Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Guru Dr. Feelgood ?

Last week's discussions of yoga as a marketing tool for the Sensory--nicely discussed by Yoga Spy and It's All Yoga, Baby --got me to thinking about the cavalier way we use yoga to describe everyday experiences. It seems to come up all the time--parenting is my yoga, blogging is my yoga, eating a delicious burger is my yoga. I'm as guilty as the next yogi in applying the label of yoga to tasks that are both pleasurable and arduous. Is this legit?

On the one hand, it seems completely logical that an activity that requires close concentration or mindfulness or charity could be considered a part of one's practice. If I don't take a deep breath and turn away from that screeching toddler I am going to throw something or kick the cat. Okay, so it's a rather non-traditional use of pranayama but isn't that the point--being able to call on those skills in times of need? But maybe it's the practice of yoga outside of real life that allows us to survive these situations successfully (as a wise monk once said), and not real life as yoga itself.

What about something lovely and delicious--is eating chocolate yoga? hanging out with friends? the perfect cup of coffee? I think it's good to be able to submerge yourself in an activity and revel in your enjoyment, but is that really practicing yoga or just having a good time?

Perhaps this is just quibbling about semantics, but it seems like we hear it a lot these days. I'm getting suspicious. Is this just a way to paint any experience with a glossy coat of yoga to make it seem more significant or impressive? Maybe we need to celebrate our daily life as its own thing, and keep yoga out of it. Or at least let yoga become a part of how we survive the day-to-day, but not necessarily yoga as an act of survival.

I dunno. I have mixing feelings. I kind of like the idea of *insert activity* as yoga because it makes me feel good about the activity, but it does seem a bit of a cheat. Or maybe not. I'm taking any and all commentary--where do you stand?


heather said...

This post reminded me of when I hear people use the word "church" in the same way...i.e. Bloomingdales is my church. I think that to people who are religious it may be slightly offensive that something they take seriously is being painted in such a casual manner.

Same thing for those who practice yoga seriously and who take the time to study and incorporate yoga into their lifestyles -I get that most people are joking when they say things like that but it shows me how little they know about the theory and practice of yoga.

Eating chocolate COULD be yogic-like if you're approaching the experience mindfully, but I think most people who make that type of comment are labeling an experience that doesn't have anything to do with true yoga.

Namaste_Heather said...

Its funny you should post this today, as my post is similar - or not. I do look at ALL of my life through a yogic lens. I would not be who I am, or react to things the way I do, if it not for my yoga practice. I get what you are saying about cheapening it. Very interesting thoughts!

Yogini B said...

If Arjuna going into battle to slaughter his relatives is yoga - well, why not coffee? :)

Yoga is about mindfulness, and our goal in yoga is to fully be present in every moment of our lives. If as you lift your cup to your lips, you stop to appreciate the absolute perfection of that moment - the stillness - the interconnectedness of everything - the elaborate, beautiful humming of the universe - then yes, that is yoga.

If, on the other hand, you sip hastily, thinking of other things, making plans for your day, jotting down your list - well, that's not yoga.

So to sum it up in a particularly yogic way: the coffee is both yoga, and not yoga. :) It's what you make of it.

Nona said...

Great post, Brenda!

Anything that we bring mindfulness to has the potential to wake us up and be our "yoga". I think I would be tempted to ask people what they mean when they say something is their "yoga".

Does that mean that they are becoming more aware of habitual responses and gently changing it?

I suspect that may not be the case. BUT it just might be a good chance to help someone see how they can make the coffee, the screaming toddler, or the traffic jam into a transformative experience.


makko ho said...

it's a fair point - however like anything, i think if people are trying to take their training with them into daily life, it is a good thing. perhaps the phrase is being used a little too liberally, but really in some ways it doesn't matter - after all our perception of other's comments is really our perception. Are any of us that far along that we can tell if someone else is living their yoga or not?

David Lincecum said...

As I read this post the Bhagavad Gita abbreviated is sitting in front of me opened to these verses from Yoga of action. "Do your duty to the best of your ability, O Arjuna, with your mind attached to the Lord, abandon worry and attachment to results. Remain calm in both success and failure. Such selfless service brings peace and equanimity of the mind."

I sometimes say the Yoga studio is my church on any given day.

YogaforCynics said...

I've been known to call writing yoga...but not all writing...and not all writing that I enjoy...but, specifically, writing I do that's for the purpose of self-knowledge, that's mindful and compassionate, that expands rather than contracts...

Ultimately, I think it boils down to the spirit in which you do something, and that could go the opposite way. If I practice yoga in a really competitive way, or go to yoga class solely to show off my strength and flexibility, or just so I can show off my expensive yoga clothes, is that any more yoga than mindfully eating a grape?

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful and thought-provoking!

Brenda P. said...

Good thoughts, all. I like the idea of intention as part of the was always part of my definition (defense) of why something was/wasn't art. Maybe it is the same with yoga.

I'm also thinking about yoga as a way to train yourself to get to the "essence" of an activity. Kind of like the mindful grape-eating.

I'm mulling...

Emma said...

im hearing what heather says... if everything is yoga, then so is the burger and mommying, etc. you can say it about one thing, and its legit, because you can say it about anything.