Yoga has become part of the billion dollar wellness industry that flourishes with greed at its root- by preying on our fears of unworthiness, of lack, our fear of aging and death. This industry gains momentum by pushing belief in spiritual attainment, ‘happiness,’- and that it looks a certain way. That ‘way’ is more often that not white, lithe, female and gumby flexible.
Just so darn inclusive, right? Nope.
The Yoga Industry has keenly extrapolated and visually idealized the end goal of yoga: ‘bliss’ or in Sanskrit ‘samadhi’. English language can barely contain the experience of ‘Bliss’ as a described state of ‘oneness’, where the individual consciousness merges with the universal consciousness. The wellness industry absconds ‘Bliss’ and air brushes, packages, and pushes it to our hungry senses in ways that slyly embolden our insecurities. Yoga is a path not a product. It’s both unfair and unethical to place syrupy expectations of image-heavy attainment on students without giving them any clear tools for the work to uncover true contentment and sustain it.
Yoga is not about how you look in a pose.
I would love for you to know and feel that true contentment is an inside job.
In reality, the gateway to this ‘bliss’ at the heart of yoga is through a practise developed in time, with quality teachings and in direct relationship to our wonderfully messy human experience. It’s a practise and path of discovery where we embrace the laboratory of our bodies, our thoughts and our actions. We learn to first understand the fears that both limit and motivate us and uncover truth and peace through intelligent detachment. And yes, we can do this through a postural practise, through our bodies. But it is not stretching. It is not about being flexible, young and beautiful. It is, thankfully and inclusively, far beyond any shallow surface.
Iyengar yoga is based on specific application and mindful progression in the 8-limbed path of yoga. This path is designed to lead the student towards freedom from human drama and crisis- in body and in mind. The methodology of specifically sequenced classes and alignment-based teaching creates a laboratory for excavating and knowing ourselves from the outside in, from the physical body toward the subtle/spirit body.
While the physical platform of asana/postures may be perceived as stretching, in Iyengar yoga it’s a laboratory for self discovery and negotiating alignment in our bodies and in our intelligence. By starting with the limb of asana, (physical postures), students open up a physical canvas to explore who they are on the most accessible plane available to us- our bodies. What beginner students tend to notice as they start with postural/physical practise is gained strength, balance, pain relief from correcting poor postural habits, anxiety relief and a lift from any depression- and this is all part of the clearing process that allows us to move deeper towards our deepest selves.
B.K.S. Iyengar was founder of the methodology of yoga I teach under. He is widely known as the father of modern yoga. He moved through his own deep physical pain, illness and frailty to heal through yoga- and sustain that healing. His methodology specifically invokes the body’s natural ability to heal by bringing the body back to alignment. Iyengar was innovative in making yoga both accessible and clear through his intensive self-study which led to various approaches including the use of yoga props. Props empower students to access the clarity and alignment of the poses while maintaining ease of breath and a calm, steady mind.
It’s one thing to assume the shape of ‘downward facing dog’ but to use it as a platform to understand your personal tendencies, weaknesses and how to correct harmful habits is a whole other ball game. And a worthwhile one, for certain.
I can talk a novel on this subject. But yoga, at its essence, is for YOU and meant to be experienced. With accessible, specific and clear teaching that embraces the power of the path of yoga, the subject can move out of the realm of commodity that promotes the elitism of the wellness industry and back into the hands and hearts of the people.
Now more than ever, a focus on yoga’s power to heal is needed to be shared. And this healing starts with ourselves.
So I encourage you to start. Join me for a free introductory Iyengar yoga class on Zoom, Thursday February 25th from 10-11am. If you can’t make the class time/date, register anyway and you’ll receive a link to a recording to do in your own time. Break down the class if an hour is too long of a start and try just a few poses! But do start and start well and notice if your whole being sings as you continue on this powerful path.
Free class link: bit.ly/align-yoga
Jessica Lowry is humbled and grateful to be working, and creating on the unceded territory of the Stz’uminus First Nation. Jessica is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor and a classically trained professional actor (CAEA). These two disciplines frame her work in the world. Jessica’s yoga teaching practise focuses on creating clear, accessible, and joyful yoga offerings that stand in the truth and fullness of this ancient practise.