Friday, May 14, 2010

In Defense of Marketplace Yoga

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.


Claudia said...

I totally agree, not so long ago I wrote a post called money is important (or something along those lines), it would be silly to think that in this society we live in we can be totally independent of money and markets, in my view, as long as the supermarket accepts currency instead of prayers, markets are a good thing :-)... and by the way, so is checking for stats, even if at 4 in the morning. Thanks for the post :-)

Unknown said...

i get sad when i ride my bike past oak & state. i miss that pizza smell & the good memories. it was a fun time. did you ever get a drink in that awesome bar mondellis? lots of veteran gc peeps-eccentric old school chicago

Unknown said...

Love this description of your inner experience.... very poetic.

Carrie said...

well said

Unknown said...

I also took classes at Priya (although a lot more after it became Moksha) and had very much the same disdainful, anti-Gold Coast thoughts. And also ended up having one of my most arresting yoga experiences in that studio -- feeling for the first time my whole body as an open field of energy. So, totally agree, the market makes this magic much more accessible. But it's a double-edged sword: you get too sucked into the market images of the beautiful yoga bod etc., it throws you off psychologically. And those messages are super-powerful; they get in even when I don't want them to.