“A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arse-holes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined”. Tim Minchin
That is where I am at right now. Thoroughly examining my opinion on something that has played a huge part of my life for the last four years. And that is my opinion of Westernized yoga. If you have read my blog in the past, you will have noticed that I have been very pro-yoga. “Get fit, do yoga, it’s great for clearing the negative chaos and clutter in the mind, slow down, breatheeeeee” and so on. And, at the time of writing, that was my opinion, and I was happy to share and encourage it with the blogging world. But now, I am starting to learn that yoga might not be that all encompassing ultimate workout for the mind, body and soul that those healthy mags keep on claiming it to be. But, why not you may ask?
I feel you deserve an explanation.
**Disclaimer: If you are fully-immersed in the yoga-world right now, this post is only going to piss you off. Plus I’m pretty busy right now with studying, so I don’t want my inbox cluttered up with angry ranting yogis. So, if that fits your description, it is probably best not to read this, and go meditate, ground-yourself, or whatever**
Okay, cool. Anyone still reading? Here goes. Over the last few months, I have stopped practicing yoga. For one reason or another, the thought of it has become less and less appealing. Whatever I was striving for throughout my own personal practice, I felt like I wasn’t really reaching it. Whether that was super-flexible hamstrings, or spiritual enlightenment, I was getting nowhere fast with either.
I decided to take a break, roll my mat up, and come back to it with refreshed enthusiasm in a few weeks. That never happened either. To be totally honest, I quite enjoyed not doing yoga. After four years of regular practise, I quite liked the freedom that came with releasing myself from the discipline.
And that was another thing. Discipline. I felt I was balancing (ha, balancing), on the very fine line between yoga discipline and yoga addiction. Here was a little insight to my ‘calm and de-cluttered brain at the time: “Okay, If I don’t get my yoga-fix, I’ll have an unproductive day, I’ll be stressed, irritable, how will I function if I am not centred”.
“Centred, grounded…” – you gotta love the irony of yoga jargon. Let’s see, we are all grounded (thank you gravity), and as human-beings we are designed to be bilaterally symmetrical so by default we are already “centered”. And that’s not even beginning to scratch the surface of the esoteric language of yoga. If you have been to a class or watched an online podcast, you and I know there is much much more where that came from.
You may be thinking, the yoga-isms are relatively harmless if you are just looking for a form of physical exercise to stretch, strengthen and tone your body. Good point, kind of. But, I would say it is hard to just take one aspect of yoga, and ignore the rest. Yoga, literally means “union” (of the body and the mind), so it goes against the basic fundamental principles to avoid the mental and spiritual connotations of this ancient Indian practice and just do the simple stretches.
This leads me onto the most confusing topic associated with yoga and that is religion. If you are uncomfortable with exploring religion but you practice yoga, then you are going to run into problems somewhere along the line. Yoga originated from India, meaning the yoga teachings and philosophies are based on stories involving Hindu deities. Yoga also links into Buddhism, encouraging meditative states through flowing yoga sequences. A class usually finishes with savasana (corpse pose) a pose in which you lye deadly still (hence, the name), and just ‘let your thoughts just float away’, man.
Then there are those religions that do not blend well with yoga at all. Take Christianity for an example; based on the assertion that only one God exists and therefore only one should be worshiped. How can you hold this theistic view, then listen to a yoga teacher telling you twist yourself into complicated poses with equally complicated Sanskrit names (Sanskrit: the primary language of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) whilst listening to stories about Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Christian Yoga is an oxymoron in its finest.
I don’t want to delve too deep into the complexities of yoga and religion. Just Google it, and you can find tons of articles written from a whole range of different religious perspectives. In my opinion, there is never any harm doing your own research, especially if you have a lot of unanswered questions.
My final point, and to me this has been one of the most important reasons as to why I quit yoga, and that was my lack of creativity. Yoga is very effective at getting you to clear your mind, disconnect, numb out and switch off from reality. That’s all well and good, if you don’t like your mind or interacting with your life very much. I’ve learned that I do actually quite like both of these things. And therefore want to keep my mind switched on, working, creating, expressing, interacting…
Each time I took a break from yoga in the last few years, I got back into doing my art. Each time I started yoga again, my creative side quietened down. I’ve looked into how yoga affects creativity, especially in the left and right brain, but as many things on the internet relating to yoga, this is just another grey area. So any neuroscientists/yoga researchers out there, maybe you could shed some light on this for me, please?
I did stumble across this article however by an ex-artist turned yoga teacher who subsequently quit to return back to her creative roots again. I quote: “Teaching yoga took my right brain hostage, in a way. It was fulfilling—but also, draining. I was exhausted most of the time. I didn’t have anything left for my inner artist.”
I encourage you to read Joslyn Hamilton’s full story. It is always refreshing to discover a controversial piece of writing, among the 99.9% of online articles claiming that yoga saved my life, or the top 20 reasons why you should start practicing yoga right now! (I admit, I have contributed a few similar style articles myself over the years)
If there is one thing I can take away from my years of doing yoga, that is to always keep things balanced. So this blog post serves as my attempt at showing the other side of yoga, and the areas of your life which it fails to develop. I always pride myself in being honest, so I thought it was fair that I offered my readers an explanation to why I have suddenly stopped being an passionate advocate of all things yoga. And just because I don’t do yoga anymore, that isn’t to say that I do not lead a healthy lifestyle. It would be sad to assume you could only achieve good physical, mental and spiritual health via this one discipline alone.
This just leaves me to say, if you have got this far, well done and thank you very much for reading. Also, if you have an relatively intelligent opinion on this, which isn’t something along the lines of “yoga is awesome/yoga changed my life”, then please feel free to share.