In America there are a couple sure-fire ways that always make money. For one — sell bottled water.
An even better way to rake in the dollars (and one that requires much less single-use plastic) is writing a self help book.
Specifically writing one of those books filled with vague, quasi-spiritual ideas which make a whole lot of sense when you’re flying 30,000 feet above sea level … but are instantly forgotten once your feet are back on solid ground.
The latter idea also applies, tangentially, to yoga.
There is seemingly an endless supply of yoga books floating around in the English language ocean. A quick “yoga books” search into Amazon yielded over 30,000 results.
The shelves at my local library are also filled — well two shelves anyway — with books about yoga.
Thumbing through them I noticed a trend: almost all the books were devoted to the asana practice. Many of the books even used posture charts as their covers.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this.
Once upon a time if someone wanted to practice yoga there might not have been a nearby studio or community center offering classes, so the only way to learn would be from the pages of a book.
Thankfully through the combination of my 200-hour Pranakriya Teacher Training, along with a home studio that emphasizes that yoga isn’t something where the goal is to turn your body into a pretzel, I’ve come to know that asana is only part of the multifaceted buffet we refer to as “yoga.”
Maybe it’s the Western ego — revved up by Facebook and Instagram shares — that so many people think the only element of yoga is flexibility and bending your body into a weird shape. To paraphrase one of my favorite teachers, “just because you can put your head on the floor doesn’t guarantee you’ll find instant enlightenment.”
It’s a shame so much of the general American thoughts toward yoga shy away from Pranayama or even basic meditation. (This helps put Pranakriya classes in a unique position, which as teachers or students we ought to relish.)
Granted, when teaching an hour-long class (or shorter), the time tends to breeze by quickly. Admittedly when I began teaching it felt like the easiest way to create “time” in my class was chopping the non-movement class elements. At the back of my mind I figured if a person didn’t see a pool of sweat under them they’d feel shortchanged.
Looking back this approach was shortsighted.
There are a lot of other ways to exercise the whole body — i.e. more than stretching muscles — than through yoga asana alone. Conversely the opportunities many people have to exercise their minds, sit in stillness or simply to focus on their breath can be limited.
One of the essential elements I learned in my YTT was to create a shift in awareness. Through additional 300-hour trainings, that shift is specifically geared toward helping people to move away from the unending stimulus of daily life (fight or flight) and creating a place to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Call it a hunch, but when someone says they feel great after a yoga class it’s more-likely because their mind got a break from to-do lists or worrying about cable news than it was because they muscled themselves in a side crow for five seconds.
But that’s just me.
Maybe I’ll write a book about it someday.
Mike Cardillo, RYT-200, lives and teaches yoga in Connecticut. He believes yoga is more than simply making shapes with your body.
He can be reached at yogawithmikeCT [at] gmail.com or found at Facebook.com/yogawithmikeCT