Interesting dialogue on Yoga in the NY Times today. Its kind of harsh to refer to current American yoga that way, but its not entirely untrue; after all its a rather narcissistic society.
live in downtown New York City, where yoga studios are as common as espresso bars. Now we read that people driven into those studios by the stress of their lives often emerge with physical injuries from the stress of the contortions they are asked to perform there. What did you expect? When you gather a group of high-achieving residents of a city whose motto might as well be, “Other people are working harder than you!”, and command them to perform in a room full of mirrors, people are going to hurt themselves trying to be the best in class. The word “yoga” means “to yoke”: your mind to your body, not your instructor’s. The Hippocratic Oath should also apply to yoga: first, do no harm.
The greatest teacher of yoga is not Iyengar or Bikram, but Gandhi.
Yoga was never meant to be a competitive sport, like ice hockey. But when it spread to this robustly competitive nation, where it got turbocharged by money — the U.S. yoga market is worth $6 billion a year — its original meaning got dispersed. What is now called for is a broader understanding of the meaning of yoga.
The yoga that most Americans are aware of is hatha yoga, only one (and perhaps the least important) of the various types of yoga. Krishna in the Bhagvad-Gita defines them: karma yoga (the yoga of action), bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion) and jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge). Volunteering at a soup kitchen is yoga; raising your voice in praise in a gospel choir is yoga; trying to understand how the galaxies shift and why the poor lack shoes is also yoga.
Hatha yoga is not for everyone. The other forms are. Not everyone can — or should — stand on their heads, but everyone can use their heads to make the world a better place; yoke their emotions to their intelligence and feel more centered.
In this sense, the greatest teacher of yoga is not Iyengar or Bikram, but Gandhi. “The yogi is not one who sits down to practise breathing exercises,” he wrote in his interpretation of the Gita. “He is one who looks upon all with an equal eye, sees other creatures in himself.” That’s one pose that will truly reduce your stress