October 29, 2012
21st Century Yoga – Culture, Politics & Practice ~ A Book Review
As many of you may know, when I stumble upon a gem of a book, I’m called to share what it is and why it’s so wonderful. This new one about Yoga is no exception. 21st Century Yoga is a collection of essays from teachers and scholars around the globe beginning provocative conversations about where Yoga is in today’s modern world. I believe it is a must-read for all teachers, and practitioners of Yoga.
The essays take a look at some challenging aspects of our human race such as; addiction, body-image issues, commercialism, and social & environmental activism. My favorite chapters are 7 & 9.
In Chapter 7, author Matthew Remski states “I am lonely, because my chosen path is not contained or supported by a coherent culture. It has no family infrastructure. It offers no life-transition rituals. It does not marry or bury us. It does not host AA meetings. It runs no soup kitchens. I don’t need Yoga to be a religion. I need it to provide community. Community that acts consciously and pragmatically for the common good. Community that is not bankrupted by its exclusive consumer classism. Community that reaches out as much as it reaches in.”
He continues “I want to figure out how we can ask ourselves as yoga practitioners and teachers to do more. I’d like to see us stop talking about community, and start actually doing community.”
The author spends some time critiquing what he calls “Modern Western Yoga Culture”, or MWYC, in instances where Yoga “has often retreated from our original home: the world.”
He argues that “MWYC exists as a consumer product, purveyed in commercial spaces with high overheads that necessitate competition between studios, lineages, and teachers.”
This entire book is thought-provoking, and inspiring. By beginning the conversations in our society about what it is that we are doing and why, it brings us to face our truth, gives us permission to examine it, to feel it and to be aware of our impact as a human race, to our communities, our earth, and our relationships. This is no single-sided promotion of any one viewpoint, but rather opens a platform for thought and speech, giving us tools for self-study and raises awareness of how our individual impact affects the whole world because we are not separate.
Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of just this one chapter, is where Matthew Remski actually outlines proposals that we can all do to make a difference, a set for practitioners and a set of proposals for studio owners as well.
For practitioners of Yoga, he proposes:
1.) “Study yourself. At what point will your self-therapy be ‘good enough?’ Has it gone beyond this point to become neurotic and self-obsessed? What can you do for others when your self-discoveries plateau?
2.) Measure your spiritual evolution by your general capacity for social participation.
3.) Work towards an equal balance of self- and other-care. If you go to one-hour asana class, donate another hour to the society. (Unless of course you’re in human services or are parenting young children on a middle class income or less, in which case your yoga should really be just about you because you’re already doing enough for crying out loud…)”
He urges that what we really need to know as we are on the way out of a class or studio is that “now that world needs what you have found within.”
If you are a practitioner of Yoga ~ you are likely to dig this book, and be inspired. Please share it.
If you are a teacher of Yoga, there are infinite conversations and realizations that this book will assist you in your duty of sharing this sacred practice. Please read it and share it.