What yoga is and what yoga most definitely is not

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about yoga at the moment. It started when I was in the local Night Owl in my gym gear and the guy behind the counter asked me if I’d been to the yoga school across the road.

I hadn’t. I just couldn’t be arsed showering so was going for that intentionally ambiguous comfortable look.

“Oh,” said Night Owl dude, “You should go. Everyone comes in here afterwards sweating like pigs and the instructor used to be the national champion.”

Sweating like pigs? NATIONAL YOGA CHAMPION? Yes, competitive yoga is a thing. Check out the New York Yoga Asana Competition – it’s both hilarious and chilling.

Whoah, let’s take a step back here.

Call me old fashioned, but here’s what I think of when I think of yoga (definition borrowed from Iyengar Yoga Australia):

“Yoga means union. The union of the individual soul with the Universal Spirit is yoga. But this is too abstract a notion to be easily understood, so for our level of understanding I say that yoga is the union of body with the mind and of mind with the soul”. – BKS Iyengar, Tree of Yoga.

Who is BKS Iyengar? Oh, you know, just the father of Iyengar Yoga (a term he doesn’t use himself because he says it’s not about him), a man who has been practising yoga for 75 years. He calls the yoga he practises and teaches ‘pure, authentic, traditional yoga’.

That picture at the top of this post is him. Flexy, hey?

But yoga has become big business all around the world. There are gazillions of different schools of yoga, all promising something different, which is fine. But many of them have nothing to do with yoga. Competition is about as far from the spirit of yoga as you can get.

And you know what else flies in the face of “the union of the individual soul and the Universal Spirit”? Paying $7000 for a pair of pants, that’s what.

Don’t get me wrong, I love pretty yoga stuff. I look around my yoga class each week and covet my arse off at all the cool stuff that I see. My point is that they aren’t about yoga, and Lorna Jane, Lululemon and all their mates are making bucketloads of money convincing us otherwise.


LJ collage small

140327 lululemon collage small

Pfffffft to them, I say. Here’s what I wore to yoga last week (not the baby, she just wouldn’t let me have the shot taken without her):

140327 me yoga

And you know what? Not once did I feel the Universal Spirit gave me a once over and go, “Hmmmm, not in those pants.”

Are you a yoga fan? What do you wear?

Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.


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