This post is part of our YogaDork State of the Union series sharing reflections on 2014 and holding intentions and predictions for 2015.
by Todd Wolfenberg
Yoga seems to be evolving at an unprecedented pace. Patents, commercialization, yoga competitions, cannabis yoga classes, $108 yoga pants, body image issues—it all makes you wonder if things are headed in the wrong direction. Would the great masters cringe at where we have taken yoga in 2015?
You know, I don’t think so. Admittedly, there are some trends in yoga that are not healthy, and these are problems that we as practitioners absolutely should be addressing. But as a whole, I don’t think yoga is doomed. In fact, it seems like the tradition of yoga itself encourages innovation. For thousands of years teachers have taught students, who have tested their knowledge, grown and expanded it based upon practical experience, and then passed that experiential knowledge down to their students. And the cycle has continued. The brilliance of yoga and its timeless texts like the Yoga Sutras, is that they are applicable in a contemporary context.
Of course we do have some work to do. We need to address the body image problem (both in yoga and in society). And we could all benefit from bringing our yoga practice even more fully into our daily lives and relationships (after all, yoga isn’t about being peaceful on your mat for 60 minutes and then angry, aggressive, and cynical the other 23 hours of the day). We could also be more accepting, understanding that every kind of yoga has its place. It cannot be my yoga versus your yoga. We need to engender a deeper sense of unity and community and resist the divisive trends that we see in society.
But on the whole, I think we are on the right track. In the past year alone we have seen the yoga community take a much more active role in speaking out about perceived threats and ethical issues. Whether standing up to YogaGlo or Lululemon, yogis are sending a clear message that we expect and demand the highest values and morals from both individuals and businesses.
My optimism is also inspired by our massive growth at Yoga International. Our magazine (now online) has never been a mass-market resource for yogis. We have never considered ourselves to be in competition with the Yoga Journals of the world because our approach is entirely different. We delve deep into yoga practice, meditation, wisdom and philosophy, and we are far less focused on mainstream commercial yoga topics.
But in the past 18 months something has shifted. Students and teachers seem to be driven towards deeper understandings of yoga—and this shift is happening at a rapid rate. To give you a sense of the scale, over the past 18 months our site traffic has grown 3800% and our Facebook audience has exploded from 43,000 to 530,000.
There are probably multiple causes for this change. Yoga International now offers more than ever before with classes, daily new content, archives of thousands of articles, and deeper learning opportunities. But it also seems that yogis themselves have changed. Perhaps they’re searching for greater fulfillment from their practice. They may be fighting back against depictions of yoga as merely a physical discipline, suited only to only those whose bodies fit the media’s very narrow idea about what a “yoga body” looks like. Or maybe it is the inherent nature of yoga itself to always push you deeper, to learn more, and to connect with yourself and the world around you.
So where do we go from here? At Yoga International, we will launch some amazing new features aimed to connect students and teachers in unprecedented ways. We are always thinking about how we can serve at a deeper level, and many groundbreaking new ideas will come to life in 2015. Look for more info this spring and summer.
As for yoga trends, there will probably be even more strange and unusual new yoga-related products and businesses as yoga continues to grow in popularity. But there will also be an even stronger desire for authenticity, tradition, and community. We’ll likely see a shift away from very narrow views of yoga to more holistic approaches. Taking a class won’t be enough. Students are seeking something more profound and longer lasting.
In a broader context, Yoga has become synonymous with asana practice. Perhaps these latest shifts will even begin to redefine how people think of yoga, what it means to practice yoga, and ultimately, how yoga can empower us to create real, positive change in the world.
Todd Wolfenberg is the CEO of YogaInternational.com.