By Nicky Poole, Yoga Community Leader
Hi 889 Yogis!
I haven’t been doing much writing lately, but I have been doing a lot of reading. There have been many, many controversies in the yoga world this year, more so than ever before it seems. I have been following all of these with great interest, and grateful for the passionate dialogue that they inspire. I wanted to share some of them with you, including some of the more thoughtful, intelligent responses that I have seen posted online.
‘The’ New York Times yoga article
Earlier in the year we all read the NYT article How Yoga Wrecks Your Body. The article, in my opinion was pretty bad, poorly written with bad pictures, and it also contained some factual innacuracies. It would be tragic if this article in the mainstream media scared people away from the many benefits of yoga. To be fair though, it also upset us yoga teachers because it actually did touch upon points that we are well aware of. People do get hurt in yoga classes. More than we realise. Even if we are well trained, compassionate and knowledgable in the way we teach our large group classes, we can’t possibly be held responsible for the overzealous student who practices a pose with poor alignment, even if we verbally and physically try to assist them or offer them modifications. And lets be real here – walking down icy stairs can also wreck your body, as can sitting in bad posture at your computer. Any article in the New York Times that links the words yoga, hemmorage, and stroke in the same sentence is bound to cause some controversy. The article is here, and you can read it for yourself if you are one of the few yoga lovers who hasn’t seen it yet. My favorite cynical but extremely knowledgeable anatomy teacher Leslie Kaminoff posted this great video response to the article – if you are time sensitive leave the article and just watch the video response.
Ashtanga Yoga (‘Jois Yoga’) article in Vanity Fair
I started my physical yoga practice with Ashtanga Yoga in 2002, taught to me in the traditional way, one posture at a time in an intimate self practice setting known as Mysore style. I learned from with one of the most senior teachers in the lineage, Rolf Naujokat. Rolf is awesome by the way. Humble and so kind. Ashtanga yoga was my asana practice of choice for several years, and there are a multitude of reasons why I decided to step away from the rigidity of this ‘system’ and explore other movement patterns. I still dabble in the primary series once a week or so, and have great respect for all that it continues to teach me, but would not in all fairness call myself an ashtangi. With the passing of Ashtanga’s guru, Sri K Patthabi Jois in 2009 and the inevitable expansion of the lineage into western settings since the late 1970’s it really should come at no surprise, that the branding of this system of yoga is causing much controversy amongst old school practitioners. This article was recently posted in Vanity Fair, it’s a good read.
The Anusara Yoga Meltdown
My friend Matthew Remski is a humble yet strong force in the Toronto Yoga Community, whose blog posts on Elephant Journal are some of the most widely read contemporary yoga commentaries in the blogosphere. He is committed to small scale, grass roots platforms for spreading the teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda. His writing is always a total joy to read. His intelligence and eloquence always makes me hesitate to write anything in response to his viewpoints (many of which I agree with, some of which I don’t). Nevertheless, his 3 part series titled “Grounding Anusara” about the recent scandal/ uproar over the infidelities and alleged lack of integrity of leader John Friend are very interesting. He brings some very important points that are unspoken yet deeply felt in the yoga community. Again, this post is for me to share what I have been reading, and so I will leave any further commentary aside. But I will say that his recent posts have really stimulated some deep reflection in my own yoga journey.
Yoga Dork is a fantastic website, and I read this blog often as do most yoga nerds with my morning
Green Juice Coffee. When the Anusara yoga controversy started to surface late last year, and exploded in February, Yoga Dork started to compile a great timeline of events with opinionated posts from teachers, bloggers and not surprisingly the mainstream media. Whether you are an anusara student or not, this is big news. The meltdown of structure, the removal of branding, the redistribution of power from a pyramid shaped leadership to one that is more fair and equitable, is going to change the way yoga is practiced in the west. When people step outside of their system, beautiful innovation can happen and individuals can be left to shine teaching yoga, not a certain system of yoga. Again, as I am not an anusara teacher, I don’t have too much else to say, and it the varying opinions are best shared by others who have more knowledge of the real circumstances than I.
The Equinox Fitness Movie
A little video from Equinox Fitness showing the incredible athletic talents of yoga teacher Briohny Kate ruffled a lot of feathers earlier in the year. This video showed Briohny in a beautifully filmed montage of gorgeous asana, dressed in a pretty fierce bra and panties. She looked pretty hot. Of course, the purists complained and said it objectified women, and some defenders of a dedicated asana practice praised her movements and skill as pure beauty. Me? Well, I thought it was pretty awesome actually as a short piece of art. I’ve filmed a low budget yoga DVD and posed for yoga pictures here and there so I appreciate how hard it is to create something that beautiful. I personally wouldn’t want to be filmed in my underwear for a yoga film, but then again, I highly doubt anyone would want to see me attempt to do half of what she does in my underwear on film either. (My home practice is usually in bad sweatpants that are too gross for the studio and a t shirt that has paint on it from my art sessions with my two year old. Not pretty) But I digress. Thankfully, Kathryn Budig, (herself no stranger to controversy as she appeared in a series of tastefully naked yoga photos for Toe Sox a few years back) stepped up and let Briohny speak for herself through an interview on her Huff Post blog. Who knew, this remarkable woman recovered from a severe eating disorder, and has had a long and painful journey to be comfortable in her own skin. Also, she is a mum! Kudos to her for such a strong, beautiful practice. I know how hard that is. Much Respect.
And lastly, if you are still reading. I always like to save the very best for last. (That is why we always finish with Savasana). Everything I have ever learned about yoga is captured perfectly in this short 3 minute film. Featuring the wise and inspiring words of astrophysicist Neal DeGrasse Tyson. Interconnectivity, mystery, awe and the beauty of the macrocosm perfectly reflected in our own microcosmic experience of being human. You must watch this one.
Love Nicky x