I am at peace with myself and the universe.
Well, maybe not totally at peace, but I did spend the week doing yoga and meditating.
Before this week, if someone asked me what I knew about yoga, I would have not had much to say. I have since done some studying and participating, and I still don’t know exactly what I would say.
After a quick web search, I gathered some basic information about how yoga is an ancient Eastern tradition that uses physical stances and postures to increase spirituality and health. The practice of yoga eventually made its way to the Western world, and has been gaining popularity ever since.
The idea that contorting my body into uncomfortable positions would somehow make my life better seemed far-fetched. I also couldn’t imagine hordes of Americans would think much differently than I did. I figured whatever form of yoga made it to this continent had long since been corrupted and Americanized, stamped with a Kardashian’s name and sold to the masses as the next hot workout.
To some extent, I wasn’t far off.
Erika Field, an instructor of Kundalini yoga at Downtown Yoga at 50 E. Tabernacle St., said the westernization of yoga is condemned by some practitioners who want to keep it true to its original form.
“Purists of those kinds of yoga get very passionate about maintaining the integrity of it throughout the ages and not westernizing it and not dumbing it down,” Field said.
Despite this, Field said many unconventional types of yoga have been started by people who want to make it more accessible or appealing to the masses.
I can understand the interest in just selling certain aspects of yoga. According to a study done in Australia, most people try yoga after a recommendation by their doctor to build strength after an injury or loosen up muscles.
Field said that’s all some people are looking for.
“Some people want that perfect discipline. Other people want to lay down and listen to the gong and breathe, and most people want something in between,” Field said. “You can find whatever kind of yoga you want to find.”
She said Kundalini, as well as other popular types of yoga, are very rigid in how they can be taught and are still very focused on the spiritual aspects.
The commercialization of yoga has provided a way for consumers to choose between many different types of yoga to isolate the aspect they want. For some people, the most appealing part of yoga is the apparel, as the number of participants of yoga in one year rose 4.5 percent while the increase in sales of yoga pants was 10 times that.
The farther away from traditional yoga the discipline becomes, it seems to me to become more of a fad – something that will be replaced by whatever type of calisthenics or physical activity is in vogue next.
Although some aspects or practices of yoga have become trendy, there is a high retention of participants who begin to practice the traditional forms.
J.T. Brown, co-founder of Be Hot Yoga at 558 E. Riverside Drive in St. George, said nothing is more powerful than the authentic practice of yoga.
“People think its a fad. Yeah, it’s a 6000-year-old fad,” Brown said. “Getting connected to yourself never gets old.”
During the different yoga sessions I attended during the week, I started to think that yoga wasn’t really my thing. I’m not a very spiritual person and nothing I was doing was making me feel like that was going to change. Even the meditation, which was definitely incredibly relaxing and enjoyable, yielded only slightly different results than listening to Jeff Bridges’s new sleeping tape. Studies have shown the benefits yoga can have, but I just didn’t think yoga was the only way to reap those benefits.
Then Brown and I talked about the meditation session he just taught and he told me the most important part of yoga is basically just the study of yourself.
“Yoga is simple. If you are breathing and you are present, you are practicing yoga,” Brown said. “Call it whatever you want to call it. You’re practicing yoga. Yoga is the fusion of the self into the present. The easiest way I know of to do that is to breathe.”
He said the different postures and poses of yoga are meant to necessitate that breathing, but that doesn’t mean riding a bike or spending time in the wilderness doesn’t count as yoga.
This destroyed everything I thought I knew. If yoga is really so fluid, then it’s kind of impossible to be critical of it. Anything you do that promotes a healthy introspection and living in the moment could be a valid form of yoga, apparently.
That all sounds pretty good to me. If it means I don’t have to chant mantras or try and touch my toes then maybe I am a yoga person.
Even if the traditional forms don’t seem appealing, there is a yoga out there for you. You’ll never know until you try. Namaste.