I am kind of sick of William Broad talking about yoga. He just published an article in the New York Times called “Women’s Flexibility Is a Liability (in Yoga).” He means asana, which is only one piece of the entire practice of yoga. Yoga includes asana but also the higher and more refined practices like breathing exercises, meditation, and study of the ancient texts. (In fact, real yogis eventually drop asana because they have used them to prepare their bodies for these deeper and more difficult practices.)
Mr. Broad doesn’t seem to think he needs to bother to understand or use the correct language, perpetuating the myth that yoga is about getting a beautiful body like Madonna or Jennifer Aniston, the celebs we keep hearing about who do Ashtanga and Vinyasa as part of their exercise routine. And Mr. Broad’s relentless focus on the physical practice, insisting on such a narrow use of the word yoga, just perpetuates it.
Yoga is a 5,000-year-old philosophical system – one of 6 classical systems of ancient India. It is still around today because the teachings speak to the human condition. What is this life about? Why am I suffering? What can I do to minimize unhappiness and maximize happiness?
The Yoga Sutras, the bible of yoga, say that when we no longer get caught up in the thoughts that are constantly streaming through our minds, we abide in our true nature. That means we can actually see who we really are. In yoga it is called the Purusha, or the true Self. The Self with the capital S.
The Self that has always been there. The Self that is there before, during and after.
Before the thoughts that arise of the past and thoughts about the future that may or may never happen. During crises and periods of stress like the death of a loved one or a divorce. And after even our most pleasant experiences like watching the sunrise at the beach, falling in love, or seeing our child’s smiling face.
What Mr. Broad discusses in his article has merit. People do over exert themselves and get hurt. However, this is a widespread phenomenon across almost all physical disciplines. Can we talk about football, skiing, cycling, and even Pilates?
No pain, no gain? Why in the world do people do this? It is tied to our culture’s overbearing emphasis on the outer expression of who we are in terms of what we look like and what we own.
A body like Sarah Jessica Parker? A home like Jerry Seinfeld? A wedding like Kim Kardashian? Please. Magazines, websites, and blogs talk about this stuff like it is the holy grail of life.
But it’s not. Material possessions, even our physical body, are not the source of happiness. The yogis knew this 5,000 years ago. And that is why the practice is still around today – for enlightenment. Believe me, if you want a flat belly there are a lot of faster ways to get there.
Please keep going to yoga class but know that the asana – handstand, wheel, tree – are just like Sarah Jessica’s body, Jerry’s house, and Kim’s wedding. They are just one more thing to attain. Get over it!
Please, Mr. Broad, stop scaring people away from the very practice that can actually prevent the very injuries you are talking about if people could see yoga for what it truly is.
The path to freedom.
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