There’s No “I” in Yoga

Yoga means “union” or to “become whole.” “Union,” I’m sure we’d all agree involves two things coming together. Regardless of what you think those two things are, there is a dissolution of a singular. The Sanskrit root is “yuj,” with familiar cognates like “yolk” and “joint,” words that involve connecting one thing to another. Yoga is the union of masculine and feminine, of inner and outer, of our physical body with our spiritual body. It is the ultimate ending of duality, of me and them, good and bad, self and other. It is the ending of the egoic “I” with the name Abby, with big brown hair and a bungalow in L.A. It is the joining of each of us with our ultimate nature. That’s why we contort our bodies into asanas, to move prana (life force, subtle energy) out of our side channels and into our central channel, bringing the sun, “Ha” on the right side, together with the Moon, “Tha” on the left side, (hence, “Hatha” Yoga.) When this happens all feelings of suffering and negativity cease and the sense of “I” and any separation disappears. Why then does most of the Yoga world in the U.S. today look like a complete celebration of “I,” of the very thing that Yoga is meant to dissolve? The seduction of fame is strong, almost as strong as its sister, fortune. I mean, come on, it’s almost irresistible. Who doesn’t want thousands of people to like them? And of course, we all have to make a living, and if you love teaching yoga, you know damn well you’re not going to do that teaching at studios, even if you do throw some high paying private clients in the mix. And then there’s Instagram, where it’s just so easy to celebrate Me and my handstands, green juices and leggings that the new apparel company gave me to wear in the middle of Time Square while I hold my leg way up high in that pose I’m so good at. What’s it called again, sh*#??? Natara, Natara..whatever, dancer’s pose, students don’t really care about hearing the Sanskrit name anyway. I’ve been quietly watching as the talons of greed and self-cherishing sink deeper into this sacred space, making me wonder how many “real” teachers there are anymore, teachers who are teaching and practicing yoga for the sake of all living beings, for OTHERS. That’s the point right? To become whole so that we can teach others to do the same, so that we can help all living beings be happy and free? So, what happened to that motivation, the “for all living beings” part? Now I’m just getting sold books filled with chia infused smoothie recipes and cliches about self-love and balance by blond women with gaps between their thighs and hollow shit-eating grins. Somehow the part about losing the ego has been pushed aside, replaced by the very illusory trappings that bring us suffering in the first place. I can’t help but think that teacher training programs now are just filled with follower and like junkies. We just can’t afford to practice and teach only for ourselves. We need to do it for each other, now more than ever.

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