Trouble deciphering your peaceful warrior from your skeptic-asana? We hear you. The “yogic vs. unyogic” debate gets a lot of mileage around these parts, and often it ends up being a personal battle many have with their own yamas, niyamas and yo mamas. Can I practice yoga and still laugh at Family Guy? Which is why we totally appreciate this latest offering from true YogaDork and author Neal Pollack on his grappling with yogi-hippiedom and his inherent inclination toward cynicism, humor and rebellion.
NP describes his dueling egos via Yoga Journal (which we selfishly wish were YD, if YD could afford to pay him), and explains how he’s found there’s actually no need to give up one for the other. Huzzah!
Since I started practicing yoga eight years ago, irony and sincerity have done constant battle in my mind, a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. One moment, I’m all about citta vritti nirodaha and saying “om” in unison five times with a bunch of hippies. The next, I’m writing snarky tweets about Top Chef. I love my yogic self, or at least my yogic conception of myself, but I also don’t want to leave my pre-yoga personality behind.
That shouldn’t be necessary. Yoga helps calm the restless mind and tamp down the rampaging ego. But it doesn’t exist to turn you into an idiot without opinions. One of the dominant concepts in yoga philosophy is vikalpa [ed. note: viveka], or “discriminating awareness.” Part of vikalpa [ed. viveka] involves being able to distinguish “real” phenomena from transitory ones. It also allows you to observe reality as it truly exists, without filters or prejudice.
Part of that involves self-awareness. So if you’re putting down a Facebook status update, however sincere, that makes you look a little like a New Age twit, it’s OK to tamper it with a shake of irony. Yoga involves more than flexibility of body. You also have to have a flexible mind, to be able to hold opposing viewpoints, about yourself, about other people, and about everything that surrounds you.
While this doesn’t exactly give us all license to spout any nasty thing we like into social media land because that’s our reality, it does allow a little leeway to be yourself. And the yoga, well we don’t need to tell you that it’s probably helped you discover greater consciousness in your words, actions and intentions. But we are multi-faceted beings, and those of you coming to this site regularly will attest that there are many colors of the yoga pinwheel, all very real. That’s what keeps it interesting, and us all unique. We like to think of yoga as helping us fine tune and clarify rather than water down and dilute. And taking the piss out of it (or ourselves) from time to time is just part of the process.
Yoga is simultaneously wonderful and mystical, but it’s also completely ridiculous. That’s why I love it so.
We can toast to that. In a neckerchief, er whatever.
hipster yoga is a thing, btw.
I raise my glass to this. Yoga, if yer doin’ it right, should make your “funny” funnier, your sensitivity more sensitive, heighten your talent, enhance your human-ness. It should never turn you into a dull automaton, spouting platitudes. It makes the real, “realer.” If that’s not moving in you, then I say… yer doin’ it wrong and get off the mat.
I truly do not understand the need to fit into some predefined “box” we have decided to label as “being a yogi.” Of course one practicing yoga can enjoy Family Guy, tweet about Top Chef, and say “om” five times in unison. Aren’t we all just imperfect individuals living our lives, trying to be better and practicing yoga? Why concern ourselves with fitting into the strict, predefined yogi “box”, whatever we think that is, when we can just concern ourselves with being the best person we can be…
Hmm, I think Neal Pollack may have confused vikalpa with viveka. You know, “vi”s and “ka”s. This makes me giggle, since vikalpa really does mean making stuff up.
Nice to see the loving acceptance of snarkiness in the post and the comments. Hope it extends to nitpicking. Thanks YogaDork as always.
Love the post and love Neal Pollack. If yoga doesn’t meet you where ever you’re at today than its a waste of time. I have to credit all my good fortune to the practice of yoga and meditation. Thank god I still have some hipster samskaras to work out!
This is great! “It (yoga) doesn’t exist to turn you into an idiot without opinions”. Ha! I love holding on to my pre-yoga self and trying to find the balance. Great post!