What really matters.

I am feeling a bit sad about what I have seen from the yoga world today. Yoga has proven that it is an ever-evolving entity, and I know and understand and have come to terms with the fact that what we call yoga today has next to nothing in common with “yoga” hundreds of years ago. So maybe I am being stubborn, but I never want to lose the comforting, and at the same time humbling aspects of yoga that I hold dearly.

I just feel like lately, outside of the classroom, the yoga world yells at me. Advertisements from yoga clothing companies tell me to “breathe” but their pictures tell me that I am not good enough, that I need to be like the models in the pictures, to keep pushing, and then I cannot breathe. But I don’t even notice my lack of breath, I am already caught up in the pictures, those beautiful, bright, glossy photos that show me what I could be, what I should be.

I am told that yoga is a personal practice, I believe that. But then I see pictures and articles of famous, airbrushed people, interviews where they describe their daily yoga practice and I compare it to my own, subconsciously and then consciously thinking about what I could do to be more like them, how it would feel to be them, on their yoga mat.

And these advertisements and articles and pictures tell me not only how I should be, what I should do, but how I should look during my yoga practice. And I think that I need a new pair of yoga pants, and a new top to go with them.

But I have weeks worth of yoga clothes, all I need is to do laundry.

These advertisements spell out letters, b-r-e-a-t-h-e, and the word looks pretty. Staring at the image, I forget what it means. At the end of the day, I feel triumphant that I have managed to free myself from the hypnosis, caught my breath, and put my clothes in the washer instead of buying those new pants.

I feel like I have to be thankful in some ways, yoga clothing companies and other large corporations that have invested in the yoga enterprise are largely responsible for bringing new students into my classes. But here at the end of my day today, I find myself praying that the yoga practice is strong enough to retain its power and its truth underneath these superficial layers.

Because the truth is, no matter how much money you have, or what you look like, you already have everything that you need to practice yoga. And trust me, from someone who as a teenager, spent hours “shopping” online for things that she had no money to buy, building an imaginary wardrobe–this is a miracle.

All you need to do yoga is yourself, in whatever state that you are in. And what those advertisements don’t tell you is that as long as you practice what you can practice, and you practice devotedly, diligently, everyday, you will find out that it is possible to get everything that you ever wanted. Because all that you ever wanted was to feel whole, to feel valuable–to feel like enough.

And yes, those yoga pants might be what you want right now, but we all know they won’t be enough. And yes, it is much easier to develop your practice if you are able to go to a yoga studio, to find a good teacher and take classes regularly, but it is not necessary and regular practice on your own will be more transformational than paying for an expensive yoga class every once in a while.

I hope and I pray that as humans, we can see through all of the craziness, all of the fuzziness.  I hope and pray that we remember that we do not need that yoga outfit, we do not even need clothes, we don’t need special music, we don’t need any music, we don’t need any special drug that will make us perform better or make us feel better during our practice, (in fact we need to not be inhibited by drugs at all during the practice), and we don’t need to look a certain way or be a certain kind of person.

If we approach our yoga practice in this way, then it becomes something that no one and nothing can take away from us.  It becomes something that we have no matter what happens, where we can find our Self that remains the same no matter what tank top we are wearing, so that we can see through what does not matter and connect with each other as we truly are. That is samādhi, that is bliss.


8 thoughts on “What really matters.

  1. I love this! and struggle with it all the time. especially since all these cool new leggings have become the trend. I have to remind myself that they are not necessary for me to teach and that I should not spend money I don’t have just so my students or fellow class mates can be jealous of my awesome pants.

  2. Teachers always seem to have new clothes because they get it for free to try out and to then give feedback which the product development department feeds into new ranges. I highly respect teachers who make a point by not wearing anything that has a label. But then if you teach 12 classes a week you need a lot of gear which comes expensive on a yoga teacher’s salary.

    1. I know some teachers who get clothes for free because they are ambassadors for the company but I teach and do get a small discount at some stores, and clothing is certainly not free for me! But yes, don’t get me wrong, teaching does require that I have quite a few pairs of yoga pants, and I feel that it is important for me to look good and wear clean, close fitting clothes so that when I model any poses the alignment is clear. However, as both a teacher and a student, my concern is that these outer, superficial concerns sometimes become more important or exciting to us than the practice itself. And while it feels good to wear nice clothes to yoga, the lack of special yoga clothing should never inhibit someone from practicing yoga, or from being a good teacher for that matter!

  3. Deanna shared your post with me – I couldn’t agree more, and indeed, Aparigraha is exactly what came to mind! May I reprint your article in one of my upcoming newsletters?

    1. Hi Connie! Nice to finally “meet” you! It would be fun to practice together one day! Maybe next time I go up to visit my family. I would be honored to have my article reprinted in one of your newsletters.

  4. Lovely, thoughtful writing. I haven’t splurged on any “yoga” clothes yet (still wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants) but I think that they are lovely and I enjoy looking at them. Guess that at the age of 63 I’ve figured out that it’s not about the clothes. Yoga just FEELS good (especially when I’m finished).

    1. Thank you Mara. Yes, there are so many nice companies now that make beautiful yoga clothes! You sound like you are very balanced in your enjoyment of yoga clothing and wise to see easily beyond the advertisements. Sometimes it’s not as easy for me. I’m glad that you are practicing because it feels good! That’s what really matters!

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