What does the future of yoga hold? Flying yoga mats? Hologram instructors? Geodesic dome studio/community spaces? Yoga vacations to the moon?
A little post on the Huffington Post last week looked into the crystal ball and asked about “The Future of Yoga in America” (I just have to say that nothing irritates me more than references to “yoga in America” – yoga happens in countries besides the USA and at a similar rate).
After sketching “a brief outline of the evolution of yoga” (in three paragraphs!), yoga teacher and therapist Ira Israel looks at the divide that has emerged between “spiritual” and “non-spiritual” yoga, and credits increased property values and rent with the proliferation of yoga teacher trainings. He also uses examples from his experience in becoming a licensed therapist, offering a possible model to ensure that yoga teachers go through the proper channels and can “do no harm.”
… the problem is that high rents have caused yoga studios to pump out a plethora of under-experienced teachers. Many of these are the same teachers — who are all in competition for a limited number of jobs and students — are the ones “wrecking the bodies” of students — according to the New York Times — because they don’t understand that yoga is primarily a spiritual tool, not a physical exercise practice to make you look better. Unfortunately, aside from a little “spiritual stuff at the end,” those exercise regimes have nothing to do with yoga, uniting with the divine.
Of course it’s wonderful that anyone comes for exercise and leaves with a little spiritual stuff. It’s equally awesome that there’s such a smorgasbord of classes available to people of all shapes and sizes. The problem is that 90 percent of what’s being called yoga in America has nothing to do with the original purpose of yoga. What’s the solution? I don’t know. Some people wish to “Take Back Yoga” to the spiritual practice it was, but I fear that it is way too late to separate it from the physical asana practice. I do know that psychotherapists have a union that supports us. I know that many yoga teachers earn $25 and $35 for a class where students are paying $22 each and the teachers don’t have health insurance, are required to have liability insurance and be certified by Yoga Alliance, and do not feel supported by the studios or Yoga Alliance.
Ira finishes up with a resonant question: “At what point will yoga teachers organize and decide what is yoga and what is not, or will we just wait and let the government define it for us?”
He has a point, and the question is applicable to yogis of all nationalities. Are we willing to co-create a future for yoga that is safe, accessible and ethical? Is it possible? I think so.