In an unregulated industry such as yoga, there are hundreds of stories to be told every week. During 2012, five events in particular earn notice, as they provide glimpses into the phenomenon of modern yoga in America, and they are:
1. Yoga gurus can be freaky and sneaky.
While it's no surprise to find a yoga guru's "business" revolving around a pretty thing's root chakra as much as it does around the mat, when he also gets his hand caught in the corporate cookie jar he probably wishes he'd exercised a little more Pratyahara--or just good, old-fashioned self restraint--instead of having to jettison himself into a fight-or-flight response resulting in a PR nightmare, not to mention some broken hearts, too. John Friend put a few wicca-dly libertine smudges on the Anusara movement, and perhaps even the mark of Cain upon himself with his shenanigans, but it shouldn't come as any surprise. After all, like so many great things in life--music, poetry, art, and politics--yoga is for some people just a different way to get laid.
If you're living in the Wiki world, here's the URL
2. Nice a&#, and nicer annual returns.
Whoever said you can't have your vegan death by chocolate, Kylie Minogue glutes, and the ability to look fabulous while drenched in sweat never stepped into the lululemon universe. Perhaps the leading corporate evangelist for yoga posted a stock price of $76.50 today, with shares up 51% in the last year. They've more than quintupled their value in the past three years. Stockholders in savasana have not just beatific smiles on their faces, but smug one, too.
3. "Yogapalooza"--you just know there's a business plan out there somewhere.
The race to yoga festival domination is on, pitting old/new school conferences like the Yoga Journal Conference against mid-stride conscious-living-and-yoga contender Wanderlust Festival, against the rookie Tadasana Festival, a confluence of music and yoga that happens at the solar plexus of physical sexiness, Santa Monica, founded this last year. It will be interesting to see what effect all this festivalia has on yoga: will it help win new recruits? Will it go the way of the 60s? Or will it evolve into something resembling a political movement, maybe even a party? Only the future can tell, but it's a juicy proposition to swirl.
4. Yoga hurts. Get back on the couch with the remote.
Yoga is bad for you. Just like skiing is dangerous, sex lethal, and silence deadly. That seems to be the misunderstanding of the writings of Pulitzer Prize-winning William Broad by a great many yoga alarmists who went into ballistic defense mode upon the publication and review of his book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards. A yoga practitioner himself since 1970, Broad's sweeping inquiry into a yoga practice--from a scientific and physiological perspective--would have committed a disservice had he not included the information. Yes, Virginia, there is always an inherent risk concomitant with a reward. Luckily, your God blessed you with common sense and sometimes a good yoga teacher, so you minimize the risk of being hurt.
File the alarm--and the blame--under "Wussification of America."
5. Beware the Trojan yogi!
The Encinitas Union School District (San Diego) is being threatened with a 1st Amendment lawsuit by a group of parents objecting to the teaching of yoga in K-6 elementary classes. The free, 30-minute bi-monthly classes are sponsored by a $500K+ grant from the Jois Foundation (founded by hedge fun billionaire Paul Tudor Jones and his wife Sonia Jones), and are to be studied by the University of Virginia and the University of San Diego. Researchers hope to learn about yoga's effect on childhood development.
District Superintendent Tim Baird isn't backing down. While parents are focused on the "religious" aspects of yoga, school officials point to the overall physical and psychological benefits that can be attained via a yoga practice. "Allowing our public schools to actively promote the beliefs and practices of one religion over others to young impressionable children sets a dangerous precedent."
The issue has yet to be pressed legally.
As always, time fades away, and there's nothing better to combat life's slings and arrows than breathing through some asana, a little meditation, maybe a kirtan, too. Have a joyful new year, and we'll see you on the mat.
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