Have a mimosa with your yoga: Thoughts on the social side of yoga

I’m wondering what will become of yoga in the West.

Not a new thought, I know. Probably the first person who wondered about it was in the crowd when Vivekananda spoke at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893. My thinking is pushed by a quick swell in stories that focus more on what I’ll call yoga and its community.

We highlighted the big Wanderlust Hollywood’s opening out here in Los Angeles. As much as there are asana and meditation classes, there’s every bit as much of a focus on what happens outside of class. There’s descriptions like gathering place and community club attached to it.

And then I saw a story out of the Austin American-Statesman (blocked behind a pay wall it turns out) on Yomasas. If you’ve put two and two together and then pulled them back apart, you’ve realized this is a confluence of yoga and … mimosas. So, yeah, I had one of our occasional snarky posts in mind.

And then I got to the Yomasas website. My snark wasn’t lessened, but a few things jumped out at me:

Chris founded the Austin Beer Run Club back in 2012. From humble beginnings it has become an incredible success, and Chris soon realized that bringing people together for exercise + social activities was not just a good business idea but a lot of fun too. Chris and John joined up in 2014 to form Exercise & Excess, LLC with the goal to bring new activities to Austin and beyond. Yomosas was born soon after.

Our goal is to bring the social element to yoga through morning classes at unique venues with brunch + mimosas afterwards. We welcome all skill levels to Yomosas — from beginners to experts — and emphasize having fun, meeting new people, and making friends.

We hope you’ll join us, and we look forward to seeing you soon.
“Bring the social element to yoga.” Combining exercise and social activities.

Everyone, I suppose, wants to belong, wants to be part of the club, and so it does make a certain amount of business sense. And yet yoga seems to be both perfectly and horrifically suited for this. (If you want to just think of yoga as a workout, then it’s something different.) It’s perfectly suited because yoga in the West, at least, is so intertwined with social activism and somewhat strict lifestyle choices. I’d argue that rather than just social, there might be room for bringing social activism to yoga. (A lot have, of course: Yoga Gives Back; Off the Mat, Into the World, etc.) And it’s horrifically suited if you think about yoga as an activity one pursues, probably in solitude, to connect with something beyond our limited understanding of the world around us. Knocking back a mimosa, you might figure, can harm that pursuit.

By contrast, I can’t help thinking about the yoga holidays created by Swami Visnhudevananda. Here’s how his follower, Namarupa founder Robert Moses, explains that:

Yoga Holidays were begun by Swami Vishnudevananda shortly after he arrived in the USA from India in 1957. Swamiji noticed that people were going on vacation and returning home exhausted. They were doing everything in excess! He started holidays where everyone did proper exercise and breathing, ate healthy vegetarian food, meditated, and lived simply. They were not allowed to smoke or drink. They felt rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated. Soon there were yoga holiday spots sprouting up all over the world.

And it just so happens, Robert is putting on such a holiday later this year — in India. You can check that out, if you’re wanting a different break from the routine, here.

This push-pull, social vs. (should I say?) spiritual, is bound to continue. I wonder, though, based almost solely on the glut of “yoga communities” that seem to be popping lately, if we’re on the cusp of a trend (or past the cusp, if the media have figured out its happening). And I wonder where that trend might go.

Posted by Steve