I don’t think there’s a whole lot of argument that there is a lot not to like about how yoga continues to grow in the West.
There may be a lot of argument about what, specifically, to dislike, but from conversations I have with yoga practitioners (not to mention not-yogis), everyone seems to have some concern or complaint about some aspects of the “yoga industrial complex.”
One thing I think we all can agree is good is the relatively recent realization that yoga in the West tends to be a pursuit of the privileged — and subsequent efforts to address this.
There’s Urban Yogis. There are efforts in Africa. There’s more of an embrace of people who don’t like the usual Instagram stars.
All of that is absolutely great. Let there be more.
I want to add one other group, which in most cases isn’t underprivileged, but for which yoga as practiced (and set up as a business) is largely inaccessible.
It’s a group I belong to, so I’m biased.
It’s the 40+ hour a week, 9 to 5ers.
A big reason I have a home Ashtanga practice is time constraints. I really need to be heading into backbends and finishing poses by about 7 a.m. in order to be able to get ready and get to work.
In most cases, that’s about when a Mysore practice at a studio — from West Coast to East, north to south — starts. And that means I’m there with one or two others and then maybe get an adjustment and some backbend assistance. Sundays are the exception (and when a room is exceptionally crowded).
Frankly, it’s hard to cough up $180 a month for that. That’s just the plain truth.
When Bobbie and I were down in Encinitas while she took the Third Series training, I realized — not to pick on Tim Miller by any means — that were we to live down there (side note: I know few series students of Tim who haven’t pondered whether a move there is possible) and my maintain my same work, there would be days of the week that his schedule wouldn’t work for me. Maybe even like half.
Looking around at a sampling of Ashtanga schedules, this seems pretty routine. They work great if you have free mornings or, perhaps, some freedom early enough at the end of the day. But otherwise… it’s kind of hard.
Now, I know there is one big reason for this: Teachers have to practice, too. Do I expect a teacher to be up and assisting by 6 a.m., meaning he or she may have had to start practicing at 4 a.m. — maybe even 3:30 a.m.?
No, I don’t. I do have a shred of humanity.
The places that are set up for the 9 to 5ers are larger, semi-corporate places like YogaWorks. Their schedules kick off, often, at 6 a.m., and that first class is done by 7:15 a.m. If the place is really nice and has fantastic shower facilities, it’s even possible (although a bit of a bummer) to head straight to work. You just have to figure out breakfast. (And the post-practice coffee.) But spots like YogaWorks don’t always, maybe even often, offer Ashtanga, if that’s what you’re looking for.
And here at this blog, we are.
Those who know Los Angeles and know the YogaWorks here are perhaps saying, “Hold on a second, Steve.” And I get it. There is an unusual number of Ashtanga classes, even Mysore ones. Our friend Maria Zavala leads one in West Hollywood, beginning at 6:30 a.m.
To those folks, I of course counter with: Traffic. I won’t bore you with how long it would take me, even at 6 a.m., to get to WeHo and then back home or even to work.
And that’s the thing. Ashtanga is intended to be for house-holders. But to a certain, and important, extent, it doesn’t work that way, because of what house-holding means and entails.
That is, unless you practice at home.
I’m not now about the offer some solution. One doesn’t pop easily to mind. But I think it unfortunate that a whole big group of people — those with stresses at work, with long hours at desks, with perhaps a career they didn’t really intend but can’t for any number of reasons abandon (note: I’m not obliquely referring to myself there) — who really could use the benefits of yoga, and of Ashtanga in particular, are effectively locked out of experiencing them.
Maybe the next life will be more accommodating.
Posted by Steve