March 25, 2011

"Your karma ran over my dogma!"

I just love this shade of lavender,
the clean lines, the little plant in the
background...the elephant in a
tree pose (that's what it's called
I have always wondered why I took the hard-core exercise path and not the softer side of fitness (i.e. yoga, pilates, and the like). I love to sweat and move fast. I love the feeling of "flow" as I pedal fast or jump up and down to a really energetic song. You can take the girl outta aerobics but you can't take the aerobics outta the girl.  After saying that, I love how yoga looks. I love the colours, the fashion, the people walking in with their cute little mats under their arms or in their $100.00 yoga bag. I love the cohesion and sense of connection yoga must offer to all those who participate. I tried yoga for a bit (and blogged about how happy I was to be "one of the yoga people") and really enjoyed the focus and challenge it offered (plus the quick 5 minute cat nap at the end was fabulous). But, just like all those people who start an exercise program and drop out, I only went to a few sessions and then lost the interest. What's wrong with me? I was looking for music, connection with others, eye contact, and a charismatic instructor. I got silence (with the exception of the odd fart here and there due to body contortions that make it hard to control.....leaving me literally shaking to hold back the giggles...did no one else hear that????).

Now this is my idea of a yoga class!
Perhaps I don't take myself seriously enough? Perhaps, God forbid, I'm one of those people who always need external stimulation to motivate me to exercise? Perhaps I just don't have the yoga gene that everyone else seems to have. I have to admit, I get completely creeped out by all the bare feet in the room. I tend to get the dry heaves when I see unkempt and crusty heels, bunions, yellow nails and such (sorry, I know it's gross, but I gotta say..). I mean really, if you know you are going to take your shoes something about that hangnail!!

And then there is Bikram's Yoga. Now here's a guy who was successful at combining cut-throat business practice with the "peaceful and spiritual" practice of yoga.  He's a brilliant business man who managed to create a North American trend that combines bending and stretching with little to nothing on in high temperatures......on carpet (excuse me while I dry heave).  Now there may be more studios offering this program on a floor that doesn't suck up every little drop of sweat and bacteria but not the studios I have seen.  Unless they deep clean these carpets every night (let alone after every class) couldn't pay me enough to even step one naked foot in that room.

Yup. That was me...never really
fitting in...but in awe of what
the instructor could do!
Did you know that Bikram, himself, in 2006 was charged (and pleaded no contest) to three counts of safety infractions including overcrowding and not providing appropriate emergency exits? Interesting. My town just opened up a funky little Bikram's Yoga studio and since that time, I have heard, the physiotherapists in town have never been busier....interesting. Is this a trend that is more harmful than good? I have no clue, but the cards are stacked in the favor of harm (in my opinion).  I do think there needs to be more critical thinking around some practices of yoga and why we do what we do. For instance, why do we have to turn up the heat? Did you know that the body takes at least 7 days to acclimatize to temperature changes? Therefore, to become accustomed to the heat in a Bikram Yoga class you must do it for 7 days....if you only visit 1 or 2 times per will never happen. Some people feel nauseous but cannot leave (so they are told) others become dehydrated, while others stretch beyond the limits of their connective tissue resulting in injury (hence the physio visit)....but the building looks great!

I'd join a yoga studio if they sold
yoga gingerbread people.
After saying all that, I still love the idea of yoga. According to the yoga historians, it's been around since before Jesus. Cavemen used to do it before going out on a big hunt...I believe there are cave drawings that depict the hunters in the downward dog position.  Many yogis have been heart broken over the North American bastardization of the practice; referring to it as McYoga...but no matter how you look at is here to stay.  We will be seeing more chains like "Yoga Works" coming to our communities making it easier to purchase karma candles and calming soap-on-a-rope.  Yoga is a business that will be making people lotsa money...and why not? If people walk out of their yoga class feeling energized, calm, happy, connected, and good about themselves and the that such a bad thing? Or is it creating more walking oxy-morons as we witness fights over parking spots en route to the yoga studio? Are we really benefiting from the pure essance of what yoga historically offered? Or does the removal of the true spirituality of mainstream yoga represent the spiritual void found many North Americans today??  I have no idea myself...just a few questions I continue to have.  In the meantime, I'm going to buy a really cute pair of yoga tights and a pastel top...and maybe one of those karma candles just in case.

If you are interested in taking more of a critical look on the business and practice of yoga, I highly recommend the book "Yoga, Inc."  

That's all I got!

P.S. I'd love to take credit for such a creative title, but I saw it on a bumper sticker once (author unknown).


  1. Kathi,

    Good one...
    I, too, did not have the time for yoga - until I got very sick. I joined yoga in 2007 to regain my strength and balance which I am still working on. Now I love Yoga and all that can do for you.
    Last week I had a rather long (1 1/2 hour) MRI - thank god for the yoga....I was able to stay fairly calm and focussed the entire time. Previously, I think I would have run out screaming except they had my head in a vice.

  2. Hey A;
    Thanks for the comment. Great story! I can't believe you had an MRI for that long. I never really thought about it like that, but I guess Yoga can really help situations where calm is neccessary.
    I have no doubts Yoga is great for you in so many ways and I truly do want to become a yoga person. I will continue to work towards this and keep ya posted.
    Have a great day and I hope that MRI turns out great!