Has yoga lost its touch?

Yoga is popular and its popularity continues to skyrocket in the western world, but why has yoga become so popular?

For the past two months I have been socialising with Indian people and some days I have been teaching yoga to local Indian people. A few weeks back an old Master who I have known for several years asked me to take over his classes while he was away. His students are not locals but tourists from all parts of the world. Although I was not keen on it I agreed but told him that I would only take his classes for one week.

Stepping into his small studio is always a wonderful feeling – until the students step in! Instead of keeping quiet, everyone talks and acts very loud. Once I begin the class everyone is busy looking at the other student next to him/her. There is no sense of peace and all I see is an obsession and focus on perfection.

Many tourists in India or people practicing yoga in the west come to yoga because they want a fit body, they want to master acrobatics (jumping into an armstand or wrapping the legs around the neck) and they are hoping to become healthy and calm. But jumping in and out through poses gasping for breath will never bring any sense of calm. Just because someone can jump into a handstand or twist the body to the max does not mean that he/she is practicing yoga. In fact that is not yoga at all but acrobatics.

I once had a student who said to me that yoga for her was a workout and she loved to be pushed into poses and challenge her body beyond her limit. That same student had pulled her back out in a back bend and since then she is facing problems with her lower back. A teacher I know who is based in the UK not only teaches hardcore yoga but also practices ‘acrobatic yoga’. She will pose and put on a show to her students and make them do challenging arm balances and forearm stands even though they are complete beginners. Last month I saw her post on Facebook – knee injury! She went through two surgeries because of wear and tear of the cartilage.

My concern is that the yoga practice today has become an obsession rather than a reflection. It has become commercialised and it has lost its touch – both in the west and in India. Ten years ago there were hardly any schools in India. Now you find schools and teachers in every state, in every city, on every corner. The same has happened in the west. Students are flocking to yoga classes with expensive yoga clothes, yoga mats and fancy yoga bags. The yoga movement has become a huge money machine spreading throughout the globe. Why? Because the west is a culture that is obsessed with the body and sadly completely out of touch with it.

If you are an ‘ambitious yoga student’ try to take a step back, be humble, rush less and instead try to concentrate and feel the mind, breath and body in your practice. If you are a beginner or new to yoga then take beginner classes. If you feel out of breath, dizzy or experience pain in your practice then ask yourself – why am I doing it? Does it feel right?

Yoga is not about the physical shape of the pose. There are already sports for that – gymnastics and acrobatics. Make yoga your own and let yoga bring softness, awareness and peace to your inner self. Live happy and live with awareness!

Love,

Sally Goldfinger

About the author

picture-3Sally Goldfinger teaches authentic hatha yoga around the world and leads specialised hatha and ayurveda retreats in India. Her unique teaching style focuses on stress relief, inner balance, and cleansing of the physical body leading to the purification of the mind. Find out more about Sally at IONYOGA.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
In categories: Articles Hatha Yoga
{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Noelia 26th March 2013, 2:55 pm

    Dear Sally,

    this is Noelia, I might remember me although with so many students maybe not and that is ok!
    I have to say that I couldn’t agree more with you. For many years I had a ‘reluctance’ to yoga. I had practiced pilates with a great teacher (who now I know combined hatha yoga with pilates) and I truly enjoyed her classes. I stayed with her for 7 years. During those years she recommended me to go on a yoga trip, and I did. I went to Dahab, in Egypt, in 2008. What I found there was exactly what you describe. There seemed to be an obsession with getting fit to strenuous levels encouraged by the teacher and welcomed by the participants. I didn’t enjoy at all.
    So I came back to Dublin and kept going to my pilates, which I started in the first place because I have a back injury and the Dahab experience made my back worst.
    In 2010 I did a short course in Buddhist meditation, which I loved and try to practice since. They also teach yoga, but it didn’t fit in timetable and since my experience in Dahab I was not so keen on it.
    So when I decided to go on another retreat I searched for pilates and mediation retreats and I found Azul Fit. My first trip was wonderful and so were my second and third. Meanwhile, my pilates teacher in Dublin went more into the ‘Western’ approach in order to expand her business. And I quitted after a few pilates boot-camps in which I hurt my knee.
    Then I went back to Azul Fit in July 2012 and I found you. And I realised what yoga was about. I’ve been practicing yoga since either attending different classes to find the right teacher, or doing it on my own at home. In fact, I try to do at least half an hour every morning at home when feasible. ‘Miraculously’, because in 7 years doing pilates I never did it once on my own at home. I had a mat for years sitting there to no use!

    So thank you. As the French proverb says “Gratitude is the heart’s memory”

    Namaste

    • Azul 12th April 2013, 9:43 am

      Hi Noelia,
      Yes, I do remember you! Thank you for your sweet compliments! I think it’s great you are doing Yoga every morning! Wonderful to hear you have felt inspired by my teaching style and Yoga hasn’t scared you off.
      It is a great shame when students start to experience pain after their Yoga practice, and it’s sad to hear that your back pain got worse after your Yoga experience in Dahab. Yoga is suppose to make us feel better and take us into greater health.
      I am wishing you all the best and keep up the practice!!
      Hugs,
      Sally

  • CultFit 26th March 2013, 4:03 pm

    Beautiful message, thank you 🙂

  • savasana addict 27th March 2013, 12:46 am

    I love what you say and how you say it. These issues should be talked about much more, but surely teachers who put on a show, as you say, won’t do it because that’s what they do to attract students (the very students who come to class with the frame of mind you describe). To sit in meditation does not look exciting enough.

Leave a Comment