Tuesday, April 27, 2010

By Any Means Necessary

Some good stuff this (and last) week: yoga for those who can (should) afford it, for those who can't, yoga for everyone. I am especially inspired by the discussion following Roseanne's post on mobile yoga and Linda's on donation yoga --are the hybrid yogas and cheap yoga a good thing, as long as they bring new students to the practice?

My comment to Roseanne was that strategies for getting-everyone-on-the-mat strike me as similar to those of trying-to-get-everyone-to-read. The reasoning seems to follow that it doesn't matter what people do, or the quality, but just that they are doing it--60 people crammed in a studio, rollerblade yoga, graphic novels. Who am I to say what kind of yoga/books people should enjoy...maybe these will lead them on the path to "harder" stuff and that these are the gateways to a more intense yoga or literary experience.

But maybe they won't.

And that's where my enthusiasm for the hybrids ends. I certainly don't have a problem with other forms of exercise borrowing from yoga or other reading material being considered a part of literature
(and I think some graphic novels are brilliant, but you don't read them like you read a page full of words) . I think both approaches miss the point--that these should be activities that force you to leave the external world and enter an interior one. Asana should help you get out of your body and books should challenge your imagination. It's hard work to exercise the brain, but that is what doing yoga and reading the printed word is to me.

So if the class stays focused on cost-cutting (meaning the factory-farm model, to borrow R's analogy) or trying to do the "best" arm balance or tightening your abs and glutes, I'm not particularly supportive. If the book feeds you all the visuals or dumbs-down the language or draws its characters from a TV show, I'm not thrilled. If that's really all some one is looking for, she's missing a lot. Maybe the whole thing.

But that's just my opinion. Maybe these options do create awareness for some people, or maybe they will want to seek a more challenging approach some day. However, it seems that if you offer people an easier way, they rarely decide to try something harder. And, since the easy way is usually the profitable way...well, you know how that story ends.

(BTW, this is in no way to denigrate the awesome, generous spirit in which most pay-what-you-can yoga classes are offered.
There are many wonderful teachers out there sharing their knowledge for free or on the cheap...not with an eye on the bottom line, but on spreading the love. I am grateful they can do that, and I hope people realize that this is a gift and not something to be taken for granted.)


12 comments:

Rachel @ SuburbanYogini said...

Once again Brenda it's as though you have dug into my brain and seen my thoughts. I couldn't agree more. Thank you for always being honest.

Linda-Sama said...

as I said on my own post, I like the idea of sliding scale payment for classes which is how many Buddhist retreats and trainings are run.

YogaSavy said...

Quality of the teaching over quantity should always be kept in mind. Yoga should be for everyone and creating a venue that is high priced or un reachable beats the whole purpose of YOGA and its meaning

YogaforCynics said...

My attitude is that if somebody's using yoga, or some hybrid version of yoga, to some positive purpose...whether simply to improve physical health, or to be more relaxed, or to be a bit more conscious, or to become a wholly compassionate being, it's a good thing. Personally, I'm in it for all of the above (if with strong doubts about achieving that last one). However, if I got nothing out of it except for saving my knees and drastically reducing my tension headaches (for both of which, I must say, my practice has been near-miraculous), I really can't imagine seeing that as anything but a good thing.

Then, I teach people who are barely literate to read...and, yes, I'm in favor of them reading absolutely anything that might catch their interest...okay, with the exception of hateful propaganda or kiddie porn, I guess...but I have yet to see any yoga-hybrid equivalents of that...

Brenda P. said...

Oof, Dr. Jay, now I sound like an elitist. So now I'm thinking, and maybe my beef is more with the purveyors of said "easy" options, rather than the consumers. Like you said, if the intention is positive, what's the big deal?

But, as I hoped to allude to in the conclusion, much of these watered-down options are easy to produce, easy to mass-market, and can result in a tidy profit. 900 students per day at $8/student= $7200. Scholastic Books always offers a series of The Adventures of SpongeBob SquarePants in their monthly book club--a tidy partnership with Nikelodeon!

So, I guess it's nice to have lots of options, but--as always--I'm suspicious of motives...

Emma said...

if studios can make $ on the pay-what-you-can model, im not going to knock them for it. really, i think its how it should be. i dont want them to lose money, but i want yoga to be available to everyone

anna said...

ditto YogaforCynics!

I bring yoga to worksites along with teaching in the studio setting. It's the worksite that's super rewarding because you're getting people to taste what it's like to be awake and aware, if even only for a few seconds, or one breath. I try to bring yoga to people who need it rather than waiting for them to show up at the studio. I feel that I'm a yoga ambassador of sorts!

YogaforCynics said...

Hey Brenda,
I didn't mean to accuse you of sounding like an elitist. In shopping for presents for my nieces, I've been horrified to see how much of the product on display in mainstream bookstores is little more than glorified advertising for toys and TV shows. And, actually, I'm not entirely sure that everything advertised as "yoga" is necessarily healthy--just as a lot of what's marketed as "physical fitness" in fact reinforces negative body images and encourages unhealthy practices from steroids to bulimia to simply pushing oneself too hard and getting hurt (it's really unbelievable how many kids permanently fuck up their legs playing high school and college sports). In fact, I have to admit to rather mixed feelings when I hear about yoga being taught to kids in gym classes. Certainly, it could be a great thing that could, among other things, reduce bullying. However, if it's taught with anything like the attitude of the phys ed classes I had growing up--which, as far as I'm concerned, encouraged bullying as well as obesity by glorifying athletic kids while humiliating those who were less athletic--then, yeah, I'm the elitist saying "that's not what I call yoga...."

Nicole said...

Interesting topic, Brenda. My first reaction to "asana should help you get out of your body", was - Wait a minute, Asana is about being in my body more fully! But, the reason I love these discussions is that it makes me think through my beliefs. So here goes... http://wp.me/pF7Lv-3a

Rosetta said...

"However, it seems that if you offer people an easier way, they rarely decide to try something harder. And, since the easy way is usually the profitable way...well, you know how that story ends."

As a dance teacher for many years, and more recently as a yoga teacher, this resonated with me as so true. But, there is always the 2% for whom yoga will become a passion no matter how they begin.

Yoga Travel Guru said...

I like a lot of these comments and think I agree with almost everything.

However the issue that everyone seems to be in tune with, and that no one dares say, is the idea these hybrid yoga's are not even close to the "perfect" or the "ideal" yoga that we all have in our heads. I'm completely guilty of this.

we often judge anything that doesn't come close to this ideal as not as valuable, not right, not authentic and most importantly...not very yoga...

but by making that very judgment are we doing something far more "not very yoga" than a creative combination of yoga and modern society? If rollerblade yoga gets one more person to do something with the word yoga in it, isn't that far more 'yogic' than knocking it?

perhaps the issue lies not in what is happening, but peoples motives behind what is happening... what do you all think?

Anonymous said...

"Asana should get you out of your body"? What? No, no, no, my dear. Asana is designed to get you into your body, and to take you through that body to your inner Self. There is no enlightenment without embodiment. And there are way too many people thinking way too much about their yoga while they're doing it, analyzing each little movement, each position of every body part . . . get out of your head, get into your body, have the experience without cogitating about it. Body, breath, movement, knowing. That's it.