Yoga has become part of our pop culture. Yoga is cool. It can be found everywhere with many names attached to it – yoga core, yoga challenge, yoga blast, yoga burn, yoga slim, yoga butt, yoga brain, etc. – all of which draw in a variety of people. It has become a big industry; studios have marketing departments, teachers have managers, publicists and sometimes rockstar entourages, and its used in commercials to sell products.
The body has become the object of attention and the thing that draws people in. Yoga magazine covers almost always feature a pretty girl in a colorful outfit doing a beautiful and difficult pose, and Facebook and Instagram feeds are are filled with yogis showing off their advanced practice. Though these photos might inspire people to start practicing or attempt poses they never thought they could do, rarely do you see the moderate poses that are actually more effective and beneficial for the average person.
The yoga scene has changed a lot since I started practicing 27 years ago. I risk sounding like my father reminiscing about how everything was better when I was young, but I’m not saying that this is all bad. I’m thankful that yoga is popular and has become more mainstream. We just need to make sure we’re not in the process of diluting an amazing tradition. As teachers we can choose how we share one of the oldest spiritual traditions, and as students we can choose the best path to reap the many benefits of yoga.
As we mature in our practice, we know that the deeper work goes beyond the body. It has to do with self study and how to live in the world. The world is not going to be a better place if yogis practice fancy poses and wear the right yoga pants. Notice if you ever become so obsessed and attached to your physical practice that it brings you grief when you’re no longer able to do a certain pose or particular type of practice. Observe your attachment. As you start to understand it, you might become aware of the space that opens up when you let go of its tight grip.
Yoga can profoundly change your life. It’s ultimately about going beyond the body, calming the mind and connecting with the deepest part of our Self. It’s about getting to know who we are and thereby living more authentically in the world. It’s about being kind, compassionate, wisely choosing each step, and seeing the interconnectedness of all. I’m reminded to stay humble on this path, and when I bow my head and whisper namaste, I am in awe. I am grateful. Yoga is big and it is sacred. It is here to stay. It is beyond cool. Namaste.
Birgitte Kristen is a YogaWorks teacher, YogaWorks teacher trainer, and MyYogaWorks online yoga instructor. Birgitte’s yoga classes offer a mindful, methodical, and meditative approach to yoga where she encourages students to slow down and to listen to their bodies, to respect and honor themselves. Check out Birgitte’s website, take one of her online yoga classes on MyYogaWorks, one of her public classes at YogaWorks Santa Monica, or connect with her on Facebook.