I recently came across the following book titles:
This is one the biggest issues I have with how yoga has been interpreted by some people in the West. They have made it into another fitness regime geared towards achieving a superficial fitness, as opposed to the one originally intended. I love the way the first book claims you’re going to achieve your goal by devoting just 15 minutes of your time a day, and the second one offers to help you lose weight in 4 weeks (not advised) without the stress. What stress? There is no stress in yoga, that’s the point. However, trying to lose weight so quickly probably is quite stressful. Then there’s the third book title, which promises to ‘supercharge your sex appeal’ because that’s just what Patanjali was thinking of when he wrote The Yoga Sutras! Clearly, we’ve misunderstood everything he said.
So, has the West forgotten the spirituality of yoga? Quite possibly, yes. We have taken what is essentially a practice that prepares the body to sit in meditation for long periods of time, and turned it into the quest for the body beautiful. And those bodies must be beautifully dressed too. There are so many clothes designed specifically for yoga now, as though a pair of loose fitting trousers and a top aren’t good enough anymore. My favourites (if I can call them that) among these new yogic necessities, are yoga socks. Yoga is practised barefoot. There are practical considerations for this as it helps you to get a good grip on your mat and there’s also something very grounding about your bare feet in touch with the earth/floor beneath you. However, it’s not so much the socks themselves that bother me, as the adverts for them, all of which seem to feature a woman in an advanced posture, naked. Why? Why is she naked? And why in such an incredibly difficult asana, which will only continue to perpetuate the myth of yoga being something slim, beautiful, physically perfect people do?
The West’s obsession with the body beautiful has twisted the purpose of yoga, which seeks to take the individual beyond the transitory nature of the physical and focus instead on the mind and spirit. In doing so it risks alienating many people who would greatly benefit from a regular yoga class, thinking it isn’t for them because they feel they don’t fit in. Which is the complete antithesis of what yoga is all about.
What do you think? Do all the photos of beautiful people in difficult postures depress or inspire you?