The only time I’ve ever done Yoga was in High School, and it wasn’t by choice. Though my school allowed its students to select their own classes, it was a crapshoot whether one’s guidance counselor would actually program it. Mostly they’d just shove you in whatever was low on students that semester. Which was how I ended up the lone boy in a sea of estrogen and camisoles.
On second thought, there might’ve been a few other dudes in the class besides me, but my eyes never saw them. I was in deep focus. It requires great concentration and discipline to spy on T&A. I learned every curve of my attractive classmates that semester, but I also learned something of a life lesson: anyone who purports that an activity must also involve spirituality is full of shit.
Before taking the class, I thought Yoga involved some degree of Hinduism or Buddhism. Hell, that’s the stereotype. But what we did in the class was just stretching and balance and strength training. Not a chi was harnessed. Not a nirvana was ‘striven for’. And not once did it occur to me that what we were doing, some see as heresy.
There is a Yoga teacher named Tara Stiles who has recently come under fire for teaching exactly the type of Yoga I did in public school so many years ago. There is a New York Times article about all this hubbub, but you have to register in order to see it, so fuck that shit. The basic gist is that pseudo-spiritual and spiritual types alike are getting on her case about not being traditional (translation: fundamentalist.) Her response is simple yet profound– “Who made these rules?” Preach on, girl.
Objectively, ‘Downward dog’ is just bending forward in a specific way. ‘Shavasana’ is just lying on your back. Hell, meditation is just closing your eyes, focusing on your breathing, and calming the fuck down. If one wants to bring their subjective spiritual beliefs into any of those activites, all the power to them. But to say certain beliefs are mandatory in order to ‘do it right’? That’s just a religion trying to own it.
The next time someone gets on you for ‘breaking the rules’ (whether you’re a filmmaker, a fireman, a dancer, who the fuck cares) ask yourself what they stand to lose by the rules being broken. Chances are its their power. And chances are they never deserved their throne in the first place.