Yoga traditions: Is it now just marketable and sexy?


Sarbani Sen wonders what on Earth has happened to yoga traditions.

Coming across the #yogaindustry campaign recently, I was surprised to encounter kindergarten stories of who did what and how they did it. Apparently this campaign aims at “bringing back yoga to the yogi, the real ones”. Arguably, for these practitioners of the famous Indian physical health technique, more and more people advertize themselves as yogis and show extreme physical flexibility allowing them to do almost all the postures (that even Patanjali would blush) and selling yoga as a marketable and sexy activity.

I’m not sure I actually felt the beauty of yoga in their campaign, that space of bliss and allowance of what is, that connection to the divine, to the universal, that space of vulnerability where we all strive and do our best, but are in total awareness of our limitations and challenges. In this piece, I’d like to stand up for more allowance in yoga (and Dance too). I feel there is a need to open hands and let go of the supremacy.

I agree that using the word yoga in crucial activities such as beer drinking has been pushing it a bit too far. I mean at least we could keep the healthy side of yoga. In terms of new yoga developments, I personally love the Art of Accro yoga, the mother and daughter yoga, Yin Yoga, Vinyasa yoga etc. All have their own tone of voice and their beauty, although total extrapolation of the ancient Vedic scriptures. Even Indians started doing so: Bikram yoga to start with – which is yoga in a 45°C heated room.

Although I agree that it is important to explain the deeper intentions of yogic practice, I think the initiators of this campaign badly need to face reality, and welcome a series of new experts, beginners, lovers, followers that weren’t there before. Before this practice was limited to the initiated only. You could call yourself a yogi or a dancer after 10-20 years of yoga or ballet. Today you are dancer if your mind is set on that frequency and I believe it’s the beauty of our lifetime: anyone can become anything at any moment. It’s just a question of following the flow, the inspiration, the desire to choose exactly what you want to live at each moment of your life.

I believe there is space for self expression and for creation for everybody. Enough of the diktat of work, effort and sweat: ‘to be’ is a huge challenge already. To have the courage to show who you are, above all critics, above all trends and esthetics, that’s the true power of self expression today. Violence to the body is completely obsolete. Let people follow the flow and just be what and who they are. There is no such thing as right and wrong, as good and bad, especially not in yoga. At the end of the day, it is you that is responsible for your body, and only you know how far you can take it, and the real challenge is to be a ‘body whisperer’.