Yogi philosophy or soul commercialization?

This week we’ve run another retreat at the Center. This time around a Karman Yoga Meditation and Yogi Philosophy one. While I’m busy learning all the Karman Meditation movements so that I can teach it soon, this whole yoga topic has been sparking a lot of thoughts recently and even more so during this retreat.  And the more I learn and discover, the more astounded I am by the hype around it.

Yoga has spread around the Western world almost like an epidemic and continues to do so with a lot of success. I want to believe that it is a good sort of disease that’s taking over the world but sometimes I do doubt.  I’ve been to a number of yoga schools/classes in my life, some of which were mediocre, while others a very nurturing experience. The start of my adventure with yoga was actually a bumpy one as I completely rejected it at first, thinking it was too boring and that there was nothing more behind it than stretching your muscles. It lacked deeper sense to me, some truth to it. And I lived with this belief for a number of years before I actually happened to be taken along to a class that was taught by an amazing teacher who showed me that there is much more to yoga than strengthening and stretching your muscles. That it can be a deeply spiritual experience as its roots are actually in ancient Hindu spirituality. But I wonder how my yoga adventure would have developed if I had met this teacher ten years ago when I attended my very first class? Maybe by now I would be a yoga teacher myself? Maybe I would be at peace with everything much sooner? Maybe I would have stepped into the spirituality field much earlier in my life? It seems the Universe had different plans for me anyway, but that brings me to another question: is this commercialization of yoga a good or a bad thing?

All these yoga studios readily available for you to take their classes, all these teachers wanting to teach you and make money out of what they love, all this peaceful vibe around it that has become so good to be part of, all that hype. I feel like yoga has become this cool thing to do, especially in the Western societies who are looking for ways to find peace and connect with themselves after hours spent in concrete jungles of skyscrapers behind the laptop screen. If you don’t do yoga, you almost feel like you are missing out on something because literally everyone around you does. This leads many times to poor quality of classes which attract masses, so the emphasis is on masses and not on the individual.

What really stroke me when I was learning about yogi philosophy during this week’s retreat was that nobody, literally none of the teachers I’ve had ever conveyed to me the message that there is a greater philosophy to it, that yoga is actually a way of living. That it’s so much more than a set of moves depending which yoga style you practise. That there is history and certain beliefs behind the philosophy passed on for ages. That it’s about your soul. That it’s a union of body, mind and spirit. And I do get that if you go to a yoga class you actually want to practise yoga, not learn the theory behind it, but I wonder how many of the teachers out there actually do know the theory? How many of the teacher training programs do actually cover the philosophy behind it? How many of the teachers do understand what they are actually teaching? How many of the students do actually understand what’s behins the different assanas they do? I have a feeling that not many, sadly.

On the other hand, maybe that’s OK. I’m the kind of a person who likes to feel but also wants to know and needs to understand to be convinced of something. And maybe yoga did not feel like my kind of thing as I didn’t understand what’s really behind it? But if it does something good to people, if it gives them stress relief, inner peace and fullfilment, then maybe it’s enough? Maybe they don’t need to know and understand the philosophy behind it? In fact, maybe for some people the only benefit of practising yoga will be the physical exercise? And maybe that’s OK too since fitness is a top concern of many of the developed countries?

And the comercialization will probably continue to play a huge role in regulating the market, getting rid of poor market players out there, leaving the good ones in the game. I want to hope that it’s not going to eliminate the good teachers who do know what they are doing in favour of the ones that just have good, smart marketing and big budgets to get promoted…