The Reality of Elitist Yoga


Is Yoga Elitist?

My wife recently told me she thinks yoga magazines insinuate that yoga is only for people who have a lot of money. She pointed to adds fancy yoga retreats that cost thousands to attend a one or two-week program, and said yoga is being portrayed as elitist.

I couldn’t disagree that leading publications portray yoga in specific ways. The yoga retreats featured are almost always fancy-high-end places that are far away from anyplace convenient to working middle class yogis-even if they could afford the tickets.

I answered her in a way she called “cheesy-but-real”. I said:

“the world is my yoga studio”.

I then introduced her to and pulled up a sequence on the computer screen, and said: “see, now we can bring the class to wherever we are staying”. So can anyone, and for a very low cost-less than one class in most cases.

Start with a home practice, and you practice will always come from the heart

A lot of folks go to yoga in a studio or a gym and then start a home practice later, when they realize they are “into it”. That can work, but people who do this may find themselves defining yoga by the way the class they attended was taught. They will see yoga as they see themselves in the class-comparing themselves to the other people who are there and with the social mentality that is represented.

Try an online class at home from Yogasync TV. The class is taught like a real one, by one instructor, so it’s not like a traditional exercise video that you, like most others, will lose interest in after a while. Now add a few friends who think like you do, and you have an online yoga class free of elitism that you and your friends make live.

A class for balancing poses can be practiced among friends who can laugh with you as you wobble and hit the floor. Try tree by itself, or try a one-hour leg balancing class that culminates with Warrior III. Get good before you ever set foot in a studio and continue to practice at home to keep your practice sincere.

You are the difference between yoga being elitist and yoga being for everyone

The fact is that you, the regular person who does yoga, are the difference between elitist yoga and real yoga. Go to a real yoga class and you’ll find people in fancy yoga clothes from high-end makers, but you’ll find many more in fitness gear from places like Target and Walmart. Gals and guys alike often show up in sweats and old T-shirts-it’s perfectly OK.

Don’t waste any time thinking you have to be a vegan or a vegetarian to be a yogi, wither. Most people who do yoga aren’t hard-core veg heads. For years, leading yoga publications stubbornly stuck to insinuating that “real yogis” had to be vegetarians, but at the yoga market exploded to include over 20 million practitioners, and publications gave up the veggie mission just as subtly and quietly as the person who sneaks out of class during headstand.

Want to find like-minded yogis? Talk every-day people

Among every-day people, you won’t likely find idealistically-skinny folks floating into the toughest poses. The models in yoga magazines are all very skinny with very long limbs-even the male ones. It is easier for a photographer to work with such an image, so I suppose that’s an OK reason. That’s really the only reason; dramatic, majestic pictures get attention.

As for me-a yoga teacher with nine years’ experience, I have discovered from teaching many classes that it’s much easier for a person with lanky limbs to twist into poses like Garudasana (Eagle Pose). I can contort my own short, stocky limbs into the same pose. Maybe I’ll ever be the first choice for models looking for a photo of a yogi doing Eagle Pose-oh well. It won’t make me less of a yogi.

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About Vincent Gerbino

Vincent Gerbino is a YogaFit™ Certified Yoga Teacher. “Yoga isn’t what I do, it is who I am.” Yoga completely changed my life for the better. Soon after I started my own practice, I said to myself that I had to eventually become a teacher so I could give to the world what Yoga gave to me. In 2006, Vincent began teaching Yoga, five years after he began his own practice. Vincent is also a trained barefoot runner, a co-organizer of the Boulder Barefoot Running Club, and enjoys bicycling, rollerblading and hiking.

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