Yoga is an exercise, an art, a prayer, and a mood stabilizer. The American yogis and yoginis of the ’60’s and ’70’s (when yoga first gained significant popularity in the United States) were safe from corporatization in their yoga realm because America still wanted, at the top levels of marketing, to appear stoic, unmovable, and unbeatable – a vestige of two recent world wars and the pain of the Korean and Vietnam wars. The very nature of the practice of yoga builds strength through exposing vulnerability. Do you raise yourself into headstand with the spark of aggressive energy? Maybe – some people do and some people don’t (trust me, I’ve seen lots of people pop up into headstand and lots of people struggle up into it – and they all get to the same place). What keeps you in your headstand? Balance. Strength. Humility. What emotions do you feel when you are in headstand? Pride? Self-satisfaction? On the outside you look really strong and admirable. On the inside – are you wondering how much longer you have to hold until you can release back down into child’s pose?
As yoga booms in the US, the field has spawned clothing lines, studio chains, websites, and a huge industry of teacher trainings. Yogis have practically no choice anymore to keep the “business” out of their yoga. Do you take classes at a yoga studio? You’re paying a teacher and a studio for your practice. Do you wear “active wear” to class? You’re buying into a clothing line designed for performance in the gym or the studio.
Corporate approaches could prove helpful for yogis, in the end. Corporate culture often brings organization, clarity, a focus on providing greater salaries and benefits for employees vs. the “mom and pop” model of any business. I’m watching the yoga industry in the US carefully – watching to make sure that as some of the benefits of corporatization reach into the business of yoga, we yogis achieve the balance of headstand. Have our egos run wild, drunk on the euphoria of money and popularity? Do we complain about our work teaching yoga? Do we allow ourselves to become subject to “vritti” when we look at the challenging prospect of being able to support a family on a yoga teacher’s pay scale? Yoga teachers and studio owners will steer the corporatization of yoga. How will we navigate the future of yoga in the US?
How to practice for Salamba Sirsasana Supported Headstand (children should NOT do this pose).
- measure hands to opposite elbows (consider tying a strap around upper arms, as shown)
- interlace fingers to make a little “nest” for the head
- begin to walk feet toward elbows so hips shift over shoulders
- when you feel comfortable and strong with this exercise, visit an Iyengar yoga studio nearby for a trained teacher’s coaching (protect your cervical spine!)