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The Coming Reckoning for Yoga

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I have been noticing an interesting shift in the yoga world over the last 5 years or so. It began as something difficult to put my finger on, a wispy shadow of uncertainty, a thin cloud passing over our golden Om-symbols.

Studios were opening left and right becoming as ubiquitous as Starbucks, and yoga classes were suddenly getting mixed with Pilates, and weights, and aerial gymnastics. The stable world teachers had taken for granted for so long suddenly didn’t feel so stable. Nothing changed in any dramatic or sudden way, but the ground teachers were used to suddenly felt shaky. I feel we’re just starting to talk about this shift as a community, and I think that conversation is incredibly important. The love we have for this practice necessitates that we discuss the changes we see and feel.

I’ve thought a lot about this change and shift. I’ve thought a lot about how to talk about it that starts a helpful conversation rather than one of the yoga world’s euphemism-laden, passive-aggressive catfights. This is only what I have noticed, and all of what I am about to say is purely my own experience.

It finally hit me that our world is reaching a critical mass in terms of what we have built. We’ve expanded exponentially as a community. There are studios, teachers, and nag-champa clouds before us as far as the eye can see. Now of course I’m not at all advocating for fewer studios, or less teachers, or even necessarily changing what is happening. What I am suggesting is that we expand internally as much as we focus on expanding externally. We’re ready to take on some of the more challenging aspects of the internal work of yoga. The tectonic shift we feel happening is a communal energetic reflection of our own personal craving for deeper internal evolution.

So what do we do? I think we need to teach. Really teach. We need to do our work. We need to get incredibly real with our own shadows, bring them into the light, and allow them to integrate and heal. We need to trust in all we have to offer the world and each other. We need to bring all of what yoga has to offer to our classes. The days of pedantic speeches, spiritual platitudes, fluffy quotes, and saccharine inspirational psychobabble are over. These are the days of authenticity, of speaking from personal practice and experience, and of expanding inwards to give our outer teaching dimension, relevance, and meaning.

I think we will all have our own unique ways of expanding into what yoga is asking of us. Some of us will teach mindful sequences, or advanced poses with precision, focus, introspection, and alignment. Others will work in the energetic/meditative sphere of practice. But either way the growth will be inward and towards cultivating deeper aspects of the practice. That’s the only direction that is going to keep us going and that’s the only direction that makes sense. That’s the only direction that will sustain some level of integrity to the modern practice of yoga we have all come to love.

This is the time we need each other more than ever my friends. This is the time we need to love and support each other. This is the time when we need to come together even more. I’ve realized for myself how over the last 10 years I would subconsciously sit in my little yoga fiefdom and think very much of my own well-being, success, and growth. In the last few months I have begun to realize we need to come out of our competition with each other and help each other. We need to love each other and further the growth of this beautiful community we have created. We need to hold our community’s success and growth in the same esteem and light that we hold our own.

I hope we all continue this conversation in the coming years. I hope that we reach a place where we come out of our yoga studio “city-states” and work together for all of our successes and expansion of this healing work. I hope that we realize that our success and failures as a community are born in an interdependent web that binds all of us to each other. I hope that we can continue to allow yoga to do the deeply healing work that it does for as many people as possible. I hope our teaching continues to be lit by the light of our own inner work. I hope most of all that this work continues to spread, to grow, and to affect the world in many positive ways.

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