringing at least some attention to the former.

Be light my friends. Be light.

Kyle – Founder of Reflexion Yoga

Kyle Weiger

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