Marlon Brando’s famous line from “On the Waterfront”. His older brother had talked him into taking the fall in a series of boxing matches in order to collect gambling winnings…rigging the fights to make some dough.
Change “Marlon Brando” to “Modern Commercial Yoga”. Put those words into the mouth of yoga as it is all-too-often taught today, and notice, sadly, how it fits really well. A lot of what passes for yoga today is just teachers and studios pulling their punches to make money. I hear an awful lot of preening, self-congratulatory talk masquerading as spirituality or some kind of psychological profundity which amounts to little more than cheerleading and soporifics.
Once upon a time not so long ago…within living memory as they say…the hatha yoga community right here in the USA seemed to understand that the practice had a serious transformative intent, that comforting the student was to be balanced with disturbing the student, that discipline and focus were necessary for change and growth, that hard work (not just sweating) and perseverance and humility were essential. And that a lot of this was downright uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Well now, that don’t sell hotcakes…or magazines or shiny new clothes…do it?
How is it that a whole boatload of honest, well-meaning teachers and students got so duped? One way to sell stuff to people is to use the addictions they already have. Offer them something they’re already addicted to. In America today that would be speed (both kinds), novelty, glamour, personality, shallowness and a trophy just for showing up.
In Ayurvedic terms these are all qualities (well, except for the trophy maybe) of Vata, wind element: expansive, flighty, volatile, ungrounded, extraverted. Our culture today is almost totally “vata-genic” (thanks to Francois Raoult for this phrase), with little more than lip-service given to any kind of real balance with Pitta (fire, put simply) or Kapha (water) elements.
BUT YOU CAN REMEDY THAT in your own practice, in your own way of doing (being, becoming) your yoga. There are simple, real things you can do: slow down—literally—; look down—literally—; work more from your legs and your back body, lead from your belly & not your chin, etc. Actually breathe from your belly to initiate movement. All these things are practical and real, and they can be learned.
They can be learned most easily by somebody who understands and practices them every day themselves.