Mind Your Body: Has Yoga Lost Its Spirit? This Issue, Dance Magazine Begins a New Monthly Column on the Various Somatic Practices That Now Assist the Working Dancer and Teacher. This First Column Focuses an Modern Yoga Practices and Problems
Patrick, K. C., Dance Magazine
YOGA, IN ITS various forms, is an ancient tradition of physical and spiritual practices. But today in the West, it is also a billion-dollar industry that markets longevity, weight and stress reduction, tight butts and abs, amazing flexibility, and sexual endurance.
Yoga's big attraction is that it works. Five thousand years of trial and error and passing fads have been added and subtracted to achieve a total process that effectively benefits the body and all it contains as mental and spiritual energy. The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit, translated roughly "to yoke or to join;" its practice is meant to unite the body, mind, and spirit as one aligned unit. The question arises, though: Can such an ancient devotional practice as yoga save its soul in a tell-all, make-a-buck, quick-fix-and-move-on society? Will such a sacred traditional culture be copyrighted, trade-marked and licensed to the point it loses its meaning?
Yoga's origins vanish in antiquity; over the centuries, it was maintained as an oral tradition passed from "guru" (teacher) to student. A few texts, such as the Yoga Sutras, and innovations, have been added through time. Here in the U.S., yoga began to be recognized in the 1920s, and as early as the 1970s, PBS broadcast a regular television show devoted to the practice. Today gurus pose not on holy tiger rugs, but on slip-proof sticky mats. Gone are cotton loincloths and turbans in favor of microfiber stretch workout togs that wick perspiration away from the body. Yoga has become part of the American culture, with regular infusions from India and innovators who focus on particular uses of yoga for particular benefits.
Some innovations target a certain demographic. Power Yoga[TM], for example, founded by Beryl Bender Birch as an out-growth of Ashtanga yoga, is a more athletic form found on health club schedules midway between aerobics and traditional moving meditations. Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden, in their publication The Woman's Book of Yoga and Health: A Lifelong Guide to Wellness [Shambala, 2003], bring a therapeutic usage of traditional postures and herbs to women. …