International Day of Yoga: A One Limbed Path

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This year’s International Day of Yoga fell on Wednesday 21 June, coincidently also the Southern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice. In Cape Town, the day was marked on the 17 June and always game for any kind of satsang, I herded up my yogi friends from different studios and styles and went along. 

Now I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I seemed to have completely missed the part, on the event advert, that said it was ‘driven’ by Adidas. It’s great that a big brand like Adidas is getting behind the upliftment of yoga. But I feel they missed the point of true Yoga Philosophy. 

I know that not all yoga studios place as much emphasis on Master Patanjali’s 8 limbed path (yama – how you treat others, niyama – how you treat yourself, asana – physical postures to achieve enlightenment, pranayama – focus through control of the breath, pratyahara – avoidance of ignorance through the withdrawal of the senses, dharana – uninterrupted concentration, dhyana – meditation which all ultimately lead to Samadhi – true happiness and understanding of the Self.) 

Most, in my experience, tend to stick to focusing on asana so I wasn’t expecting sure what to expect. I had no idea what the first session ‘Mega Yoga Practice’ would be like, I had never heard of budokon yoga but I thought that at least the Mediation workshop was something I was used to. For someone who’s home studio, is a Jivamukti Yoga affiliate, #IDYCPT felt like a cop out. 

The Good:

The Art of Living presented an amazing workshop of mediation which explained the ideals behind the 8 limbed path, placing a lot of emphasis on ahimsa (doing as little harm to all as possible), which as I will discuss later was highly ironic given the food situation at the event. Sadly, people were talking through the lecture so I missed a lot of what was being said but I am definitely going to see if I can get involved with Art of Living somehow.

The first yoga class was suitable for beginners and advanced and the teacher provided modifications for most levels. Apparently this is a set class that is practiced internationally for this event. That being said, next year I won’t skip my usual Saturday morning practice, as this class was not particularly challenging.

Apparently the budokon class was amazing however by the time it got to the end of the mediation I was so ravenous, so instead of eating my mat, I headed out to find some nourishment.

The not so good:

Don’t get me wrong- I loved the fact that there were SO many different types of yogis gathered in one space, but my goodness, a major sports brand like Adidas just didn’t seem to gel with yoga scripture.

The social media kiosk was a cool idea but it also meant that people spent a whole lot of time taking selfies when they could be practicing, learning and networking.

And then the clincher, NO VEGAN FOOD or even a slight amount of vegetarian for that matter. Eventually my friend Lisma settled on a smoothie and I let the ‘vegan thing’ slip and got soup that had some cream in it because I was starting to shake I was so hungry. “I’m sorry cows!”

This for me sums up the problem with a yoga event driven by a brand whose aesthetic is aimed entirely at getting physically fit and whose idea of health is mainly physical.

For me, yoga is so much more than the physical practice. Yoga is a lifelong practice that you do throughout your day. Karma yoga (selfless service), Jnana yoga (knowledge), Bhakti yoga (devotion) and Raja yoga (8 limbed path) are all different types of yoga (to yoke, to become one with the Divine). Asana alone, for most, just isn’t enough. If the spiritual connection is not what you’re looking for then great, that’s your choice but Yoga Philosophy was intended for so much more.

This kind of yoga with a couple of Sanskrit words and some ‘Indian’ music thrown in just feels to me uncomfortably like a massive cultural appropriation of teachings that are meant to be sacred. If you are going to bastardise yoga then maybe you should call it something else or at least align the event with a few more yoga styles that can offer each practitioner a more holistic sense of the deeper teachings of Yoga Philosophy? And not just BOGA, Body Yoga!

I’m not saying that if you practice yoga you need to be a raging vegan and a perfect human being. That’s what the 8 Limbed Path is there for. To show us how we can become better versions of ourselves so we can shine in the world and effectively and compassionately encourage change within our communities and the world at large. But for goodness sake, give us the opportunity to find deeper teachings and some plant based food at your yoga event. And acknowledge that yoga is so much ‘more than fitting into your jeans’ (to quote Ed Sheeran).

Written by - Kirstin Mackenzie 

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