It can seem that we live in a wonderful time for Yoga teachers and students alike, with plenty of Yoga everywhere. Unlike previous generations, a huge percentage of the world’s population would claim to "know what Yoga is,” and you can barely walk down the street in most big cities without going past a Yoga studio or five. Yet simply hearing the word Yoga being used doesn’t guarantee that’s what it truly is.
The Yoga 'Scene'
It seems that every week some enterprising spirit invents a new Yoga fad to differentiate their product in a competitive world and make a fast buck with the word Yoga added on for extra value: beer Yoga, alien Yoga, hot Yoga, snow Yoga, fast Yoga, slow Yoga, goat Yoga, horse Yoga … the list goes on and on. Is there anybody out there just “teaching Yoga” any more?
Modern media promotes Yoga as the lovechild of exercise and contortionism, aimed at attaining bodily perfection. Yoga teachers of certain physical proportions and gymnastic abilities confirm this with selfies of perfect bodies in perfect postures, quite often clad in bikinis, on every platform of social media and on the cover of Yoga magazines. Newly graduated Yoga teachers with minimal training (often less than 4 weeks in length) can (ab)use the internet and engaged marketing to quickly convince the masses that they represent the depths of Yoga wisdom. Meanwhile, long-term Yoga teachers of good standing who actually have a depth of practice and experience to represent all that Yoga can offer us, are financially forced to close small ethical studios and step back into day jobs, by a “Yoga industry” where aggressive price competition favours people who will work for very little or for free (i.e. new graduates looking for “a foot in the door”).
Yoga celebrities seem suicidally inclined to engage in sex scandals, outright criminal abuse of students, or other activities that evidence how far they have wandered from the ethical heart of Yoga’s practices. Having failed to serve and support their students by following their own neurotic self-interest, they take a short sabbatical followed by a declaration of their “spiritual transformation” in far too short a timeframe for them to have effected any serious level of psychological change. Like sheep, those same deluded students then flock back to elevate the disgraced guru into the limelight as the face of modern Yoga once again.
This past few years has seen a few brave souls stepping up and speaking out against such abuse, fakery and unethical behaviour. Incredibly, other Yoga teachers are now speaking out against those who are speaking out, defending wayward practices and adding to the confusion of the ordinary person on the streets.
Is this turgid mess really showing us the future of Yoga?
Yoga has always been dogged by controversy. Yoga’s history shows us wave after wave of unscrupulous gurus and fake Yoga methods. Entire traditions have been made and broken by the resulting process of debate, an essential component of the whole process that keeps Yoga from becoming stale and unresponsive to the current needs of every new generation.
Luckily for us, the current state of Yoga wasn't created by them any more than it will be redefined by those driven by financial opportunity in rebranding Yoga as an exercise form. Yoga will never be defined by opportunist businesspeople adding gimmicks its powerful practices. The future of Yoga is not what any slick corporate marketing machine makes it out to be.
The Future of Yoga is you!
Yoga is defined by what you do. You, not them. If we act like Yoga is defined by someone else, that’s like saying we are "stuck in traffic" instead of realising that actually we are the traffic jam. The Yoga tradition is a living breathing entity that right now, on the face of this planet, is represented by you. Its traditions and lineages have never been set in stone, always in flux, continuously adapting to meet the latest changes in society and culture.
As the wavefront of that current evolution, Yoga will be defined according to the teachers and studios you support, so choose the ethical teachers and support them fully. Yoga will develop through the practice that you do every day (or don’t), so make your stance in your commitment to the practices that actually work. Yoga’s reputation depends upon the ways you choose to live your life, so choose wisely and mindfully at every step of the way.
Ask yourself how you really want to see Yoga evolving? Yoga needs your help, your vision and your insights, but most of all it needs your action. So what are you going to do?