In the society I live in, it might seem like there is no reason to defend marketplace yoga — the marketplace of yoga seems just fine, actually, but there are those among us who are concerned about what is actually getting translated into this marketplace. Are we just telling ourselves nice stories about yoga, or are we really "getting" the yoga?
I have my own experience of yoga education located in this very marketplace to offer up as an example:
In fact, the part I'll talk about now happened in the upscale Gold Coast neighborhood in Chicago. It was the year 2000 at an ashtanga yoga studio that has since closed: Priya Yoga that was at 1 East Oak Street, located above a pizza shop. When walking up the stairs to yoga, the nose was greeted with the smells of pizzas baking.
It was when I was pushing my way up the flights of stairs to Priya Yoga after work that a pungent voice of inner-judgment would often assault me: Who the hell do you think you are, doing this Gold Coast yoga?
But somehow I made it up those stairs, again and again through the barrage of insulting thoughts. It helped that the studio was warm and friendly, and it also helped me that the teachers and other people seemed to like my being there. I loved being there. I loved the yoga. It became like another home for me.
After one Friday-night ashtanga yoga class here my life would be changed invisibly yet indelibly. When this particular yoga class was over, I was on the way out when I stopped to thank the yoga teacher. I was looking into the eyes of this instructor, when what appeared like golden rain began falling down, yet somewhat suspended, like glinty-gold bits in a snow-globe slowly and lightly falling down toward me and all around me — shining bits of light. I had a sense that everything around me was permeated with love: my body, the teacher's body, the air between us and all around me, the other people, the desk behind the teacher, the walls, the carpet, the ceiling, the next room, the door, the hallway and stairs, absolutely everything seemed to be permeated with this love as integrated into the fabric of all things and non-things. Yeah, I was high after that yoga session. Was this experience a figment of my body chemistry? Was it somehow a delusion caused by dehydration, exhaustion or toxicity?
What scientifically happened to me is a little less important than what spiritually happened to me. I actually thought for the first time in my life that the fabric of our world might be good. I had felt it to be absolutely and irrefutably good from a song in my cells. Love had spoken from every particle I was aware of in that moment.
I think that our realizations in yoga are more about our dedication as individual practitioners than about the marketplace of yoga, but this economy does support the houses of yoga and teachers of yoga that create a situation where amazing and previously-unimaginable things can happen for people.
I am grateful that I have been able to have this and many other beautiful, meaningful, and life-enhancing yoga experiences — that I don't think are over by any means. But there was a money-based background that made it possible to experience the yoga that I have. So the marketplace is not separate from our yoga, it actually makes yoga more accessible than ever before because it is a part of our economy.
* also posted at Elephant Journal.