Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Yoga Turf War
Take a gander at this recent article on Slate, as an Ashtangi reporter attends a Bikram-based Yoga Competition (as he says, technically any style is welcome...). In case you've been practicing in a cave and haven't heard of Bikram Choudhury, you really should read up on him. He's about the most colorful fella in yoga community and has a...knack for the soundbite. In this article alone, his comments on his balls and the, er, atmosphere of an Iyengar studio are priceless.
The "yoga competition" is only growing in popularity and presence, including a local boy turned champion - Mike, who used to practice in the QC and has since moved to Chicago. Whatever your feelings on the West-meets-East vibe of competitive yoga, we can all be thankful that asana developed, or we'd all be watching a riveting competitive meditation contest (suck on this inner peace - BAM!).
While outwardly different, in fact Ashtanga and Bikram are very similar - rigid formats, extreme physical demands, rigorous practice schedules, well-known gurus, largely optional clothing. For all of these reasons and more (weight loss, they make you look good naked, etc), they are very appealing to the average Western overachiever (not YOU, but probably somebody you know...).
Thankfully, as Richard Freeman is fond of saying, any reason for starting a yoga practice is a good one - selfless service, samadhi, or that killer yoga butt (we're going for all three). There are no guarantees, but maybe we'll all eventually begin to internalize, contemplate, and realize. AFTER I've got Third Series, that is (Dikasana - BAM!).
Perhaps more than any other style, Bikram and Ashtanga practitioners find it easy to start believing in some sort of across-the-board superiority for their chosen system. Too bad it's all conditional and transient; both of these systems are flashes in the pan in the grand scheme of at least 5000 years of yoga practice. They are here today and will be gone tomorrow as the outward form of yoga practice continues, like water, to flow and take the shape of its container: the culture of the time.
However, while it's here, let's all put on our booty shorts and work it!!!