Most westerners who practice yoga seem to get a bit smug about it. They think they’re being “really spiritual” by practicing an ‘ancient mystical system’. Which is funny, because most western yoga isn’t really ancient, or mystical, and it’s barely a system. Hatha Yoga, the yoga most people do (basically all the yogas that are just stretching) was really only invented in its modern form about a century ago, and it really just consists of a drawn-out version of what used to be just warm up exercises for the REAL yogas, which were complex techniques of meditation, concentration and inducing trance. This is sort of like if someone took the warm up stretches before running a marathon and called that “marathon running”.
Mostly, it seems that people in the west do yoga for two reasons: for health (which is fine, it is probably fairly healthy) and to let others know that they’re “spiritual”. Because the “look” and the whole prestige of yoga is that it’s supposed to be a “spiritual” thing, even though there’s nothing especially spiritual about stretching. It’s something that’s perfect for our culture (which is why so many yoga ‘masters’ from India got very rich off of teaching people stretching): it is a way to call yourself spiritual without having to do anything really hard or challenging about it.
But there’s moments where that whole image just to crap. Yoga fails must be super frustrating for all those ‘super spiritual’ people out there because if the image is everything, when you end up looking dumb in mid-asana, you’ve got nothing to fall back on.
Let’s check out some examples!
1. That time your brother decides you make a good race track:
2. Cats are super-spiritual too, so what could go wrong with doing yoga when your cat is around?
3. Other times, your cat decides to show off how it’s got better balance than you do:
4. If cats aren’t a great idea to have around for your spiritual yoga dogs are… well, you really get what you deserve:
5. This would-be yogi is so desperately trying to look super-spiritual (and not pissed off that rover isn’t impressed by her aura):
6. This is neither beautiful nor spiritual, it’s just you twisting into a pretzel and then smashing your face into a spot of the Earth where 10000 seagulls have pooped:
7. It’s hard to take yoga seriously when the fratboys steal your yoga balls:
8. Yoga is so “natural”… but what happens when nature doesn’t cooperate?
9. Seriously, the beach doesn’t give a crap about your how “super-spiritual” you are:
10. Humiliation has not been “transcended” for anyone here:
11. It’s hard to look all spiritual with a lousy yoga partner:
12. You’re really probably better off not getting your boyfriend to help:
13. No wonder some ‘yogis’ don’t like modern technology:
14. That chair was totally unspiritual:
15. So is this one:
16. “Kitchen Yoga” is not a good trend for looking spiritual:
Seriously, if you want to be fit, hatha yoga is probably OK if you do it right. But it’s not any more ‘spiritual’ than pilates, hockey, boxing or “sweating to the oldies”.
If it’s spirituality you’re looking for, you’re going to have to try looking a little harder. If you really want to start with real yoga, start by checking out Vivekananda’s classic, “Raja Yoga”. And the even older classic, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Or “Eight Lectures on Yoga”. Or “The Weiser Concise Guide to Yoga for Magick”.
But be warned: these are hard. Not ‘twisting your body into a pretzel’ hard, but hard in the sense that they take a lot of time and effort to make real spiritual change happen.
Or I guess you can just keep trying to buy your way to spirituality: