The yoga world still seems to be buzzing with excitement as, according to a report in the Huffington Post
May 8th 2013, the number of people practicing yoga is on the increase.
A whopping 30% in the past 4 years, by all accounts, according to a survey by the ‘Yoga Journal’ magazine.
This means that the number of Americans practicing is somewhere in the order of 20 million! I suspect
that it is much higher than this however, since many seniors practicing would probably not have
responded to the survey (why would they buy a magazine that does not resonate with them?) and the majority of people surveyed were between 18-44. (many seniors practice yoga on a chair or in the water)
What I found interesting is that a mere 15.6% considered themselves experts. That in and of itself begs
some questions in my mind:
* What do people consider an expert in yoga?
* What would that look like in a yoga practitioner?
* They may be able to perform difficult poses but are there any measurements on how balanced they are emotionally?
* Were there any tangible and measurable benefits that had improved their lives?
I hope that the survey if repeated perhaps in a few more years crosses diverse ages and populations and gives us more insights to these very valuable questions.
Almost 2 decades ago, I began teaching yoga in the water. (www.aquakriyayoga.com) I began to translate what I had been taught and studied on land in the most intelligently organized way that I could to accommodate the very diverse populations of people that are attracted to exercising in the water.
The Baby Boomer generation!
More than 10,000 people a day are Baby Boomers reaching age 65, accounting for a massive 41
million people that are 65 and over according to a USA Census by the US Dept. of Commerce. This group
is projected to grow to around 92 million by 2060.
Why should this concern me?
Well of the 10,000 that reach 65 each day, more than half of them have saved less than $10,000 toward
retirement. I am thinking that this huge segment of the population needs help in finding an effective way to gain and sustain a balanced and healthy life.
It would be in their best interest to adopt some lifestyle improvements if they plan to
continue to “work until they drop”, which was estimated to be the case of 40% of baby boomers when
polled by AARP according to “The Economic Collapse” Blog Jan 17th 2013.
Let’s go back to why I was so fascinated with the mere 15% or so yogis who professed to be “an expert” in the survey and try perhaps to dispel any popular myths on what an yoga expert could be.
(One popular myth is that a yoini must be bendy, thin, young and be a vegan)
According to the ancient Yoga sage Patanjali, Yoga is practiced for quietude of the mind;
“Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” 1:2 Yoga Sutras.
So, one would expect a yoga expert to be somewhat calm. Further, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that the yogi attunes to wisdom and mastery of the senses.
“The yogi attunded to wisdom’s habitude, will have his senses thoroughly subdued.” (6:8)
-translation by Goswami Kriyananda
The fact that 15% of the surveyed yogis felt that they were experts (let’s hope that it was beyond
asana practice) begs the question.
How calm are they and how much wisdom do they have?
In other words are they emotional and react rather than respond to life circumstances?
What would that expert yoga practitioner really look and behave like?
Well according to the Gita, such a person might be perceived by others as;
“That soul who is perfectly calm while living in the streams of opposites,
in heat, or cold, sorrow or joy, can swim,
For the Supreme is established in him.”
I think in these times, the living person that I feel lives up to this more than anyone is the Dali Lama. He is human, of course, but he exudes an essence of someone who is calm, wise and in control of their own emotions.
I had the great good fortune to meet him briefly once backstage at a gathering of religious leaders, and I had “face ache” for weeks afterwards because I could not help but become infected by his grace. He is so charismatic and loving.
People look to other people to know how to live and act.
“As goes the king, so goes the people.”
Oh dear, we look to our societies leaders, be it royalty, or president hopefuls and they tend to set the trend for living. So, for the yogi they may ultimately look for a religious or spiritual leader to help them navigate the inner workings of their own mind. I think without a doubt, a yoga practitioner would have to have some sort of faith and relationship with “something” outside of him/herself. (a priest, guru, inner guide, mother nature etc…..) to be a considered an expert in the yoga field.
Every spiritual aspirant wants to know if they making progress on the path, and Goswami Kriyananda used to tell us:
”You know when you are making progress on the spiritual path because you get along better with other people”.
Take a look at the people that surround you. Family, friends, co-workers, your culture and civilization for that matter and see what or who are; the ‘red button pushers’ for you. You know the ones that know how to get you mad.
They are drawn into your universe to be the bringers of your karma. Nothing more! How you respond is
vital to your spiritual growth.
And so you could ask yourself;
“How have I responded or reacted to the people that have come into my life lately?”
It will indicate without a doubt how balanced you are emotionally and therefore spiritually.
“He who regards friends and foes, relatives, well-wishers and bearers of fate,
With the equanimity of the spiritual state,
Transcends the idea of karmic fate.”
The Bhagavad Gita 6:9 Translated by Goswami Kriyananda
Which brings us to my earlier question, which could have been asked in the survey?
“Have there been any measurable improvements in the way you respond to other people in your life since you started practicing yoga?”
I have many accounts of people’s physical health improving on the yoga mat and in the water in my Aqua Kriya Yoga classes, but one that stands out is one that concerns the intimate relationship between a man and his wife, and how yoga in the same class improved that.
An aging couple who had never tried yoga before but who felt compelled to try yoga in the water because it meant they could do something together, started attending my class regularly for a few years. They were both overweight and each had their own physical issues which over the years have ranged from being unfit generally to cancer. Still they have practiced yoga in the water side by side.
The husband wrote me a letter some years ago saying that the class had literally saved their marriage. Both were leaving classes with a feeling of inner peace and contentment that spilled into their intimate relationship as greater consideration and respect for one another.
The point here I think is to really think about what is important in your life as the body ages and life experiences give us an opportunity to mature spiritually.
Do you want to work until you drop? You might have to if you live in California where the cost of living is high.
Do you have practical methods with which to balance your outer and inner life?
What is going to be available as a sustainable practice for the booming baby boomer bodies population who cannot stick their left toe into their right ear and yet are calm and wise enough to want to continue their spiritual journey?
I am suggesting that perhaps there is a need for more gentle yoga classes, more chair yoga, and Aqua Yoga to accommodate aging populations.
They certainly do not exclude anyone, but surely welcome the baby boomers with open arms, along with the young and bendy and of course husband and wives are particularly welcome.
Here might be some key signs for spotting the yoga expert;
* Nothing tests us more than relationships. Can they respond not react to people?
* Wisdom comes with life experience, clarity and discernment. They are usually not young!
* Are they ok adapting their physical practice to accommodate their aging and changing body?
* They may have positive thoughts regarding temporality and cause and effect?
* They recognize that they are not the center of the universe and as such have a part to play.
Camella has some home study programs to help practitioners discover more about themselves.
conversations death deck of cards can be found on www.camellanair.com
Article by Camella Nair – C-IAYT, ERYT, PRYT, Ayurvedic Health Educator, Swami and Author.