If I achieve or maintain a certain body size and shape, then I will be happy. More money and more time will make things better. If society accepted what I like, or how I live, then I will be at peace. If all else fails, just entertain me!
In the company of others, we might say these things won’t bring us lasting happiness. We might post on social media that all we need is love! But when we sit quietly, we might realize we are still driven by the idea that external appearances, social acceptance, or entertainment will bring internal happiness.
It’s true these things can bring temporary and pleasing emotions. But before long, we will need to look for another external thing to boost our mood.
Is yoga a solution? Well, it can be, but these days you have to be savvy.
Traditional yoga practices offer a change from the inside rather than from the outside. But the commodified yoga of this decade sells us ideas which promise external solutions. It sells us the image of a thin female body as the definition of health, energy, and wellness. It feeds our desire to be entertained (yoga with cats, yoga with wine, yoga hanging from a ceiling). Or it boosts our identification with a subgroup of humanity (yoga for runners, yoga for certain body types).
Simplifying There is nothing bad about cats, or wine, or hanging from a ceiling, or spending time with people who share your interest or your body type.
But when it comes to yoga, the most powerful practices do not separate people into interests or identities. Niches and entertainment are not necessary. Instead, they bring any and all human beings together in the same room and are truly accessible and effective for each one. All ages, all interests, all body types.
What these humans share is the desire to feel better, the willingness to take a look at themselves, and the interest in healing from the inside out. There is no other prerequisite, no group you need to fit into, no special appearance or accessory needed.
You just need a spine, and the ability to breathe.
Ann Chrapkiewicz, M.A., is the owner and mentoring teacher at Bikram Yoga Capital Area in East Lansing. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.