Yoga and Meditation Instruction is now a Performance Art

November 9th, 2017|authenticity, meditation, transformation, Travel and Places, yoga|0 Comments

This is my second week based in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.  I’m writing this in my home-stay overlooking a rice field, slightly sweating in shorts and a t-shirt while it’s a cold and damp winter back home in Canada.  Thousands upon thousands of westerners come here for the “tropical paradise”, yoga classes, and spiritual teachers, hoping to provoke a meaningful life change.

Quite frankly, I’ve found this “paradise” depressing.  The capitalism and endless shops and services are convenient, but a huge chasm in terms of seeing the Balinese way of life.  And the capitalistic mentality infests yoga in a big way.

Yoga is a huge business here – most of the people I’ve met staying here are doing a yoga teacher training.  And it is a true business – centres maximising profit by having large classes, layers of marketing,  clothing lines, continually selling you not just on a particular technique, but a lifestyle, an experience, a way of being.  An identity.  In the class I attended a couple days ago, the teacher was a walking advertisement for yoga – young, beautiful, graceful, with a voice that belonged in a Club Med advertisement.  In other words, the tone and pacing were very controlled and slow, saccharine sweet, conveying “trust me” in all the overtones – but I had no idea who she was as a person.  She was a yoga performance artist.

If authenticity has any value – and it is part of what is “sold” – there is a major contradiction here.  In her voice, the subtler levels of communication were not at all about listening to one’s own body, which involves developing awareness of the whole of the mind/body system, including inner voices for autonomy and one’s own pacing.   It was about creating dependence.   As I looked around me at the 20 or so other yogis (all female), noticing how they breathed, the anxiety in their eyes, a deep unsettling realisation occurred to me.  I was looking mostly at yoga addicts.  In a cult-like atmosphere.

As far as addictions go, this is likely a far healthier one than heroin.  But I want to call it what it is: when you’re dependant on the yoga “vibe”, the blissed out smiles, trained to an automatic following of everything a teacher says, it’s an addiction, a cult-like dependence.  And like with any addiction, there is a cost.