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NYTimes: American Yogis Just Posers for Fitness

in Business of Yoga, YD News, Yoga Origins

The latest in the ‘NYTimes on Yoga’ file (they love it!) is an urging message to all American yogis: If you’re going to continue redefining to the world what yoga is, can y’all stop being (just) posers?

In the article “Posing for Fitness” the author accentuates his cause by comparing two recent books on yoga’s history in America, Stefanie Syman’s The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America and Robert Love’s The Great Oom, to point out a few missing threads of transcendence in the fabric of our stretchy pants that is American yoga.

Whether in the streets of Mysore or on Fifth Avenue, yoga cannot be disentangled from specific histories or specific cultural and economic practices. Of course, the more vulgar aspects of its inevitable commodification in the United States, like $1,000-a-night yoga cruises, ­ought to be deplored. Certainly, the civic or political virtue that results from limber, yoga-toned bodies is not yet measurable. And it would be nice if American followers of yoga, who increasingly define the future of this Indian discipline, would at least occasionally seek something like spiritual transcendence, though, for some at any rate, prolonged lovemaking and deeper orgasms will remain more feasible than — and may even resemble — ecstatic oneness with the big Self.

Zing! This article at once makes us feel self-conscious and a little indignant: Whatchu mean we don’t seek oneness with the big Self?? Crap, is that ego talking?

Here’s another interesting tidbit:

Bernard also learned well the lesson of all successful purveyors of self-help from the Buddha to Bikram Choudhury, the controversial founder of today’s heavily marketed (and copyrighted) Bikram Yoga: target the very rich, who, as their shrewdest chronicler in the 1920s reminded us, are “different from you and me” because “they possess and enjoy early” and grow “soft” (while the rest of us flounder at an elemental stage of the human struggle).

Ok here’s where it chafes. Yes, consumerism is for the rich! (and people who think they are). And those with bigger fortunes are lucky enough to afford lofty enlightenment. But with all of the expensive yoga gear and doo-dads we still feel pretty confident people are finding yoga ever more accessible with the help of by-donation classes, free online classes, yogactivist organizations and the warm and welcoming community of yogis online! Yeah! Can we get a what what?

On a side note, we totally recommend your eyeballs view either of those books on yoga’s journey to the superpower we’ve seen it become in America, complete with modern day moguls, major motion picture franchises and a downdogging Lady Gaga.

What do you think posers??

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2 comments… add one

  • Am I the only one confused by the picture of a Brit under the headline of American Yogis? But then again, it all made sense – in a way :-)

  • admin

    haha, nice observation. The article starts out all about Sting and his yoga sex talk. He is the poster boy for pop yoga it seems. Or he was.

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