The secret life of yoga

I first encountered yoga in the 1970s when a sun salutation was a mere shadow of its incarnation today (like for example, not involving anything other than bending from the waist and moving your arms). Fast forward a few decades and yoga is well entrenched as a ‘thing’. There are purveyors of yoga of every description on every corner and yoga pants (a genre of clothing that barely existed in the 20th century) are on every bum everywhere, whether or not the wearer has ever darkened the door of yoga class.

But just in case you are not a yoga regular, this is what goes on in the average yoga studio these days. First, everyone brings their phone. Never mind that the whole point is to be on an inward journey for an hour and half – their definition of being in touch with the universe means making sure they can deal with those important messages right up to the first ‘om’ and immediately after final relaxation.

Second, everyone has their preferred mat location. Or actually, there are a limited number of preferred mat locations, which boils down to by a wall so that nobody is behind you or only one person is beside you. This means it is necessary to rush to yoga class to get there at least 15 minutes early to snag a good spot. Or it used to be sufficient to arrive 15 minutes early. The mat turf battle has since escalated so that sauntering in a mere 20 minutes before class means you are relegated to the middle of the room. But at least that gives you more pre-class phone time.

Third, there is such a thing as competitive yoga. It is not enough to work within the confines of your own body, you need to strive for perfection of pose and to be better at downward dogging than your mat neighbour. Maybe it is just me, but competitive yoga seems like the penultimate oxymoron. And should you wish to participate in this anti-yoga yoga stuff you need to get yourself to an International Yoga Asana Competition. This is where you get to show off your yoga ‘prowess’ to the universe and the assembled masses that marvel at your flexibility, contortionism, and general athleticism.

If you want to compete in the IYAC, you have to perform six yoga poses within three minutes. I don’t know about you, but I go to yoga five days a week and could barely trot out six yoga poses without prompting. But also, these are not merely warrior posing, or dancer posing or even demonstrating a decent boat pose: these are what would be considered extreme yoga, like balancing on your head while crossing your legs in an impeccable Lotus pose, or doing a Crow while your cat is on your back (honestly, working on it). At least there is one thing I can be sure of. None of it matters in the least.

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