It’s a challenge for me to write this blog because it may step on people’s toes, it could be controversial and it could offend. But it’s my truth. Here. Today. Modern yoga is like a cult.
It’s weird, you know, not being involved in yoga anymore, not believing all that I used to believe and it’s like all that I was is being stripped away. All that I thought I was no longer exists. I am no longer someone who says “namaste”, who wears an Om necklace in a form of cultural appropriation or is devoted to a yoga practice. I do it when I feel like I need a good stretch. A friend who I was doing my yoga teacher training with said: “Everything has its own time. Only when you are ready, it works.” And implied that it wasn’t time for me to be a yoga teacher. I thought, this is not about me not being ready for a life of yoga, because I’ve been doing it for 20 years, this is about me realising the giant lie it has become and how we aren’t a match anymore.
Modern yoga to me is a bit like a cult or a religion; if you don’t fit in, if you don’t comply with the expected behaviours then you’re not a part of the cult. The word “Yoga” means union and there is NOTHING I can see that unites in separating or elevating yourself above someone because they won’t comply with the predominant culture. I was under a delusion. It is not authentic to take on someone else’s beliefs, or even a whole cultural group. It’s subtle and it’s in no way malicious, it is a culture built on egos, the right leggings and clothes, accessories, Instagram bendiness and acrobatic bodies. That’s not what my experience of yoga is about!
Historically, modern yoga has its roots in the arrival of the British in India in the early 1900s who merged the military fitness regime of the British with the gentler Hindu spiritual practices. It has become all about the asana, pranayama and escaping from modern life. It doesn’t resonate for me anymore and I am sad about that, because it has given me an enormous amount of joy over the years, however, it doesn’t align with my truth anymore. I will view it as a form of experiential exercise, but to get caught up in the culture within modern yoga was destructive for me and misses the whole point of a spiritual practice.
Our spirituality does not depend on whether we practice in ugg boots, woollen socks, braless, hair dishevelled, interrupted, naked or with your favourite music on. Our spirituality does not depend on us listening to traditional and modern Hindu chanting or whether we can stretch into our out of a certain position like the person next to us. Our spirituality does not need us to travel to India or Bali or any other exotic location to be able to access it. And we certainly don't need to be doing headstands or handstands to be spiritual.
We are spiritual. Right here. Right now. We keep seeking these experiences and tools, such as yoga, in order to find this place of peace or contentment when the reality is, when we stop the search, we can see it. We can see the truth of the world when we begin to question everything. The latest search for enlightenment, 5th dimension and higher realms is just another escapism from being here now. It is a distraction from the human experience and from the present moment.
Yes, yoga, when taught well, can be a tool to do this, it can teach us how to be in the present moment, but for now I am disillusioned by it. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to a yoga practice, and that’s sad. And what’s even more sad, it is that now very unlikely that I will complete my yoga teacher training because I just can’t agree with a culture that encourages ego and competition. It is an extension of the commodification of everything good and pure in the world.
The truth about yoga is that it doesn’t matter what colour you wear, music you listen to, or if you have shoes on or not, the timing of your breaths, intentions, how flexible or strong you are, it is time to look after your body and honour it as the temple that houses your soul. Yoga has all these expectations placed about it, when in reality it is just a form of exercise which asks us to be mindful. What you adorn your body with doesn’t make a skerrick of difference to your yoga practice and it certainly doesn’t make you a kind and compassionate person.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2017
"I realised that as fun as it was to meditate, levitate and feel the abundant bliss that meditation offers, I realised that it was a form of escapism – no different to any other addiction. I was addicted to enlightenment experiences. "
Twelve months ago, I was deep in yoga and fully following the spiritual path, I was completing my yoga teacher training and was fully committed to the yogic identity. Today, my life couldn’t be further from it. Previously, I, like many others, sought answers in spiritual practice. I have completed an abundance of courses seeking the ultimate enlightenment. I’ve had some mind-bending experiences; leaving my body, levitating, becoming a channel for higher voices and making yoga and the “namaste” culture my entire life.
Then one day, in the middle of a mindfulness meditation course I realised that as fun as it was to meditate, levitate and feel the abundant bliss that meditation offers, I realised that it was a form of escapism – no different to any other addiction. As a 16-year-old I had a taste of spontaneous astral travel and spent the next 25 years seeking similar experiences. And I found them, boy, I found them. I, like many others, have had some outstanding experiences; solo ecstatic orgasm and hearing monks chanting while lying on a flat table strung with harp strings among the best of them, but those experiences are transient and ultimately aren’t contributing to a better world. I realised that I was addicted to enlightenment experiences.
We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.
Let me say that again, we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.
Why on Earth, would we want to be a spiritual being having a spiritual experience when we are here, on Earth, now?
Why would we seek out an experience to escape from the one in-front of us?
Why are we all seeking this mystical enlightenment, when we can have incredible sensory experiences in these amazing physical bodies? Our world is abundant with living and non-living things to touch, taste, smell, see and hear. Our world is abundant with incredible beings who offer opportunities every day to practice our humanity, our compassion, our unconditional love.
Why do we seek to transcend this world to a world beyond when this is where we are? Meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting still for hours on end, trying to quiet the mind, meditation can be found when bathing a child, washing up, driving a car or making love.
We are here.
We are here now.
There is no tomorrow, there is no yesterday. By the time you have awareness of the moment, it has passed. We have just now. We are where we are right now because that is where we are, so why seek to escape from the now?
I see so many people on the path of seeking, and without a doubt, it is an incredible path, but ironically, I feel that enlightenment isn’t some distant “spiritual” experience, something outside of ourselves or something to be attained, we ARE already spiritual beings, within us, and we radiate our inner light, without even looking for it!
It seems a fruitless search to seek something seemingly outside ourselves in which we already are!
So now, 12 months on from becoming aware of the search, I have a deep awareness of my spirituality; it guides me, it helps me to respond calmly and mindfully, but I am human and I focus my energies on my humanity, on service to the Earth, on how I can contribute to the world and my Earthly experience as Alyssa Curtayne, that is in the here and now.
I know that I no longer need to seek spiritual experiences, because I don’t need to – I am already spiritual, as you are.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2017