There Isn’t One Truth About the Yoga Lifestyle
Yoga always surprises. You might think you know what yoga is. You’ve seen the people, the websites, the magazines, and the clothes! You have friends who take classes. You know what types of people are into yoga. You aren’t that person. Right?
Forget everything you think you know—the clothes, the diet, how often, the kale shakes, all of it. None of it is true—and all of it is true. There are so many different ways of living the “yoga lifestyle,” that there isn’t one lifestyle that fits. The “yoga lifestyle” is a marketing construction. Forget your preconceptions and read on to see how yoga fits into your life.
Do or Do Not Do—There Is No One True Yogi
Yoga articles nearly always use a stock photograph of an attractive, fashionably yoga-attired, attractive child-woman executing an advanced pose with a smile on her face, in attractive lighting, with the natural world artfully blurred behind her. (There’s probably one on this post right now.)
These images teach us that the ideal yogi is young, fit, limber, and prosperous with unattainable bodies for most women (and, in another sense, for most men). They make for pretty websites, but they also make real yogis self-conscious, and discourage would-be yoga converts by contributing to stereotypes (men don’t do yoga; after a certain age, it’s time to hang up your mat, etc.). If yogis are all Kale-smoothie-drinking-vegetarians, how can the rest of us ever hope to live up?
Longtime yogis know these photos sell an aspirational lifestyle marginally related to yoga. Real yogis will surprise you. Some look like the photos; many do not. Some are vegetarians; many more love meat. Many eat junk food; many eat healthfully. Most eat somewhere in between. Yoga people struggle just like everybody else. They try to do the best they can.
Yoga Cannot Be an Addiction
A sign of yoga’s popularity is a trend in social media posts about “yoga addiction.” These “humorous” posts are fashioned after 12-step recovery questionnaires designed to self-diagnose substance dependency. Meant to be fun and humorous, the posts’ comedy is second-rate at best, but of more interest is the current of criticism and behavior policing that runs beneath their tone that isn’t funny at all.
These “signs of addiction”—after an injury, your first worry is that you will miss yoga,” or “you’re never seen without your mat”—tease those who’ve thrown themselves wholeheartedly into the yoga trend, with the underlying suggestion that the only reason to do so is because yoga is a trend. Therefore, these people have lost their free will and decision-making skills as a result: “You find yourself in a downward dog pose at the office,” is another of the “signs” of yoga addiction.
Suggesting yoga is akin to a substance capable of overriding the will is a fundamental misunderstanding of both yoga and addiction. Yoga allows for a stronger and more harmonious connection between body and mind. Substance abuse seeks to disconnect the dysfunctional relationship between body and mind. This is why recovering addicts attend yoga—it complements a spiritual program of recovery by helping them to avoid feelings and behaviors associated with the need to drink or use drugs. One way to shut down a listicle about trendy yoga addicts is to describe the recovering addict who used to drink entire days away, before they got into recovery and then tried yoga.