A number of long-time yoga teachers are deciding to stop referring to what they teach as yoga. In the past, the term yoga represented a freedom to explore and discover truths outside western cultural norms. Now that yoga has largely become a western cultural norm, fueled by the advertising prowess of a multi-billion dollar industry and challenged by scholars questioning appropriation
The novelty of yoga has been worn down to almost nothing by a multi-billion dollar industry that cares little for its tenets, like the crumbling shreds of a shoddily made pvc mat from China. But from out of the ashes of craven images and advertising schemes, a new discipline is emerging.
Continuing education for yoga teachers is in high demand since the proliferation of yoga teacher training certification has reached epic proportions. No one expects someone to be seasoned after merely two hundred hours, and technological advancements have enabled newfound access and resources to anyone with an internet connection.
In the last twenty years, yoga in the west has gone from a guru-driven model to a market-driven model. Decisions still often come from atop a pyramid. But now, the directives are based more on aggregated data than on the presumed authority of an ancient wisdom.
Among longtime yoga professionals, there are some well-kept secrets. The reasons for these truths to remain unspoken are rooted in protecting both personal and professional interests. But, for many, the veneer has worn too thin and what once was an article of faith now feels like perpetuating myths. For those untangling the mess of confused emotions and experiences, honesty is our only saving grace.
Coming of age in the yoga profession means facing changing realities and shifting priorities. The majority of yoga teachers start out in the profession at an early time in their lives. But as the viability of old models wanes and independent players have less impact in the face of up-scaled operations, long-term prospects for careers in yoga are less apparent. For those whose passion cannot be deterred by the odds, their faith and trust in practice will likely be tested.
A confluence of conversations has emerged in the yoga world regarding purpose, safety, and abuse of power. The politics involved are playing themselves out, and the sides of the debate are being formed along disparate lines.
For many, it is has become important to distinguish between “asana,” or the performing of postures, and yoga. Both those who are inclined towards yoga as a fitness regimen, and those who embrace it as more than just exercise, find it necessary to clarify the intent and purpose behind their practice. This compartmentalization, while convenient and often useful, brings with it a dilemma, the resolution to which determines what is actually possible with yoga.
Economic trends and the evolution of social media have led to a shift in the way yoga is being effectively marketed. The old model of packaging and selling a style of practice has largely been retired. Now, everyone agrees, the teacher is the brand. With this comes a string of inevitabilities that are at the heart of what plagues most professional yoga teachers today.