&How to live in a human body … maybe.
…i keep going back and forth on all of this social media nonsense, as well as on all of this yoga nonsense on social media. And if you are a wonderful yoga light aka a yoga teacher, please do not read this as my insistence that yoga teachers are unnecessary, absolutely not. If anything, the world needs a yoga teacher in every home. This does mean, however, that not all yoga teachers, perhaps, should make money teaching, but since the scales have been tipped for so long in white yoga’s favor, I have nothing to say about an abundance of yoga teachers except, “Support Black Yogis, and Support Black Lives.”
This is merely an expression about my personal relationship with and to yoga. I never hope to speak to yoga as if “this is how it should be.” Absolutely not. I merely share in the name of shedding light on yoga for anyone who has or does see the practice in a similar way as I did, in hopes that they will, in turn, pick up the practice. If anything, this is another one of my attempts at persuasion, to practice yoga.
What I am realizing now is that the very sad story of yoga in the United States (and generally speaking, i’m speaking of “the West,” but i am neither an expert nor researcher nor general carer about #facts regarding yoga because i care too deeply for my own opinion, i.e. i’m too lazy to do the hard work, so i’m going to rely on my own simulation) is a story about poor mass-marketing.
From my perspective, yoga is/was (of course, i feel as though i’ve always been aware of yoga’s existence as some esoteric spiritual thing for monks, etc., but my first hardcore intro into yoga was through corepower yoga, circa 2008, and after a quick google, i just learned that it was founded in denver, the capital of the state in which i was attending college at the time, so that makes sense) a way to get fit through stretching. Easy enough, I’m flexible. Yoga seemed like whatever good metaphor comes to mind when something fits seemingly perfectly.
But right from the get-go, I was thoroughly turned off. To this moment, I still cannot quite put my finger on the “problem,” or if there even was one. I just hated it. In class, I felt as though there was some sort of ideology revolving around some sort of spirituality but what any of it was or is or meant or anything was never really explained or even talked about. You enter a warm, dark room, inevitably lit with candles, the faint sounds of sounds that resonate peace, with a large mirror (why?), spread your mat out on the floor with some consideration for the other people sharing the space, everyone eyeing everyone else’s ability to buy the most_expensive_mat plus mat towel plus mat water bottle plus mat pants, etc., etc., &c.!, then someone guides you through a series of stretches while they om and whisper and attempt to create a space of peace and calm, maybe?, and mindfulness, but sometimes a pumpin’ beat and weights defines the hour.
It all seemed like incongruous hogwash.
And then, the rise of the yogi influencer.
This caused more problems, I think, for the marketing of yoga. It seems as though, if you’re a woman, in search of a slim (nearly anorexic, imho, and always white, and don’t come at me with your “white passing” bc the reality is, is that if you’re able to dye your hair yellow, and think to yourself, now i’m beautiful, you’re not white passing; you’re white washing) flexible body, then do yoga!
Yoga is for the perfectly flawless who have so much disposable time and income that they need to make up new ways to create hierarchy. Obviously, I’m exaggerating, and I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m trying to share my perception of yoga, yogis, and the ones who “influence” on social media. If I’m being judgy, then I apologize, but this is not my intention. My intent is to share in the name of learned experience, so that we may all create a social media yoga world, for the better, and shape it in a way that will service the wholly enormous ideology that is “yoga.” The sad fact is that social media is not going away any time soon. Perhaps reform will come, but for now, enough of us will continue to use the platform to keep it viable. If we were to all quit in enough numbers, we could “boycott” for change, but…I digress.
To this day, I still feel as though I know very little about the practice of yoga, and that’s because there’s a lot to know. It’s not one thing, and it’s not even the same thing for every person who practices it. This, at its core, is the fundamental, foundational issue of yoga on social media (not to mention the expressed documentation by Kino MacGregor in her book, The Power of Ashtanga Yoga, that [begin quote] My ninety-three-year-old master Jois once said in a group conference in Mysore, “Yoga is changing. Now some women are very strong. Correct asana performing is possible. Before, not possible. Now possible. All women are doing all asanas correctly.” [end quote p 173] … to which i wonder, “So women have never been allowed to strive toward enlightenment? Dammit. Same old patriarchy as every other everything in human history.” MacGregor does not specify her feelings about this quote, whether it projects an opening of her guru’s mind toward the equity of women [ironic] or if she felt betrayed or something else entirely. i’d feel betrayed, but i simulate).
The other, obvious, foundational problem is that in order for any sort of practice to continue, there must be teachers, but in order to have teachers, there must be text (in this 21st-century life, because of course, oral tradition has almost died, for better or worse, your opinion is yours, and i don’t care), and in order to have text, there must be … experts, e.g. gurus, i.e. people worthy of your money (or loyalty) for their time. In other words, something is for sale.
