the ultimate yoga challenge

I have been watching more and more yoga challenges coming out that all focus on Asana and keep taking us further and further away from yoga.

The yoga challenges more and more offered by many media and blogs call the readers to blend yoga and diverse activities such as acrobatics, writing, eating chocolate or connecting with horses. Is this how yoga has progressed? It’s as though we are so afraid of yoga that we need to blend it with something “fun.” Because we have been having so much “fun,” we are now debating whether to boycott Yoga Journal over ads that support the blend of alcohol and yoga. Why don’t we speak about the countless events we see everyday in every major city, combining wine tasting, craft beers and even Ayahuasca ceremonies with yoga. I am not condoning those practicing, I am speaking to the blending of these practices with yoga. Why have we not spoken out against the violence towards consciousness in our own community? How can we possibly be keepers of peace and ask the world, let alone fellow practitioners, to step into united consciousness when we look down on each other for the way we eat?

Yoga is a serious process. It takes a willingness to look at oneself, it takes a strong courageous heart and a calm discerning mind. Yoga was not offered to us as a form of entertainment. It was offered to us as a path, a process, a tool and ultimately a mirror (darshan) in which to look at ourselves with. Yet somehow, yoga has now become entertainment as well as a tool that permits us to judge one another. You may say to yourself at this point, “Well, it sounds like you are being judgmental?” Am I? Or am I making more of an observation?

Most recently, I had a potential student who was interested in enrolling in our summer immersion 200-hour yoga teacher training, tell me they couldn’t join our program because we allow people to eat what they wanted. We believe yoga is a process of interacting with the wisdom of each being. This interactive process, yoga, brings the being into contact with their inner intelligence of how to live among sentient beings. The Yamas and Niyamas are not to be forced, they are natural extensions and practices of conscious and awake human beings. Yoga is the return to this state — some call this Freedom! May the pursuit of freedom never become a form of entertainment for us or give us permission to be judgmental towards one another.

Before I can grapple with the systems and structures of this world. I must first look deeply at myself. This essay is my inner journey. We are now in the gripes of violence all over the planet, a violence that is only a cry. At first, it sounds and feels like an angry roar, but listen closely and it’s a cry a deep moaning sad cry from the depths of this earth…..from the soul of its people…from the pulse that moves through all living things and beings. The path of the Yogi was born, in my opinion, from the ability to hear this cry. First our own and then others. Then, transcend the cry into a HUM….a vibration of peace …a vibration of formless love. We seek to find freedom by first cultivating understanding and being willing to see the whole picture. If we want to do this with our world, we need to do it with ourselves and in our own communities.

I am asking us, those who have chosen the path of yoga, to really look at our role in how yoga is being abused and violated.

Where are we headed?

Are we digressing?

Is the contamination of yoga helping yoga enter a new chapter? Is the level of violence elevating our planet to help us usher in a new age of peace and kindness?

This density that we are seeing even in the world of yoga is helping us as practitioners and teachers to step back and look at what is exactly going on. From this place, at a healthy distance, we can create discernment and understanding so that we make decisions with how we teach and how we share yoga in our communities. Most importantly, we make decisions with how we live and interact with each other.

Yoga is a powerful tool and one that I believe is not for everyone. Yet those that gravitate towards it and are inspired to dive further into themselves, deserve to be given full access to the tools and the wisdom without tricks and mimics.

If I was to offer you the ultimate yoga challenge…

It would be how do you practice yoga without your mats, without your yoga outfits, without your tricks and handstands, without your arm balances and without distorting your human experience? How do you practice yoga so that it whispers and heals, so that it inspires simplicity and kindness? How do you practice yoga so that you need less…props, heat, sweat and pain? How do you practice yoga so that it transcends a practice and becomes a state of being…a state that reflects the qualities of a conscious, loving, awake human spirit. That is my yoga challenge to you…. Try it for 21 days, or better yet for the rest of your life, and share your experience.

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