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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
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