By: Jeanine Talento
It is quite a challenge to digest and describe all of the ways that Yoga has been diluted in our western society. The physical practice of yoga has countless benefits and is an incredible gateway into the deep wisdom and philosophy that can transform our lives, perspectives, relationships and overall well-being. It is also important to recognize that our culture’s emphasis on primarily the physical aspects while strictly highlighting certain demographics of practitioners contributes to many individuals feeling hesitant to try Yoga.
Prospective students often express the fear that they are not “good” enough, young enough, flexible enough, or physically fit enough. It is our duty as Yogis to revolutionize this minimized definition of Yoga and expand our culture’s ideas to accept how vast, magical, powerful and purposeful this practice is far beyond any physical capability. We must work to translate and redefine the depth of all that yoga includes so that more and more people will feel invited and welcomed to step into their own healing process.
Unfortunately, it is not too surprising that Yoga has become about how we look and what we’re wearing. This tendency to commodify and exclusify has been happening in our society historically for a long time. This diminished view of yoga has the capacity to truly damage a modality that could heal our society as a whole. The nature of yoga is inclusive and for every body but regrettably, this is not at all how it has been portrayed over the last few decades of its rise in popularity in the West. This fact in its essence draws attention to the shift in priorities that our world desperately needs. Ironically, yoga has the means to do just that.
Even though the physical postures cultivate more body awareness and mind body connections which is valuable for every human being to experience, Yoga encompasses much more than a mat and a toned body. It is necessary when exploring the world of yoga to note that it also includes meditation, mindfulness, moral codes of conduct, ethical guidelines and tips to cultivate a meaningful life. Yoga pushes us to dust off the lens of which we’ve been seeing our world and guides us to see things more clearly. Yoga encourages simplicity, which could immensely empower our over-stressed, overworked, and over-consumed society. Yoga reminds us what life is truly about: knowing ourselves & being of service to others.
We can become more inclusive by embodying these practices and living by example. The path to oneness involves turning toward the darkness. We can no longer ignore the injustice in our world and this includes our yoga world. Yoga is not strictly for the elite, the wealthy, the privileged, or the physically fit. There are numerous underserved and underprivileged communities that would benefit from the power of Yoga. It is not only necessary but crucial that we begin to expand the communities that our Yoga reaches.
Yoga requires skillful action and mindful living. How are you living your yoga? How are you contributing to our society’s diminished view of yoga? We must ask ourselves these tough questions and make the appropriate shifts now before this magic is reduced and exclusified any more.
Whether you are a teacher or student, encourage yourself to incorporate the other 7 limbs of yoga into your teachings and practice. Study, read and open your heart to how much more work there is to do on a personal and global level.
Yoga has been there for us and now it is our turn to be there for Yoga. Yoga can change the world, we just need to open the door and show others what yoga is really all about and that Yoga is there for them. This is true unity. This is Yoga.