Δευτέρα, 21 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

What a Yogi Looks Like


There is something that bugs me about the way yoga is portrayed via the western media, yoga-themed sites and online communities included. There has been a lot of discussion on the internet lately as to whether yogis should or shouldn't post their so-called "yoga selfies". Some say it is important to share the happiness and confidence you feel through your progress; others deem those pictures unfaithful to the purpose of yoga and daunting to the aspiring beginners; my view, which I present here and leave open for discussion, is somewhere in the middle.

The problem with modern, westernized yoga has very little to do with whether or not you can rock a headstand, tie yourself up like a pretzel, or hover upside-down defying -seemingly- all laws of gravity. I think anyone can agree that those poses, advanced as they may be, even impossible for most of us -myself included- are a considerable part of the yogic tradition and require years of practice and a level of expertise anyone would be proud of. And if your jaw-dropping forearm balances took years of unrolling your mat daily and comprise the result of hard work, why the hell not post them on your wall  for your friends to see? After all, comparison and feeling daunted by someone else's abilities have very little to do with the selfless roots of the yogic filosophy.

So, what is it that drives so many people into desperation, frustration, and ultimately away from yoga? For me the problem lies in the way yoga practice is presented by the yoga media themselves. Yoga in the western world, like everything that sells, has become a business, and as such, it has to be profitable. And it does; clothes, special mats, mala beads, aromatic candles, props and an endless bunch of online communities and articles glorifying all the wrong aspects of the practice, to the point where it looks like an extravaganza of impossible acrobatics, performed by skinny girls in flowery yoga pants, and nothing more. And, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with showing with pride your handstand on Instagram, literally everything is wrong when one out of two articles devoted to yoga practice - a practice of seemingly countless styles and asanas to choose from- moves along the lines of "how to perform a headstand" or "firefly pose breakdown for beginners" (sarcasm intended). My progress is mine, asana is endless, and nobody has the right to tell me what I should and shouldn't be proud of. 

So I posted my own yoga selfie. I am performing -badly enough- a shoulderstand combined with splits. My asana is imperfect and requires work, but at the present moment I am proud of how far I've come and everything I have achieved. My pants are cheap and pitch black. My face looks rather silly. I am using the carpet instead of a formal mat because after a certain point I sweat and inversions become slippery.

But I am proud of this. I am proud of my yoga selfie. Anyone should be proud of their own progress.

 And, yes, I am having tons of fun.


Δευτέρα, 14 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

Honoring BKS Iyengar

Today google decided to honour the 100th birthday of one of the pioneers of what modern yoga is, BKS Iyengar.

 BKS Iyengar was an ashtonishing yoga teacher, a guru of modern yoga tradition, a true sage, as well as the author of the book that is considered to be the Bible of modern yoga, "Light on Yoga". Iyengar Yoga is still taught in many modern studios, and is the prefered practice of many contemporary yogis.

Of course, like any other apprentice, I consider it of vital importance to delve into the teachings of this exceptional man. Light On Yoga is an essential reading for whoever is serious about Yoga, in that it is an easy but profound and thorough read. Iyengar shares the basic of ancient yogic wisdom and tradition, and most importantly, he proposes a week-by-week practice plan, guiding the reader in their journey from a total beginner to an advanced practitioner.

As loath as I am to admit it, this gem only recently came in my possession, not only because I practically am a beginner, but also because, like many westerners, I discovered yoga as a physical practice and did asana for physical purposes. But, as they say, yoga changes ad shapes the practitioner in unimagined ways, so I gradually became more interested in what the core of modern yoga philosophy really is.

So, if you are a yogi in their first steps, an enthusiast that, however, indulges only in the physical benefits of yoga without delving deeper, or just a practitioner that thinks their studio practice is enough, add this magnificent work in your christmas whish list, or -why not?- buy yourself a copy of Light on Yoga as a gift.

I, as a yogi whose only refuge is my home practice, find it an absolute essential.