I am kind of small, Caucasian, less than 100 years old, and naturally enthusiastic about striving for constant improvement in the things I am passionate about. Does that make me less of a yogini? The girl with no hamstring injuries and more fantastic extension than me is no more of a yogini, same as the woman who will never attempt the more "out there" postures and frankly isn't interested isn't less than me. Being a purist doesn't bring you closer to it, and neither does looking down on said purist. Being cliquey about your particular style and methods is just high school bullshit - I don't care how many malas you've collected or how many times you've been to India or whatever. You're still acting like that privileged little ignoramus I couldn't stand back in 2000. What the hell IS yoga, anyway, that everyone keeps arguing about it as if they KNOW?
1) I am well aware of and not missing the irony in the pages upon pages of ads in a fucking yoga magazine for designer clothes, designer mats, designer laxatives, designer retreats, designer jewelry and all the other ridiculous yoga stuff. Personally, it makes me laugh and roll my eyes and not really take any of the articles seriously because obviously the rag is not that interested in being more than mostly fluff. But I don't lose sleep over it nor do I bother flaming the editors about it, because if they really wanted to do something REALLY different, they'd run ads with more "average" models (or - let's get real crazy - models like some of loopier folk that regularly attend yoga classes!) or whatever else you wish they would do without being asked. And what is "average"? Let's not shoot me off on a whole different tangent, please. The point is...don't attack young naturally-small Caucasian girls. We didn't write the damn magazine and most of us actually wish said magazine would get real as much as everyone else. We get older every day, just like you. You were 26 once. Why don't you just write a letter tearing apart the magazine's lack of being a solid publication in general? It would be more effective.
2) If you need told that the physical practice that most Americans are familiar with is less than a century old and is not entirely some divine download but an amalgamation of the intelligence of humans who made a point to live in both the spiritual-traditional and on the cutting edge of their time AND THAT THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT...you've.been.brainwashed. WAKE UP. Go read the damn book, maybe, that this guy is talking about.
3) Same as that reverse-bashing-pigeonholing thing with young flexible people. Why do you hate someone who is exceptional at whatever they do? What IS that? And how is she personally harming you or pigeonholing YOU? She is not. Neither is she missing the point of yoga (I am going to get to that in a minute.). Mediocrity and protecting it is so uncool. And the fact that maybe you can't wrap your leg behind your head does not make you mediocre. Read that sentence again, please...okay. What makes you mediocre is if you saw someone with their leg wrapped behind their head and instantly got snotty and jealous and down on yourself and started with that, "Wellthat'snotyoganywayIcouldneverdothatblahblahblah". You're mediocre because you didn't TRY. You're mediocre because you don't attempt the best version of your leg behind your head on any given day. Finally, if you know you have tight hamstrings (and that's a basic yes-or-no) and you try to push your body beyond its range of motion because you think it makes you more of yogi...that is so your own fault.
So. Back to my main gripe about all my fellow American yogis thinking they are so right and everyone else is so wrong. Do you even know what you're arguing about? What exactly are you defending? You know you want to go to that huge summer solstice thing where everyone is going to practice in Times Square; you love the unity and togetherness of the whole idea...but you'll all be acting snarky. You know you will! The power yogis will being in one quadrant, the Anusaris in another, the Svaroopis won't go but will definitely organize their own solstice party which will almost certainly involve a lot of sorrowful head shaking and tsk-tsking...you know it, and don't act like I'm out of line. All this stupidness and boundaries created over whose lineage came first and whose is "real" and...do we know what yoga is yet? Let's ask the son of that troublemaker T. Krishnamacharya.
In case you are not familiar with it, T.K.V. Desikachar wrote a solid book called The Heart Of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice. The more I read it, the more I find in it. Anyway, the titles of some of the chapters alone give a good clue as to what yoga is, where it originates from, what the point of it is: "The Things That Darken the Heart", "Living In The World", "The World Exists To Set Us Free", "The Many Paths Of Yoga"...do I need to go on? Probably. Quite early in the book, Desikachar provides sentence after sentence of to-the-point ideas that you'd think would dissolve all this yogic hierarchy shit. But...to paraphrase Winnie the Pooh...sometimes people have a lot of fluff stuck in their ears...
"Yoga is intimate." "It has to be the right yoga for the person." "A guru is not one who has a following. A guru is one who can show me the way." "Every change is yoga." "We begin where and how were are, and whatever happens, happens." "There are many definitions of yoga, and I have already mentioned some of them: yoga as the movement from one point to another, higher one; yoga as the bringing together, the unifying of two things; yoga as action with uninterrupted, undivided attention. These definitions of yoga all have one thing in common: the idea that something changes." "That which was impossible becomes possible; that which was unattainable becomes attainable; that which was invisible can be seen."
Do I need to keep going? I almost can't. How much clearer does it have to be?
Desikachar offers multiple definitions of the word asana but two of them are particularly striking: "to stay" and "to be". So, then, even the relatively young physical practices are, at the end of the day, a practice, a reflection, an expression of the choice that all of us living make every minute: to stay. To be here. To live. What it means to live. Change. One second to the next.
How is that useless? How is that contained within styles? How is that something to break into bitchy little factions over? How is that right or wrong? How is that even restricted to what we typically consider to be yoga? How, then, is yoga not a hugely beautifully individual thing that always has and always will continue to evolve? Change. One second to the next.
It seems like a "no duh" explanation, but unfortunately it seems to need explained over and over again: yoga is not the moves, the breath, the concentration, or any other method. Yoga is what occurs between each movement, in the pause between breaths, in the break between thoughts. Something that leaves you behind when you attempt to chase it. Beyond that, I can only tell you what it's not.