Have you noticed that there are now signs for yoga studios in almost any small strip mall, shopping center, gym, spa, etc.? Since I started practicing yoga more than 40 years ago, I still am constantly amazed at how its popularity has become so mainstream. When car advertisements on TV include yoga poses, this tells you how much it has become accepted in our culture!
In the late 1990s, I have a very vivid memory of sitting over tea with Tracey Rich, of the White Lotus Foundation, after she had previewed my Pathways to Better Living with Arthritis and Related Conditions video. I had partnered with the national Arthritis Foundation to make this video, and had needed the approval of many of their physical therapists and doctors to get their logo on the box. At that time, however, they would not let me use the word “yoga” anyplace in the video. Tracey and I were talking about how someday, wouldn’t it be wonderful, to be able to have “yoga” be accepted. I had decided that it was really just semantics, since the movements were yoga, and I really didn’t care if they needed to avoid that word, but yes, we dreamed of the day when we would be more widely appreciated. Whenever I was asked what I did for a living, the typical response when I said I “taught yoga”, was “what do you REALLY do”! I was not permitted by the Arthritis Foundation to actually change the video, but I have since made a “descriptive cover” which now describes this same video as Yoga for Arthritis and Related Conditions. This video has been consistently selling since 1997, since it is a solid series of poses to help improve range-of-motion and address many issues that those with arthritis face. It also was one of the first videos to offer relief for those with fibromyalgia or for anyone who just needs to practice while seated. I added a Spanish version to the DVD, so it has been used in many Spanish-speaking countries as well. (If you have students who could benefit from some adaptations for their arthritis or fibromyalgia or seated poses, check out the video either from Amazon.com. OR, I will send a free copy to anyone who wants to preview it.*)
So,back to yoga everywhere. Tracey and I could never have imagined the explosion of yoga’s popularity. Never. It still makes me smile to see signs for yoga studios everywhere. I am happy to think that even young children are now exposed to the body awareness that yoga encourages. That the breath, relaxation, and stillness are now common terms and focuses in our culture.
BUT, and here is the BIG BUT, are all these places and people REALLY practicing “yoga”? Well, of course they are, but maybe not in the same sense that I used to consider the practice. There seems to be lots of competition, extreme joint hyper-flexibility, and even yoga contests!! And yet, whatever it takes to attract new people to what yoga can provide, bravo. Maybe students might be drawn into the Ashtanga challenges, for example, but as time and age progresses, those who learn anything from these yoga classes hopefully will also learn that they must adapt to what their bodies are telling them they need. With age and time, this often means a gentler, more subtle practice, with less competition and more intensity. When I see the 20-somethings in their tiny tight clothing, able to move their bodies in astonishing directions, I known that these bodies will also age. These bodies will need to alter their practices and their teaching to suit the needs of aging bodies. But, they will all be aging with so much more awareness and involvement! I am still smiling from memories of that tea so many years ago with Tracey…
* If you have any question or comments, or want to preview a copy of my Yoga for Arthritis DVD, my Yoga for MS DVD, or my book, Yoga for Fibromyalgia: Move, Breathe and Relax to Improve Your Quality of Life, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are all also available at Amazon.com.