Yoga Authenticity: In the Eye of the Beholder
Between all the news flashes, status
updates, articles to read, videos to watch, and local, national, and global
tragedies to track, there is a stream of information constantly wanting our
attention. On top of that are the basic communications we must maintain to keep
our lives in order at work and home. Yet, even a twenty minute asana,
meditation or mantra practice can turn all of this noise off, recenter us, and help
us focus on what is important in our lives and let go of what is not. No matter what
the yoga practice looks like, we need
yoga; and this need increases in direct proportion to the increasing chaos and
media encroachment on our lives.
Luckily, and perhaps a bit ironically, we also have yoga
research. Over the last several years, researchers have been showing the
efficacy of yoga in improving outcomes for a wide range of conditions, from
everyday stress to heart disease and post-traumatic stress. It has also been
shown to help cancer patients, people with special needs, decrease behavioral
issues in schools, and the list goes on.
For some, this growing body of evidence supporting the
benefits of yoga isn’t enough to counterbalance the excessive branding and
focus on physical appearance that pervades the popular perception of
yoga. Some have even gone so far as to say that yoga may have “lost it’s
soul.” These detractors take issue with the use of yoga as a purely
physical exercise, rather than a piece of a larger spiritual practice and
philosophy. In addition to being separated from its loftier roots, the
word “yoga” is used synonymously with “asana”, furthering the misunderstanding
for the many people who don’t realize the depth they are missing.
Yet, aren’t they still practicing yoga? People can’t know
what they don’t know. What they can know is how they feel when they step on
their mat and how they feel when they step off of it. Really, isn’t that all that
matters? Isn’t that the very thing that brings a person back to their mat day
after day, week after week? It may take months or years to understand anything
about “yoga” or your practice beyond this, and there is nothing wrong with
that. Asana, pranayama, meditation, and mantra are, in essence, experiential
learning techniques. They are designed to be explored, and each of us has our
own path and preferred way of experiencing this.
Regardless of why or how someone does yoga, even if they are
really only practicing asana, if they leave their mat feeling happier, lighter,
and better able to face the world, what else really matters?
What are your thoughts on the ongoing question of modern yoga’s authenticity?