Most religious and political thought is primitive and driven by impulses that have been around for thousands of years. In our current society, these thoughts are protected more because of a driving thirst to protect culture and customs, and not because individuals harbor genuine beliefs. Really, we all just want to be right in the end, and anything that we fear will interfere with that automatically becomes wrong. Its how we ended up in a society with so many moral and political questions to answer and it’s left the individual with some burning questions about the self. First, how does one handle hearing uncommon beliefs? The answer is simple: with all of the verbal fire and brimstone they can. Of course the objective is to be correct, so any other ideas or notions must be attacked. Second, how does one exist in a society whose elements are stacked against their beliefs? The liberal thinks the conservatives are elitist, the conservative thinks the media is liberal, the Christian thinks the Muslims are extreme, the Muslim thinks the Christians are immoral, and everyone thinks this is a terrible place to try to raise children with traditional beliefs. This is a time like all of the other times in history-one of little acceptance and tolerance, and I live in a country where businesses thrive on selling the things that everyone will both need and tolerate.
The United States is a typically Christian nation that is obsessed with having things bigger, always looking better, and doing more things for show than for substance. Its no wonder we owe countries money, we have governmental shut-downs, and we think that Sarah Palin is a relevant presidential candidate. Its also no wonder that when helpful things are brought here they must be diluted to fit this need for enhanced superficiality. The next time you claim something has been “americanized” to be sold here to Americans, consider what that means. It generally means that the product had to be changed in order to be sold to a consumer that’s uncultured, close-minded, and judgmental toward things they don’t understand. Americans love to say “I don’t know how it works, but it does.” They also love to disregard things that leave them too deeply engaged with things they plainly won’t understand, like things with religious undertones or things that highlight discomfort.
So Americans have a warped view of yoga. Some see it as being too religious, others think it brings on too much discomfort. The yogis around the world might come to know this and say “great America, we don’t want your dirty hands all over yoga anyway,” but people who know the business of americanizing things might jump at the chance to introduce more bland and generic forms of yoga here. Why? Because yoga makes you smoking hot, as if you couldn’t tell. Americans have been searching for years for things that leave them looking emaciated, and they’ve proven that they’ll take any pill, try any method, pay any amount and endure any hardship to be thin. I say its even deeper than that here. These people will do anything to fabricate discipline without actually experiencing it. Their obsession with celebrities is indicative of this. We find pleasure in knowing the personal business of individuals who are more attractive, talented, and driven than we are. We follow their trends, we do what it takes to look like them, and our media paints the untrue picture that these things come easily to these people. They don’t, and that’s because it takes real discipline to both work at the highest level of your craft and also have a body that is in peak condition. Most Americans lack that discipline.
So how can truly undisciplined people be so preachy about religion? The common person in America will state “I’m a Christian, how can chanting in a yoga class help me look sexier?” So now, when yoga is being sold here to the masses, those branding their yoga like to leave in all the things that make you sexy, and take out all the things that involve surrender, meditation, foreign customs, and embracing discomfort. Sounds like “commercial yoga” to me, and I feel as though this has happened with every beautiful and artistic thing Americans have ever been allowed to touch. Turn on a radio and tell me what’s happened to music. What’s happened to movies, and how many times can the same movie be made in a different form? Let’s not even get into what’s happened to printed words on paper.
What we really need is someone to explain where yoga and things like it should fit in our society, and that might take seeing fitness a different way.
Let’s say that fitness was a religion, structured like Christianity:
Classic workouts in gyms with personal trainers are like church. They’re places to go to feel a communal and existential feeling with others as you learn to do the right things for yourself. They’re effective for building confidence in your abilities as a person, and for helping you learn some of the proper ways to go about certain tasks. You don’t need too much of this to feel empowered, and for good reason-a great deal of your money can be poured into this for a level of personal security you may not always need.
Personal workouts are like studying the bible. You will find a great deal of mental wealth if you can bring yourself to understand the things you’re doing and because the impressions are exhausting, you may approach these activities at your own discretion. They experiences can always enrich your life if you choose to understand them.
Yoga is like prayer. Its something you should seek out and do daily, without interruption, with full focus, and in a designed order. Creating this connection between mind and body daily is what will give you constant mental reinforcement to attack and complete the challenges you face.
Now, seeing the fitness approach that way might turn off some, but why can’t we treat the important things in life this way? If we’re trying to use yoga to be a quick fix to achieve a superficial look and create an air of discipline we don’t really possess, then American yoga is tainted. I’ve got no beef with Tara Stiles or Bikram Choudhury as I might with say, the Beachbody corporation. My problem is with those who have made it easy for individuals like them to brand their own yoga and sell it to people who don’t respect yoga for what it is-an incredibly powerful form of discipline that can consume and enrich a life. Comparable things are difficult to find in America, really, because they’re difficult to preserve.