7 things about yoga & me

So a couple of days ago, Terra at Schmetterling Yoga tagged me in another one of those award memes that float around the blogosphere. At first I was like, oh man, 7 more things about myself, 7 more blogs… I already did this exercise a couple of months ago. But when I looked back at what I’d written, I saw that a lot of things have changed. And I realized that this could be an opportunity to sort out some of my core thoughts and beliefs about this yoga stuff. Just so you (and I) know where I’m operating from. At least today. So here goes… some beliefs, some thoughts. Subject to change, of course.

1) The practice – I believe yoga is a powerful, transformative practice. Nuff said.

2) Where is yoga going? – For some reason, I’m obsessed with this question, and I’m obsessed with watching how it evolves and adapts to our culture. Obviously, I have pretty strong feelings against the commercialization and corporatization of yoga (this said, I’m not anti-business and I do believe that there can be acceptable commercial partnerships), and I’m not interested in self-serving yoga teachers who are promoting their own versions of the practice. But I also have to admit that I’m not a traditionalist, and I don’t believe in the concept of a “pure yoga.” I also think that there have been many positive forms of evolution in the past couple of decades: yoga programs in prisons, schools, hospitals; service-oriented organizations such as yogaHope and Street Yoga; acceptance and validation from the medical community. This is yoga responding to and reflecting modern life, and this is a kind of mainstream acceptance which is positive and powerful.

3) Accessibility – This is a word that I think gets thrown around a lot, and it’s almost becoming synonymous with “availability.” There’s this idea that the more yoga we see in our culture, the more people will become convinced to try it. I’m also seeing a prevalent belief that if there are more styles and varieties to appeal to every taste and every person, than yoga is more accessible. But my personal vision of accessibility is a little different: I’d like to break down the barriers of class, race and body type which prevent many people from benefiting from the practice.

4) Entry points – People begin to practice yoga for any number of reasons (weight loss, stress reduction, healing, community, flexibility, overcoming pain), and I don’t judge or criticize any of these. While my yoga practice is for my spiritual health (though I can’t deny that I love the hot biceps I’ve developed from inversions), I feel there’s nothing wrong with other people who do it for their physical health. There’s also nothing wrong with starting to practice yoga with a DVD or at a gym class. But my tendency is to step back and criticize teachers and organizations who exploit this or capitalize on it (for example, by offering substandard products and misinformed teachers, or by selling products which play on people’s desire to be thin/beautiful/etc).

5) Worldview – My views of yoga are informed by my experiences living and working in a karma yoga ashram, editing ascent magazine and studying Anusara. While I’ve only been immersed in the practice for 5 years, I feel like I’ve seen the whole spectrum ~ from seclusion and retreat (in a forest, on the edge of a lake, at the foot of a mountain), to running an urban yoga business, to straddling the contradictory worlds of yoga and media, to engaging with a very modern form of the practice.

6) Life – I live my yoga the way I live my life: with authenticity, integrity, quality, passion, enthusiasm, wonder and awe. With a sense of humour and delight. With creativity, curiousity and fun. With an independent, community-minded, anti-establishment spirit (and at times, critical and questioning spirit). And it’s all fueled by a desire to be of service.

7) Evolution – I love bantering and debating about the evolution of yoga, it’s fun and thought-provoking. But ultimately, I’m concerned with my own evolution and my own practice. While I spend several hours each week blogging about yoga and commenting on other yoga blogs, the majority of my time is spent practicing, teaching and just getting through my day, each day. This is really what matters to me.

So these are 7 things that I think about yoga. For now. Without being fundamentalist or rigid, but being firm in my beliefs. It’s a process.

And here are 7 yoga blogs that I’ve recently discovered ~ there’s no obligation to continue this meme, but if you decide to do so, please challenge yourselves to put forward your core beliefs about yoga. (And to all the blogs that I listed on my first 7 things post, I still love you, too!)

Bob! – okay, he’s not a blog (though he does whatever he does at the YJ community). But I always smile when Bob pops up in my comment feed, and I can always expect something enlightening, interesting, intelligent and supportive from him. I love what he’s brought to our little community of yoga bloggers.

Yoga Addicted – I  love Mandy’s enthusiasm for life and yoga. Also, she introduced me to the joys of grawnola bars!

Namaste & Knitting – I was super impressed with Jenn’s contributions to the great Adidas debate, and was delighted to discover that she blogs about knitting and yoga (my favourite things!). She’s only been writing this blog for a couple of weeks, but she’s already figured out what she has to say and is a wonderful contribution to the community. Welcome!

YogaSpy – gets the award for coolest blog name. Also love her sharp, incisive views on yoga and culture.

Wouldn’t Stop Picking at It – this Montreal yogi and writer shares her quirky worldview and perspective. And she looks just like Tina Fey ~ how cool is that?

My Embodiment – of course, it’s always fascinating to read about “the misadventures and adventures of a psychotherapist in yoga school.” Lovely writing, interesting views and penetrating thoughts.

Gwen Bell – I’ve been reading a lot of social media blogs lately, and Gwen Bell is one of the few yogis who is active and vocal in that world. Her blog is balanced and smart and girly and fun.

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the adidas+yoga equation

  1. OMG, lady, you’re preaching to the choir with me. love what you say about accessibility. Yoga Journal is nothing but a fashion mag now but my fave ads are for Kripalu — where you can see black, brown, round, and old bodies IN THE ADS! IN YOUR FACE! HEAVENS!

