All posts by Michael

Fake, Evil, Spiritual, Commodified; What’s the Truth About Popular Yoga?

An interview with Andrea R. Jain who wrote Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture lays down some pretty heavy timber on pop analysis of yoga’s introduction into American mainstream culture and even the sniping from India about Western yoga being a bastardization of yoga’s true essence:

Fake, Evil, Spiritual, Commodified; What’s the Truth About Popular Yoga? | Religion Dispatches.
The key message for Selling Yoga’s readers is that yoga has been perpetually context-sensitive, so there is no “legitimate,” “authentic,” “orthodox,” or “original” tradition, only contextualized ideas and practices organized around the term yoga. In other words, the innovations unique to pop culture yoga do not de-authenticate them simply because they represent products of consumer culture.
Postural yoga is a transnational product of yoga’s encounter with global processes, particularly the rise and dominance of market capitalism, industrialization, globalization, and the consequent diffusion of consumer culture. To reduce its innovations to borrowings from, or the mere commodification of, otherwise authentic religious wares, however, would undermine the narrative and ritual functions and meanings of yoga for many of the practitioners I engage with in my study—the insiders to modern postural yoga.

This means I’m going to have to buy another yoga book on Amazon for my Kindle. At least, it will not crowd my bookshelves or weigh down my shoulder bag. It was published in December

Jain also points to another book, Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman by Leigh Eric Schmidt. He tells the story of of a modern hero, Ida C. Craddock (1857-1902), “whose life, though tragic, reveals important themes in the early history of modern yoga.” Schmidt has written about the American religious experience.  Religious Dispatches posted an interview with Schmidt when the book came out.

Sunset on Half Moon Bay

Photo: sunset on the Pacific, near SF
The magical moment on the Pacific Ocean: surfers on the lazy waves, the sun kisses the sea and the light turns golden.

I’m just beginning to process my photos from my November trip to San Francisco to visit with my son, Matt. On Thanksgiving Day, after visiting the SF wharves and the Golden Gate Bridge, we headed down Interstate 280 and then cut over to Half Moon Bay, arriving just in time to catch the evening light show.  It was worth the trip.

Where I’ve been spending my time

Photo: a work station in an office cubicle
It’s not the same as a yoga mat.

It’s not as welcoming as a yoga mat, but it’s where I spend most of my waking hours, learning the ropes at LCG Inc., building working relationships with my peers and plying my trade as a writer-editor-researcher. The company is about a tenth of the size of my previous employer, but I probably do 10 times more work. I used to say that I worked in the Prop Shop; now I am the Prop Shop. Even though we have not presented a proposal since I’ve been here (mid-November), mainly preliminary responses, I always got a clogged to-do list and a stack of tasks. There’s all kinds of writing and thinking that needs to go into preparing to bid for a Federal contract.

LCG is a different kind of corporate animal. It’s small business working in the Federal health IT sector and grants management. It’s a challenge to understanding the details of each field. We’re working with 17 agencies on the IT side and even more on the grants  management side. I have to create a kind of scorecard to keep track of all the clients, acronyms and players. It’s also in Federal government so there’s all  kinds of changing taking place in the way that information technology is handled.

Just as with DMI, the company gives me a laptop that I can take home with me, usually on weekends. Most work days, I don’t have time to check my personal mail, Twitter or Facebook accounts during business hours. I don’t even think about it. It’s a heightened focus that can stretch over several days. I sometimes have to force myself to pack up my bags and leave the office.

Yoga slows down

For the past four-five months, I backed off my practice and focused on restorative or yin yoga classes. Plus, the holidays were particularly disruptive of my normal routines, getting to the gym and class. I’ve had to take time off work to deal with dental surgery and that time has to be made up, assignments delivered on schedule, and lessons learned. Thrive Yoga is on my way home, not 10 minutes from the office, but I still find myself driving past it because my discipline has been sapped by my workload.  But that’s precisely when I should be going to class.

I wrote this entry last night, but my blog security system locked me out after midnight so I could not post it until now.

 

Spreading the vibes through public services

Increasingly, specialized non-profits and service organizations are spreading the use of yoga and meditation in schools and underprivileged communities, what in yogic philosophy is known as seva. Here is a story from Canada:

Toronto Star Yoga program teaches kids how to cope with stress at school and home
The goal isn’t really to teach kids about poses, explains New Leaf’s executive director Laura Sygrove, who co-founded the organization in 2007. Rather, it’s to teach them how to understand the connection between their emotions and what they feel in their bodies. New Leaf’s work is rooted in a growing body of research showing yoga and mindfulness can support young people who have experienced forms of trauma.

ysc-logoThis service movement has grown so much that it has started coalescing in broader organizations. The Yoga Service Council is organizing its third conference  for May14-17, 2015 at the Omega Institute. It has a really impressive list of founder and member organizations, as well as participating faculty (almost a Who’s Who of yogic leading edge thinkers in North America). The YSC has also brought out its first journal issue.