"No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies." — Benjamin Franklin

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rant : Yoga Competitions

Oh, barf. Read this article. Frankly, it makes me sick.

I'm a yoga teacher. Yoga is not "just exercise"; it is a complete toolkit to help to focus one's mind. Here in the United States, most people think that "yoga=stretching", and that's just not true. Out of the 198 sutras of Patanjali, only 3 of them are about asana, the physical postures of classical yoga. Yoga is so much more than just physical poses.

I'm also not a fan of Bikram yoga. During my teacher training course, we were required to take classes in various styles - Iyengar, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Kripalu, Bikram - so that we would have exposure to the different kinds of yoga available. I didn't take the Bikram class, as not only is it contraindicated for my constitution (I'm already very "hot"/pitta, and very warming practices basically cause me to burst into flames), but I completely disagree with pretty much everything Bikram teaches. Instead, I spent a couple of hours and wrote a short paper, "Why I Will Not Attend A Bikram Class", accompanied by about 30 pages of highlighted news articles about Bikram's attitude, approach, and injuries suffered by people in his classes. I can see the therapeutic aspects of a flow style of yoga, and even the heated environment, but I can't stand Bikram's attitude. It's not yogic; it's "Western, greedy, arrogant capitalist".

The sponsors and participants have even figured out a way to justify this event in their minds:

"It's actually a championship, not a competition," said Sarah Ittmann, owner of Bikram Yoga Hampden. "In a competition, you compete against other people. A championship is a measure of your own prowess - your own strength and determination."
Oh, yeah, that's it; "champions" aren't champions because they are better than others. That makes it all better.

When I see western culture and society warping such an amazing tradition and practice so badly, I can't just sit here and let it go. I have to yell, "NO! That's not yoga!"