  2. I like your seven beliefs and the care you took to explain them so well. Thanks for your appreciative words.

    I’ll take your challenge and think about my core beliefs.

    Bob

  3. interesting about “evolution.” people say “oh, well, yoga has to evolve, we’re not living in caves in India anymore, we’re not sadhus, yoga must change for this culture…….” yada yada yada.

    but didn’t the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures evolve? birds evolved from dinosaurs, for example, and other modern animals evolved from animals that are no longer around.

    “no longer around” is the operative phrase.

    • Hmmm, good points… everything evolves, everything changes. I’m still undecided about the whole evolution question, but right now, what I’m seeing both positive and negative forms of evolution. Though there is the possibility that too much evolution too quickly could lead to extinction…

    • Just an interesting informational point, which doesn’t alter your meaning at all, Linda-Sama:

      I’ve been reading about the dinosaurs, and dinosaurologists (I love making up words) believe that they didn’t evolve out of existence, but were rendered extinct by an asteroid or comet colliding with the earth.

      Many futurists believe that’s one of the three most likely scenarios for the eventual extinction of man, too. (The others are a giant volcanic eruption in the Yellowstone area and a catastrophic plague.)

      I’ve thought about how this affects our Yoga philosophy in:

      “What is That and Why Am I That?”

      http://yogademystified.com/discussion-and-commentary/what-is-that-and-why-am-i-that/

      Bob Weisenberg
      http://YogaDemystified.com

  4. Hi, Roseanne. I just wrote the following comment on Linda’s blog which, I just realized, answers your challenge above to come up with my core Yoga beliefs:

    Hi, Linda, and thanks a lot. Your last comment above got my subconscious mind thinking about what is this “radical yoga traditionalist” you refer to?

    I woke up at 3:00 in the morning with the answer and couldn’t go back to sleep until I wrote it down.

    To me the true Radical Yoga Traditionalist is:

    –One who thinks everything after the Yoga Sutra is an unnecessary modern innovation.

    –Who constantly reads and rereads the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutra, and all the commentaries he/she can find.

    –Who thinks later Hatha and Tantra practices are filled with as much distracting ritualistic excess as the Vedic rites the original Yogis were rebelling against in the first place.

    –Whose idea of Yoga practice is living each and every moment in the realization of Brahman (=unfathomable life-force of the universe).

    –Who believes Yoga is not hard work but rather ecstatic enlightenment.

    –Who does asana, but only in limited form and only as an aid to deep meditation on the divine.

    –Who believes the Upanishads and Gita represent universal truths that can be found in any religion and any life, just as they themselves proclaim.

    –Believes everyone is already divine and Yoga consists of simply realizing that fact, through whatever method works for each individual.

    –Is deeply indifferent (but not antagonistic) to the established Yoga hierarchy, and has not the slightest desire to become an asana teacher.

    –Who spends most his Yoga life simply contemplating and writing about the divine rather than refining his “practice”.

    In other words, me!

    (Uproarious laughter ensues.)

    Bob

    • This is great, Bob! Thanks! You should start an RYT movement (though with a better name, some people might get it confused with the other RYT – registered yoga teacher). I especially like, “Who believes Yoga is not hard work but rather ecstatic enlightenment.”

      • Yes, maybe I can be the next John Friend, with worshiping followers all over the world!

        The RYT match was totally unintentional. I only noticed it when I wrote to Yoga Alliance a few minutes ago to ask them if they have any statistics on the growth of Yoga teacher certification by style of Yoga. (Trying to figure out if the number of traditional Yoga teachers is growing or shrinking in the U.S. Do you know any other sources for such statistics?)

        Bob W.

  5. Thank you for recognizing my blog. I, too, find many aspects of yoga fascinating. To understand why you are doing yoga is certainly a question we should all contemplate for ourselves. In the movie Enlighten Up! so many of the yoga practitioners were speechless when asked that very question (“Why do you do yoga?”). I wrote about it in this post: http://yogaspy.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/at-the-movies-enlighten-up/.

    The reason to be clear (about why you do yoga or, ultimately, why you do anything in life) is not to have a ready answer to others. It should not matter what others think. It’s really to help you understand yourself better.

    Hmm, I should contemplate my own list…

  6. Thanks so much for listing my blog in your 7 and 7 post! An excellent use of the formula to explore yoga and you–and where the two meet and mold into your unique thoughts on the practice. I find “my yoga” constantly in flux–especially lately where with three dogs and my teacher training postponed by two months due to my husband not joining us in our new home for another month I find it hard to find my yoga at all. Dog dishes, leashes, backyard romps, and all that a new job entails leaves me wondering when and how I am going to formulate my yoga in the coming month and beyond. It is an ever evolving process–situationally or internally shifted by the ebbs and flows of life. Thanks for your wonderful words on the matter….and the wonderful shout-out to my blog! “My embodiment” thanks you :)!

  7. Hi, Roseanne.

    Your kind comments above led me to think about my blog. I’ve now started mirroring my Yoga Journal Community blog on my site.

    So now http://YogaDemystified.com is a full-fledged blog site, in addition to being an e-book. The site now has all the new weekly material that I used to post only over at Yoga Journal.

    I’ve also beefed up my link section and I like including the names of the blogger next to the blog title to personalize them.

    Thanks again for your appreciation.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  8. Nicely written, article! I too practice yoga regularly and find it extremely beneficial, as far as managing stress is concerned. Keep these posts coming. Would love to continue following your thoughts. -spnz

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