Monday, November 16, 2009

From Liz: Compromise Tastes Like Vanilla.

Oh, sensible woman. I can feel the breeze from your wagging finger at a distance of 300 miles.

And I know, I know... I feel so torn at times about all of this stuff. At the end of the day, it simply feels like a case of "compromise makes no one happy." These American hybrids often amount to patchwork sadhanas designed to offend no one, and sell to all. You're right that on the face of it, YWorks is not "fitness yoga." But when you vacate the practice of all but the asana, and allow just any old shlub (meaning me) to teach a class, what are you left with? Basically a fitness-oriented, surface endeavor. I suppose that is what really leaves a bad taste in my mouth--the suspicion that yoga is being anesthetized and beautified for general public consumption. A complicity with American piety ("don't make them chant, Jesus gets annoyed.") that panders to the Church crowd for the sake of their fiscal fidelity. [I should disclose: the whole complicity thing brings my own religious baggage into play, so I am not an unbiased snark.] It's yoga that simply reinforces that status quo rather than radically undoing it, unseating our tamasic subsistence.

[another side bar: I know that you have had a different experience of this than I have. Your experience is somewhat exceptional. And my own analysis is replete with hypocrisies and ingratitudes, but I have to take some kind of stance, right?]

Basically, the glut of teacher training factories has put me over the edge. People are learning just enough to be dangerous. New teachers casually fling pranayama into a sequence like it's garnish. Or they will off-handedly mention moola-bandha like it's an optional side-dish. But worse than that, they will push new students into poses that are simply beyond them because they are teaching classes so overflowing that they cannot possibly anticipate everyone's needs.

So here, I suppose, is where we come together on this issue. YWorks does an excellent job of stemming the tide of injuries (read: "lawsuits"). The list of do-nots is a three inch booklet. Another thing that I will give to the institution, is that in pursuit of safety, they teach a certain stillness, and subtlety. At least the more Iyengar inclined teachers do (as is the case in NYC). YWorks will train the fidgets right out of you. I have to respect that. I came out of the program stronger, and with a respectable literacy in yogic texts/themes. But at the end of the day, it was a sturdy, liberal arts education. I'm missing an advanced degree.

And I should also point out, this vanilla-zation has not democratized the practice. It is still expensive and time consuming. Studios cluster in wealthy neighborhoods, or simply refuse to offer drop-in classes, forcing people to buy costly class cards. When I was teaching in gyms, and would encourage people to attend at studios, I would invariably hear, "it's just too expensive." Gym memberships offer way more bang for the buck. So we made do with our crappy equipment and tried to ignore the 'roid-heads leering through the glass.
So, you're right, I shouldn't conflate "'fitness-oriented power yoga' brand and the 'protect the risk factors' practice" but they come together in weird ways, all ensnared by the tentacles of the corporate octopus.

Georg Feuerstein refers to yoga as a "psycho-spiritual technology." He certainly isn't the first to use the term, but his book was the first time I really noticed it. YWorks, and some of its senior teachers, gave me view of the framework. I suppose I just assumed (I know, I know "ass out of you and me...") that they would help me to fill it in a bit more.

Maybe I'm blame-shifting though. After all, it is my practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment