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Monday, April 1, 2013

Growing Pains


My heart is a bit pinched right now as I just read an article about Bikram Choudhury which completely lambasted him and it brought up an issue that I've been having about yoga, and the issue can not be lain on yoga's shoulders. Let me preface by saying that I have never done Bikram yoga. I'm not overly interested in it besides the fact that I am a yoga instructor and as such, should know what is out there in the yoga community. It sounds too militaristic for me. Clapping to signify pose changes, static holds and just a bit too hot of temperature even though I practice and teach hot power yoga (which is not the same thing as Bikram, p.s). But if Bikram is what calls to a person, that's fantastic.

Yoga seems to be taking a lot of twists and turns right now and as such, is experiencing what they call "growing pains." A fellow yoga instructor said to me the other day that her teacher recently lamented that "yoga used to be an inch wide and a mile deep and now it is a mile wide and an inch deep." I can see what they are saying. However, I am only new in the yoga community and as such, may be considered part of that inch deep category by some... even though I know in my heart I am in this to become the best person that I may be and to allow others to find themselves and become their best selves as well.


Trying to be my best self leads me to the question... should we as yogis be attacking each other? Even if?? Even if we feel that the other person hurt us? Even if what the other person or tradition teaches is not what we believe to be yoga? This was my whole problem with religion as a child and teenager and young adult. And no, I am not saying that yoga is a religion, it is not. But it can fulfill a spiritual need in  a person and can help one get even more in touch with their own personal religion, should they belong to one. This is only part of the reason why yoga was such a perfect fit for me because I have always been a spiritual person believing in a higher power but never wanting to see myself as right and others as wrong and definitely not enjoying having others pressure me with their "correct" religions. And I have a hard time being a part of a group that touts itself to be the only true thing and all others as just not good or smart or whatever enough to know that truth. I do believe in grace touching us to give us enlightenment but it is certainly not my job to go around telling people who has received grace and who hasn't.

I read an article on Elephant Journal awhile back by Waylon Lewis that really opened my eyes. The article was about the fact that even in these communities we believe in so much, the problem is that we are all still human beings and therefore...imperfect. Odd, isn't it? So completely obvious and yet we expect people to be different because of our belief in the community belief system.  And the truth of that matter was stated to me way back in a yoga class that hadn't hit me initially but that I know for sure now. We are humans and we bring our "stuff" with us onto the yoga mat and into the yoga studio and likewise into church or temple or mosque or whatever. Some of us need to be the best, some of us like to hide, some of us need to be right, some of us will do what hurts us if it means that it "looks" like we are doing this "thing" correctly.

We all have a journey before us and we all have choices to make. I don't want to hurt others or push others down in my journey, if I can help it. I watched a YouTube clip the other day of my favorite yoga photographer Robert Sturman and in it, he was saying that he liked to get his "darkness" out on sketch pads before he made his art because we all have darkness within us but that he only wanted to share light with the world. It really hit home for me. A lot of times when we are feeling that darkness it's easy to get swept into it and create from there. It's a powerful feeling. But just like Robert's art, in life I also want to share light with people.

For me that means a lot of things, one of which is watching my thoughts and my words. If we don't agree with something, can't we just say that I personally would not teach that, I don't believe in that and this is what I do believe in? I know that it may feel cheesy or lame or boring to be "nice." But stamping others down is not in the least what we are about if we truly aspire to be good people, to be "yogis." I'm not saying don't have a sense of humor and of course, we're never going to be perfect because we are human...but for the love of a little self control, yogis don't need to publicly call people douchebags, do they? The energy going out is something that you place into the world and has a ripple effect, like everything else. I know what it's like to have anger and hurt and want to lash out but instead maybe taking a moment, taking a breath before we do that. This is a lesson that I want to get better at in real life interactions and hope that I have gotten better at when I have a moment to reflect in my writing.


While yoga may be experiencing it's growing pains, so are we. We twist and turn trying to get to the light. We make mistakes. But we are all brothers and sisters at the end of the day. We know this. Life is hard enough.

A note about myself, I am also a reactor. I think most of us are. I know this girl who called Bikram a douchebag. I am her, at least, I have been her and I'm working on it. I also think we would probably be very good friends if we met and I am not in the least disagreeing with the fact that Choudhury does not sound like the yoga that I believe in if he's saying these things. But I'm hoping that we can both come to peace, come to realize that those people who push our buttons simply show us where our weak spots are, where we are able to let some more light in. Where we are able to love more.

While it's not awesome to have the leader of your yoga tradition involved in a scandal, I don't think that discounts the personal experience that a lot of people had in that tradition. Which means, even though these "leaders" have shown that they're human and maybe have even gotten way off base, (like way off base) they have still helped change people's lives. So you can take that good and choose to follow them or not from that point. We all have our lessons to learn and some of us will learn them very publicly and maybe rightfully so. I'm going to try to keep choosing not to fight or add to the darkness but to grow my own garden in the light instead. Hopefully we get to a point where that light is the only thing that exists for us anymore. I don't think I know anyone like this but if you're completely enlightened, let me know and give me some pointers for goodness sake!

Call me a hippy, call me a free spirit, say what you will...but it really would be nice if we could all just "get along."


Say I am You ~ Rumi
I am dust particles in sunlight.
I am the round sun.
To the bits of dust I say, Stay.
To the sun, Keep moving.
I am morning mist,
and the breathing of evening.
I am wind in the top of a grove,
and surf on the cliff.
Mast, rudder, helmsman, and keel,
I am also the coral reef they founder on.
I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches.
Silence, thought, and voice.
The musical air coming through a flute,
a spark of stone, a flickering in metal.
Both candle and the moth crazy around it.
Rose, and the nightingale lost in the fragrance.
I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence, the lift, and the falling away.
What is, and what isn't.
You who know, Jelaluddin,
You the one in all, say who I am.
Say I am you.


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