Recently, I made some folks angry on Facebook which isn’t hard to do these days. It started when, silly me, I commented on this story from the Atlantic where the author laments that anything more than thirty minutes of yoga class is just too hard to fit into her busy schedule. My comment on Facebook was something to the effect of, “if you’re complaining about the class being too long, I suggest you’re missing the point. Yoga is a spiritual practice, not a newly invented fitness crazy to get you a six-pack in 8 weeks”. Because really, if that’s all you’re getting out of it, then there’s a plethora of other fitness classes you can take in thirty minutes. Seriously. SO. MANY. CHOICES.
Holy wow, did I strike a chord with folks. Many people were offended that I was telling them how to be spiritual and/or how to be fit, when I wasn’t doing any such thing. I was simply trying to point out that the original purpose of Yoga isn’t about fitness. Increased flexibly and strength are aspects of yoga that enable you to find focus, concentration, meditation, and liberation (to name a few benefits). It’s all connected. Yoga helps you join your body and mind into a harmonious unison through focus, breath and movement. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Of course you don’t have to subscribe to the ancient traditions of yoga in order to enjoy or receive benefits from yoga. Of course I don’t think everyone who walks into a western yoga studio needs to have read the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita. I don’t expect everyone to set intentions for their practice that include opening the Chakras and/or rooting oneself to the Earth’s energies. These aspects of yoga are not for everyone, I get that.
But I ask you, as a member of our shared human culture, to please respect the ancient origin and traditions of yoga as a spiritual practice first and foremost. Know that there are some folks in your class who may be there to connect with their bodies in a way that is very spiritual for them. For people like me, going to yoga class is more akin to going to church than going to the gym. Those of us who are there for these benefits ask that those of you who aren’t be respectful of the history, the religion, the quiet, the peace, and most of all, the sacred savasana. (Hint, stop talking during savasana.)
With a little digging, you’ll soon see that yoga has been misappropriated by western culture. You don’t have to look far to see what I mean, after all, baby goat yoga is all the rage. I saw bunny yoga classes on my morning news today, complete with cute bunnies hopping around leaving little round brown presents for all the yogis in class. Gross. I honestly can’t imagine any physical benefit to allowing baby goats to climb on your vertebrae while you’re in child’s pose. I really cannot.
I want to state here and now that I’m not a Yoga teacher (#futuregoals), nor am I a spiritual authority, guide, teacher, prophet, or anything at all. I’m still learning about the history of yoga and all its forms, so in no way am I an expert. But if you’re going to yoga and don’t like that the classes are an hour or more, please consider why they are this length. Do some research. Understand the meaning behind what you’re participating in. If all that new age sounding stuff isn’t for you, that’s totally okay. Just be aware and be respectful. Namaste!