I forget sometimes that to many people yoga is just a workout. It’s a way to stretch, to get a tight butt, to flatten the belly.
I forget that Prana doesn’t necessarily even exist for many people.
Spirituality, energy, connection, divinity and all that kind of spiritual woo woo is pretty far out in most corners of NZ society.
Most people aren’t interested in any kind of spiritual enlightenment, or spiritual path when they go to a yoga class. They’ve got a wedding to go to next weekend and a boss that’s always on their case and a father who’s never around and a best friend who ran off with their husband.
Yoga’s just an hour out of their busy day to catch their breath and feel a little better about fitting into a sundress, dealing with their boss, forgiving their father and finding a new best friend.
Which is why I shouldn’t be surprised to read the following on a yoga studio’s website.
The studio offer includes yoga, Pilates, and other programmes and events that strengthen both the body and mind. Our programmes maintain the integrity of these long-standing practices, but leave the mysticism behind.
That kinda hurt.
Leave the mysticism behind? Then why are you even bothering to call it yoga? Why not call it Stretching?
That was my initial reaction anyway. Before I got too judgmental and all holier than thou, I thought I’d better go and check on exactly what mysticism means.
Here’s how Wikipedia defines it:
Mysticism (from the Greek μυστικός, mystikos, an initiate of a mystery religion) is the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight. Mysticism usually centers on a practice or practices intended to nurture those experiences or awareness.
Yep, just what I thought. A practice that gives us a direct experience of truth, or the divine. ie. Yoga.
How can it be Yoga if there’s no mysticism? It’s not Yoga anymore, it’s just physical exercise.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Yoga is just going to class once a week and getting ya stretch on. Just ‘cos it’s been different in my life, doesn’t mean I’m right does it?
I mean, Yoga’s seeped off my mat and permeated every particle of my life.
I live, breathe, write, practice and exist in yoga, with yoga, for yoga, and by yoga. Yoga is a way of being for me, there is no moment in my life when I am not yoga.
A big reason why yoga become so all-encompassing for me was that the alternative was Hell. Yep, Hell with a Capital H. Crashing and burning big time meant I was scrambling for answers, searching furiously for relief from all the pain that was drowning me. Yoga threw me a life-line. It gave me an opportunity to catch my breath, connect to peace, calm my fears.
So I threw myself headfirst into yoga, diving into the sweet relief and sucking it all up with the thirst of a woman who’s been walking the desert.
And in the sneaky way that it has, yoga hooked me in. It started with that feeling of clarity after class. A sinking down into myself where everything felt ok, at least for ten or so minutes. I started wanting more and more of that goodness. I started reading books on yoga, and seeking out teachers who knew more than I did.
Suddenly I wasn’t there to fix my sore back anymore, I was there to understand life in it’s deepest sense. There was no turning back.
I’d been Yogafied. But it’s not that way for everybody – even when they do hear that Call.
On Sunday, the day after I taught an afternoon workshop at Studio Sangha in Queenstown, I did a private yoga session with a student whose back was playing up. As a result she’d been unable to come to the workshop. We went through some tuning-in, simple movements designed to connect her to her spine and allow her to just become aware of the tension. As we finished up she commented ruefully:
I can feel that I need to do this every morning – but I don’t. Why do you think that is – that we know what we need, but we just don’t do it?
See she knew. She knew that if she was to dive whole-heartedly into what she knows she needs, she could never go back. Her life would irrevocably change, and usually that means it gets worse well before it gets better. And when our life is still fairly comfortable the way it is… we can avoid the Call.
Because it takes courage and determination to leave the comfort zone of everything we know inside out and venture out into the unknown. We don’t know what demons we may face, nor what we will be asked to let go of and leave behind. And nothing is certain – there are no promises we will ever get to a place of contentment or happiness.
Remembering too that the great paradox is that there is nowhere to get to. Contentment is not found, nor arrived at. It arises in the space that’s left when we get rid of attachments, expectations, past & future. When we accept whatever it is that’s in front of us.
And that’s hard. Because we don’t want to. We want what we want and damn it if we’re not going to go out and get it! And if we don’t feel like we’re worth what we want, or capable of getting it, then we’ll bloody well find our pleasures where we can and bury those desires deep under a mountain of booze, drugs, sex, tv, and other countless distractions.
Of which exercise is one.
Hence a yoga studio offering Yoga minus the mysticism.
This studio’s smart – they know their market, and they have no intention of scaring anybody off.
The number of people who want to do Yoga Stretching to Feel Good and not be personally challenged in any kind of way is far higher than the number of people who are ready to practice yoga as a path to enlightenment/awakening/liberation/freedom, having the courage to face their truths and shadows along the way.
Besides, who’s qualified to teach that kind of Yoga? Not your average 200 hr RYT. Hell, most of those teachers haven’t even begun to do the kind of personal work that’s required to be able to offer true guidance along the way. They’re still figuring out their Yamas from their Niyamas.
But the clients of that studio won’t care. They just want to feel good. They want their yoga buzz yo.
Me, I’m still shaking my head over that phrase.
Leaving the mysticism behind.
Behind what? Closed doors? Closed hearts? Closed minds? Oh I know, you don’t want to scare people off. I get it. Then can you explain to me why your website also says:
Through … re-awakening, we aim to steer our students to greater health, increased …….. spiritual energy.
Re-awakening and increased spiritual energy? While leaving the mysticism behind?
Mixed messages people.
Fire your copywriter.
You can’t have it both ways.
That’s what I call bullshit.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m not sure if the studio fired their copywriter, but they did change their website. Wonderful to see! Especially since, having taken a couple of classes at their studio, I know that what their teachers are teaching is… Yoga. Mysticism intact.