October 29, 2014

There’s No Such Thing as Free Lunch—or Free Yoga.

Tony and Debbie/Flickr

If we’ve managed to avoid the trap of organized religion or spirituality in our relentless search for something (anything), we may find ourselves knockin’ on yoga’s door.

For many of us, it’s like the ultimate deal.

Yoga appears to promise us not just gratification of physical and mental stress relief, near-gymnastic flexibility, core strength, a toned physique and countless other long term health benefits, but also the eternal bliss of nirvana—a permanent “escape” from life’s miseries.

All we need to do is master some body, breath and mind (un) conditioning techniques and after much fiery tapasya, we’ll surely find our ananda.

Needless to say, we take the plunge.

Much like in the case of organized religion or spirituality, we subconsciously submit ourselves to the “fact” that we need some expert guidance in our sadhana “on the path” or “on the mat,” (suit yourself, because it means pretty much the same thing nowadays).

In the case of yoga, that “guidance” will cost $15-20/session—if we buy an X-session pack upfront, that is.

Naturally, these fees will be payable ad infinitum, because who’s to say by when we’ll be able to master the 108 pointers on just Tadasana.

Along the way, we’re also prompted (from within or without) that it’s important to further “educate” ourselves (with a magazine subscription), buy ourselves some specially-designed yoga wear, an eco-friendly yoga mat, a variety of asana props, and also sign-up for weekend workshops, yoga conferences and retreats for “deeper immersions.”

While we’re at it, it will also help if we can become raw, vegan, organic enthusiasts and regularly detoxify ourselves with pressed juice-fasts because “purity of body” (referring here to saucha, the first niyama) is essential to the “practice” of yoga.

Conveniently, we can find whatever we need at any new-agey grocery store or farmers’ market, so we have no excuse for not showing our commitment to “the path.”

This is, after all, what it takes to be a yogi(ni).

All of this may cost us a lot of money, but whoever said “enlightenment” is free?

So, this is how many of us may arrive at the sad “realization” that while we imagine ourselves to be practicing yoga, we’re actually continuing on the same ol’ treadmill of our samsara, though we want to somehow find our nirvana.

Now, now, we mustn’t fret about it.

After all, it’s a worthy cause and as we were taught in school or coached by our parents: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

We have to earn it the hard way with our blood, toil, tears and sweat (let’s add – a lot of cash, too).

Does anybody else see the tragi-comical irony in all of this?

A potentially truly invaluable discipline to get over oneself—whose very tenets include “simple living” or, simply put, managing with just the essential, only so that we’re not distracted by the unessential—has apparently become just as costly as practicing golf or squash or other such hobbies of the affluent.

So much so that “Yoga” is now also regarded as a multi-billion dollar global industry! Wow!

Is it of any wonder, then, that many of yoga’s well-known, modern-day commentators have spoken out against the way it’s being propagated and consumed?

Could Acharya Rajneesh (a.k.a. Osho) have been justified in saying,

“Yoga has an appeal, an easy appeal, because of our disturbed minds…(and) the yoga which is prevalent is not really yoga, but the interpretation of dis-eased minds.”

Time to hit pause?

Let’s reflect.


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Author: Nakul Patel

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Tony and Debbie/Flickr

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