Yoga in an age of materialism

Yoga is all the rage these days with fitness centers and sports retailers alike marketing lithe fresh faced models poised effortlessly in gravity defying positions. A picture of the healthy living lifestyle that yoga has been exploited to sell. Ask any female friend on the latest news and they will wax lyrical on their latest hot yoga classes and how good it is for the arms, butt, legs etc. To many ladies of the middle upper class, yoga classes are the fulcrum of their social life – representing the chance to catch up on the latest gossip with their classmates, compare the newest yoga wear brands and keep those extra pounds off at the same time. After all, how better to show off to your strength and flexibility with your handstands and mind boggling twists. I have a cousin who posts pictures of her latest yoga poses, the hottest yoga gear and swanky health products every other day on Facebook. Proponents I suppose of her healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, these a posted alongside thinly veiled snide comments and criticisms of others which is not exactly the type of positive mindset I would have expected from what yoga advocates.

While the health benefits of incorporating yoga classes into one’s lifestyle are undeniable, the wave of ‘new age’ yogis catching on in the market leaves something to be desired. While the values underlying the pursuit of healthy and fitness are entrenched in the fitness industry, there is a inevitable sense of loss and dilution of the spiritual aspect of yoga practice, with yoga being whittled down to a mere physical practice devoid of deeper understanding. While your four times a week yoga fitness class may leave you dripping in sweet and high on endorphins, seldom does it open the doors to your own self introspection and enlightenment. There are many hidden aspects of yoga that some may be intersted to explore but not exposed to. And while everyone is entitled to their own style of practice. the spiritual benefits of a comprehensive yoga practice is likely to be what keeps people practicing yoga long after the novelty of branded gym wear and obligations to expensive gym memberships have worn off.

The yoga sutras were not created specifically to advocate healthy living for weight loss but rather and a guide for the mind or ”Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah’ as described in verse 1.2. I believe that the physical benefits of yoga are useful side effects of dedicated yoga practice that open the path to greater enlightenment. A beautiful quote from the art of dancing sums it up eloquently – ‘Technique must be mastered only because the body must not get in the way of the soul’s expression.’ A beautiful dancer is not characterized only by her excellent technique, but more so because of her ability to inspire the audience through her dancing. In the same way, physical practice of yoga is necessary only because the body should not get of way of the mind’s illumination. But that is only half the journey. Only through union of the mind and the body can the true benefits of yoga practice be achieved, benefits that are independent of how sexy your yoga gear is today or how good your body looks 😉

By stillfindingmyway