Yoga as we know it, is dying.
Gone are the days of packed yoga studios, with mats set just an inch apart.
Covid has made classes like this potential super spreader events, with all of that heavy breathing in a small, indoor space.
Gone are the days of constant physical assists and enthusiastic partner poses, although really those started disappearing a few years ago.
#Metoo took care of that, with several yoga teachers and students speaking out about high profile teachers who gave inappropriate assists on the regular to their female students.
Gone are the days of immortalizing one teacher above all.
As yoga as gone more and more online, the number of teachers we have access to has increased exponentially. Which is actually really cool.
You can take classes with lots of teachers, gaining insights from a variety of voices which makes our practice so much stronger.
Gone are the days of only being able to study with your favorite teacher once or twice a year.
Instead of waiting for your favorite teacher to come to your town, you can join their online membership and take classes with them on demand. You might even be able to take live classes with them, regardless of where they or you live.
I should also back up and say, I’m really talking about the fact that a specific type of yoga as we know it, is dying.
And that’s Western yoga.
This is the yoga of whitewashing the spirituality out of yoga to make it palatable for Americans.
So that people in the deep south can do yoga, y’all without feeling like they are in danger of the devil entering their minds when they OM.
“Don’t worry,” their yoga teachers say, “yoga isn’t a religion. It’s a physical practice. Like mindful aerobics.”
This is the yoga that told us it was more important to do handstands than it is to understand the history of the practice. And I love me some handstands, I really do.
I also believe that yoga is not and cannot be just what I do on my mat.
This is also the yoga of appropriating everything within the practice.
Making bindis and mala beads fashion accessories for hip, white yoga teachers.
Removing the ritual of henna art and turning it into fancy, temporary tattoos at festivals.
Turning yoga into a circus with the sacred art of yogic hooping.
This is the yoga that has been turned into a free for all with goat yoga and wine yoga and black light yoga and buti yoga.
Definitely avoid that last one.
The founder has openly embraced QAnon.
This is the system of yoga that is built on the backs of teachers who are not paid well enough to do this full time.
$20 per class is not enough.
$3 per student is not enough.
Asking us to not only teach classes but clean the studio and do student sign in and publicize our classes for pay that isn’t even close to a living wage is offensive.
This is also the system of yoga that forces studios to run teacher trainings once or twice or 4 times a year, without guaranteeing employment when it’s done.
Studios do this to “keep their doors open” because they can’t/don’t charge enough for classes that makes the studio a sustainable business.
These trainings are often heavy on yoga philosophy and light on actual teaching experience.
This is unethical, period.
I believe that this yoga as we know it, is dying.
This yoga is on the way out.
Covid has opened the door for this change.
Studios are closing and that’s heartbreaking in a lot of ways. Many of these studios are owned by friends or people I have taught for or studied with. These are good people who’ve created great yoga communities and the loss of this is profound.
It’s also paving the way for change.
Right now, yoga teachers all over the world are teaching online classes. They’re reaching more people than ever before.
Yes, there are lots of people who dislike online yoga.
And when the studios reopen, as they inevitably will, maybe they’ll find their way back to their mats.
I truly hope they do.
I’m also grateful that this shift is taking place.
I am ready for this yoga to die.
I’m tired of Instagram influencers acting like legit teachers when they have no real training and no real teachers educating them. Instead relying on the #yogachallenge to “educate” them.
I’m tired of having to convince people that my time and energy and expertise has value. That yoga classes have greater value than what we’ve been taught by the studio standard. Or by $2 groupon classes.
I’m ready for a rebirth that prioritizes skill over social media presence.
This rebirth will shift a focus back to honoring yoga’s roots, without fear of ruffling feathers or making white folks uncomfortable.
I’m ready to rebuild a system of yoga that is inclusive and supportive and not populated exclusively with skinny, rich, white women.
The rebirth I want to participate in prioritizes the practice of living your yoga over the practice of performative yoga.
In order to do create this new yoga in the west, we need to work together.
Here are some things you can do:
Support your favorite teachers.
You can do this in a number of ways, even without paying money. If they have a YouTube channel, subscribe and share their videos regularly. Tell your friends about their paid classes, too. Many of your favorite yoga teachers are now online and have far less expensive monthly memberships than your average yoga studio.
I have an online studio with 2 tiers: One with live classes weekly, plus a bunch of pre-recorded classes ($28/mo); and one with those prerecorded classes plus one live class monthly($18/mo). You can even get your first month free using the code YOGASUPPORT.
Support your local studios.
If you prefer live classes, go to them SAFELY. Support the studios that are still open. Many have both online and in-person options, depending on your level of comfort.
Also, check in with the studio owners. Ask how much they pay teachers. Be willing to pay more money for yoga classes, especially when the class sizes are smaller as a result of covid restrictions.
Request immersions and in-depth workshops over Teacher Trainings.
The cool thing about immersions and workshops is that they are super specific. You don’t have to want to become a teacher but teachers (or potential teachers) are welcome.
These types of offerings can be set at higher prices, like teacher trainings. But unlike trainings, they don’t make false promises about being able to teach successfully when the immersion or workshop is over.
The higher cost also means teachers are usually paid more AND it supports the studio.
Invest in an honest yoga education.
Seek out teachers who have an authentic connection to the roots of yoga. This means studying with South Asian teachers who grew up with the practices of yoga, on and off the mat. Some teachers I recommend are Susanna Barkataki and Navi Gill. Listen to the Yoga is Dead Podcast.
Listen with an open mind, especially if you are a white yoga teacher.
Yoga as we know it, is dying. And that’s ok. Because I believe we can let the current system die and rebuild something better from its ashes.
But we have to do it together.
Are you with me?