Of course, capitalism would destroy the intent and purpose of any spiritual practice. That’s obvious. What’s less obvious is that these practitioners, students, teachers, gurus alike are all in on it. That almighty and oh-so-pleasurable circle jerk. Yum. I did not say “all,” so do not accuse me of saying “all yoga practitioners, students, etc.” The reality, on social media (the context in which i ponder yoga), is that most are in on it, the capitalistic aspiration for social media influence. #sad (but #genius)
There’s no quicker way to gain power and influence than by peddling religion, spirituality or some WAY into a “top” (again, that damn hierarchy) position in the “afterlife.” Again, whether or not you have a religious/spiritual belief is none of my business, and quite frankly, I don’t care. There are shitty people of every belief system.
The next wave of yoga, however, is here. It is yoga for every body, because at its most basic of nut graphs, this is how I would phrase a more appropriate tagline for yoga: How to Live in a Human Body.
The fact that some skinny white girl can fold herself into a pretzel, in a bikini, on a fake beach somewhere she was paid to fly to, is not what makes yoga awesome. #sorrynotsorry
What makes yoga awesome is that someone (more likely, many someones all over the world at various times during prehistory and that weird time when we know things but don’t really know bc nobody really wrote anything down) took the time to really think and workout ways to make the body feel really good, run optimally, and be equipped for daily life. That’s awesome. That’s amazing. And it’s incredibly useful information that you would think we would all be equipped with from the time we enter kindergarten so that we’re not all bickering monkeys because our hamstrings are tight which is causing lower back pain that has turned into full-blown diarrhea making us very very unhappy, uncomfortable, and downright pissed.
When yogis talk about how yoga makes the world a better place, this is what they’re talking about. They’re not talking about how the world will be better once we’re all skinny, flexible white women.
They’re saying that the world will get better the minute we all feel better. And unfortunately, we prefer not to work, which is why this sedentary life suits all of our minds. It’s terrible, however, for our bodies, and since we live in our bodies, a sedentary life is terrible for us and our minds.
This new perception of yoga has actually made me feel really grateful for my very active childhood. Some of us are taught how to USE our bodies through childhood sports and/or activities, and we then (some of us, i imagine, myself not included) inadvertently learn how to live in said bodies. I learned how to use my body from a very young age doing gymnastics, skiing, playing soccer, swimming, and dancing. This completely leaves out any family activities, which could be anything at any time when reared by an exercise-aholic and a person more content surviving in the mountains than living in civil society. By the time I entered high school, I was a snowboarder and dancer, that’s it. I was forced to try volleyball when I quit gymnastics (see exercise-aholic parent), but that lasted only as long as the negotiation stated.
But even with all of this physical activity I grew up with and am very familiar with, I still benefit greatly from the knowledge of yoga practitioners. Yoga is not a noun. It’s a verb. Because really, you can yoga anything. Whatever it is that you’re doing, if you are doing it with all of your attention, with an intention (no matter how big or seemingly trite), with awareness of the fact that it is you in your body doing the thing that you’re doing, then you have yoga’d it. It’s that simple.
And if you don’t quite know how to yoga your life, then you practice a series of postures and poses on a squishy mat or blanket or rug or carpet or soft surface (for the joints and general comfort of the body). You yoga your own self. You teach your mind how to live in your body, and in turn, your body how to communicate with your mind. In this way, you become a whole person. Whether or not you can touch your toes hardly matters. You can yoga your cooking and become enlightened, if you ask me. You can yoga your real estate business and become enlightened. Obviously, there are some yoga paths that will help you reach your definition of enlightenment and/or peace that are better than others. But nobody can tell you which paths those are, except you. And that means you gotta get steppin’ and start practicing.
Practice how to live in your body on yourself. You might be amazed at how feeling physically good makes you actually feel good. If we are our bodies, and we feel with our bodies, it’s good advice to learn how to distinguish between all of the differing feelings our bodies feel. This will also make you better at feeling all of those feelings we can’t physically feel but feel nonetheless.
In the end, we all need to become better feelers and better thinkers, but it all starts with you and your body. If you’re miserable, you’re gonna make all of us miserable, too. But on the flip side, if you’re rockin’ and pumpin’ and feelin’ good, you just might make someone else feel the same.
If for no other reason, learn how to live in your body by any means necessary and accessible to you. For me, practicing yoga works. For you, maybe it’s climbing mountains. The important thing, however, is that you bring your mind with you when your body does things, and when your body wants or doesn’t want to do things, it needs to know how to communicate with you and your mind that it does or doesn’t.
When you feel good, it’s harder to make others feel bad. When you feel bad, it’s easy. I should know, I’m the one who’s practicing yoga as if her life depends on it.
*as defined in The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel M. Wegner and Kurt Gray pp 99-103