I don’t like to rant (well maybe a little bit, sometimes). But the “yoga and” trend is starting to get to me. Regular readers may recall some recent posts about goat yoga – I wasn’t a fan (a judgment I formed without having to try it) and Sam thought it was fun when she went with her son Gavin.
Lately, there are so many different forms of yoga. I don’t mean Iyengar, Ashtanga, Moksha, Kundalini, and the many other styles of hatha yoga (the branch of yoga focusing on physical exercises) we practice in “the West.”
I’m referring to the abundance of trendy combinations of yoga and…
- Yoga and goats
- Yoga and beer
- Yoga and wine
- Weed yoga
- Naked yoga
- Yoga on paddle boards
No doubt this is not an exhaustive list.
I used to be a purist, having been enculturated into the precise and detail oriented practice of Iyengar yoga, that it took many years before I was even willing to try hot yoga. And when I did, I was critical of the level of instruction even though I enjoyed the hot room. See my post about that here.
I now love hot yoga, in part because at least at the studio I go to (Moksha), the approach is less rigid than what I’m used to. You can go at your pace. Lie down in savasana whenever you feel like it. The instruction is less intense – they just take you through a set sequence and focus on helping you know when to breath and when to release. Iyengar would be appalled!
But my willingness to step out of the rigid methods I grew used to through 14 years of dedicated practice through an Iyengar studio has its limits. Moksha? Okay. Yoga on the beach in the Bahamas? I’m there. I’ve even attended a yoga for runners class.
I felt my eye first start to twitch over “yoga and…” combinations when I read about beer yoga. I even blogged about it.
I teach in a Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, and we are always resistant to the idea of “women and…” courses. These are courses like “Women and History,” “Women and the Novel,” “Women and the Law.” What’s wrong with them? From our perspective they don’t necessarily capture what women’s studies is all about. For example, they might lack a feminist approach, just highlighting women without actually embedding the course content in a broader narrative and theoretical framework that talks about oppressive social structures. You can’t just tack something onto “women” and think you’ve got it right.
Similarly, you can’t just combine yoga with whatever and think you’ve got it right. Now I’m no expert, and maybe if you can lure enough people into it for the beer or the goats, at least a few will stick around for a more authentic yoga experience.
I know it sounds judgmental of me to presume that beer yoga or weed yoga are not “authentic.” You never really know until you get there, I guess. Like, your “Women and History” course may actually turn out to be full-on feminist. But I’m just saying, to keep the analogy going, you have a much better chance of getting the real deal if you sign up for “Feminist approaches to History” than what the first admin assistant I worked with in Women’s Studies and Feminist Research used to call an “add women and stir” course.
I’m especially resistant to the attempts to combine yoga with mind-altering substances like beer, wine, and pot. It doesn’t just seem unnecessary. It seems counter to paying mindful attention to your body, which is surely one of the benefits of yoga. How about going for your beer or your joint when you’re done, instead (if you must)?
On the other side of it, maybe it’s time to lighten up. I get that I can be too serious. Gimmicky yoga can be fun, and why should my own puritanical insistence on “authenticity” (which, for all I know, is not even a yoga experience I’ve even been party to) be taken seriously by anyone? If you want to take a yoga class where you balance a beer bottle and take periodic swigs from it, go for it.
Then the small voice inside says: But is the yoga tent really that big? Can we add yoga and stir and still have the result be something we can call “yoga”? I just don’t know.
Here’s a great tongue in cheek overview of “yoga and chicken nuggets”:
What are your thoughts on the latest yoga trends and gimmicks? Harmless fun? Useful introductions? Misleading appropriations? Some better than others?