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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!


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.