The moment yoga became easy: One theory

I had one of my stupid little thoughts on my drive homefrom practice this morning.

I was thinking more about our discussion earlier about how or when yoga got easy and that it seemed we all agreed on one point, even if we expressed it differently. It came down to capitalism or commodification — needing to keep people coming back to a shala.

You know: dollars. External prana, as Guruji would describe it.

My thought was this. I bet I could peg it to a Yoga Journal cover. Perhaps you see where I’m headed.

A while back, Yoga Journal created a gallery of all its covers. For some, it reflected the irksome evolution of the magazine from the fringe (read: authenticity) to the mainstream (read: a bit sold out, a bit selling of yoga). In other words, it probably mirrors yoga’s own evolution to today when 20 million or so people in America “practice yoga.”

Yeah, whatever that means.

And so, looking through those covers, I peg yoga’s switch from something rough and hard, austere and trying, in other words Tapasya to something that can be part of middle America’s exercise regime to the fall of 1998. That’s when the magazine gave us this cover:

Note, I almost decided to go with a year earlier, when Spiritual Parenting made the cover. But along with a happy photo of a three-member family was copy highlighting Allen Ginsberg. As much as Ginsberg may have eventually become mainstream himself, putting him on a magazine cover still strikes me as a fringe.

While this is intended somewhat as a joke, I actually think I may be on to something. If you look at the subsequent covers, particularly from 2000 on, they become very routine and similar. Pastel color backgrounds with women in mostly friendly yoga poses.

“Mostly friendly yoga poses.” That may sum up the type of yoga I’m wondering about here.

OK, so I now have the when of this change. We think we have the why — to make money. Are we missing any other piece to the puzzle?

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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