December 11, 2008

Would You Like Wine With That? The Perplexing Coexistence of Alcohol & Yoga via Sarah J. Miller.

Has anyone else noticed how alcohol and yoga have become so casually intertwined? I can recall a great number of recent events where I encountered yoga and alcohol mixing. From yoga studio openings, to yoga clothing store events, to the beverages served after big name yoga workshops—the bevies are present. There are even specific yoga workshops that include wine tasting. What is it about our society that thinks these two things were meant to mingle?

It is something that has always bothered me. I mean, really, which ancient text is it that condones drinking alcohol after one’s yoga asana practice? Is there a benefit that I’m not aware of?

I am of course assuming that those practicing yoga are doing it for health reasons or possibly even for spiritual purposes. If so, how does alcohol fit into this equation?

The Western practice of yoga is clearly a far cry from original strains of the first yogic organism. There are so many “styles” to pick from today that it makes one dizzy—then offshoots of those as well. Some require a sweltering 108 degrees plus in order to have a “good practice.” Others hold you in standing poses until your thighs quake. Yoga is a fabulous fitness craze—and people love it.

People are doing these wild, modern yoga asana practices and then going out for drinks! Only in America.

From a strictly Ayurvedic perspective, alcohol is pure poison. At times, as the Charak Samhita points out, “even Ayurveda uses poison sometimes.” After a cleansing practice that includes a series of asanas designed to eliminate unwanted toxins from the physiology would most certainly not be one of those times. Expert Ayurvedic physician, Vaidya Rama Kant Mishra, takes it a step further and has said that “alcohol disrupts the vibrational channels that allow spiritual development—mainly the heart lotus.” This is clearly counterproductive to the practice of yoga (union).

As a third generation meditator, I am aware of how my yogic lineage has given me the curse of rigidity. And as a yoga instructor, I often contemplate the intention of one’s practice. Does it still count if you don’t know the real meaning behind what you are doing? I suppose this is like saying, “does karma yoga exist if you don’t understand the meaning of karma?”

I remember on my Jivamukti teacher training course, it was made clear to us that without setting the right intention prior to practice and offering your efforts to something beyond the Small Self, you would only be enhancing ego- a clear obstacle to full realization.

Idealism has its place. Holding ourselves accountable and setting high standards of achievement gives us something to strive for. I may not be that open to the new, modern interpretations of yoga, but I also realize the importance of letting each Being experience their path—whatever that may be.

I think about the Western yoga community 20 to 30 years from now. What new awareness and expansion of consciousness will have occurred at that point?

I hope to see a committed group of yogis who care less about fitness and intoxicants and more about dedicating their energies towards higher states of consciousness and being their enlightenment. Perhaps, then, yoga and alcohol will no longer mingle so casually.

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