The American Yoga Dream

I opened and closed a yoga studio in just under a year and a half.  Let’s just say, it taught me a lot about what I don’t want in yoga nor my life.  There’s a dialogue, you see among spiritual seekers and Yogis in the United States that has been haunting me since I embarked on this “career” as a yoga teacher way back when – and here it is paraphrased:

“I should make a decent, livable salary as a yoga teacher, comparable to what we are paid in corporate America, with benefits and such.”

I call the above the “American Yoga Dream”

I’m just as guilty of having this American Yoga Dream.  Guilty as charged.  Entitled as all Heaven above.  My luxury car should have my license plate in gilded gold blinging “YOGI” everywhere I turn.  Money spills out of every pocket when I walk in to teach a class in my gleaming spandex.  The Gods rain down clouds of heavenly gold and diamonds as billions of yogis stretch in spandex for miles in front of me while chanting OM.

Truthfully over the years, when I am asked about making money through yoga by folks, I’ve always said something like…”You know all spiritual practices – from Yoga to Catholicism to Buddhism to you name it – were pretty much handed to us by poor, wandering mendicant saintly people who took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. But this won’t stop me from trying to figure out how to monetize spirituality so I can feed my family.”

IMG_6952But I follow this by also saying that my yoga practices have led to positions and jobs that have made me money, with great ease and joy. Yoga as a philosophy, as a science, as a way of being seeps itself into every job, hat, title I’ve ever worn and makes them all ONE.  I continue to and have taken on huge projects with ease and relaxation through the gift of my yoga practices.  Jaya sweet Yoga.  Thank you.  To you, I bow infinitely with great devotion and love.

And maybe the sentiment that all genuine spiritual seekers are just flat-out poor is just as far-fetched as the American Yoga Dream.  There are certainly many yoga masters who don’t preach the gospel of poverty.  Amma Sri Karunamayi, a great Guru and Mother Divine herself, said “Does anyone like poverty?  No, no one likes poverty.”

Yoga is a divine trickster, it’s never very direct.  It gives money in many and infinite indirect ways, not necessarily just by me asking people to strike a pose and breathe.

Anyways, I did realize that something  between taking a vow of poverty and believing that one should make a decent salary from sharing yoga wisdom is missing from the American Yoga Dream.

Sadhana.

That’s it.  Sadhana.  This is what’s needed.  (And a Guru, but hey google is our new Guru, right? Smile.)  As a yoga studio owner and teacher trainer, I was profoundly disappointed to see the lack of discipline and commitment to sadhana from the yoga community in general.  It was  a beautiful and failed experiment to try to bring out sadhana in a more commercial context (one can argue I did not give the experiment enough time to cook, but I really don’t have another 50 years to just hang around waiting for sadhana to catch on like Kim Kardashian’s bling).  I mostly got a lot of folks who wanted a cute arse in spandex (if you are reading this, maybe you want a cute arse in spandex, some money and enlightenment.  I don’t mean to belittle anyone with this statement.  It’s a little funny, ha-ha. And sad at the same time. But you get it, it’s pretty common in our current world).  Not that there’s anything wrong with this intention.  It’s a beautiful intention.  But it’s not really one that I have any compulsion to attend to.  I am not lighting a candle for this intention.  I do not bring my forehead to the ground for this intention.  I do not give a flying fig newton about this intention.

So I closed the yoga studio.  The business model doesn’t work for me.  It seems to work for others, but it doesn’t work for me.  And at the end of the day, it seems that owning a studio means that the business model must work for you and your lifestyle.  But it doesn’t mean that I haven’t stopped trying to figure out how to help the practices of yoga spread far and wide.  I haven’t stopped trying to figure out how to help everyone, their mother and their dog develop a true Sadhana.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t open yet another yoga business.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t keep teaching yoga and training teachers to teach yoga.  I can’t help myself (have you ever read the quite literal meaning of that sentence?  I just did.  I can help myself, thank you very much).  Karma and Dharma all wrapped up in a bow, offered to me with a great glint of mischief in his eye, from my Guru.

But here’s the thing that is most important to me, beyond all outward shows of yoga or teaching or leading kirtans or even spreading the Gospel according to Patanjali: Sadhana.

What is Sadhana?

Sadhana is a deep, devotional committed practice to yoga and our spiritual Masters.  Sadhana is the continuous study and practice of love for all beings.  Sadhana is meditation.  Sadhana is all the practices of yoga united into a daily lifetime of practices.  Sadhana includes seva: selfless service, practice, discipline and love supreme.  Sadhana is the thing that makes our Gurus smile upon us and showers us with bliss and joy.  Without sadhana, yoga is empty.

And this is what I wish to continue to encourage.  And I can encourage it for free and for a small fee here and there and maybe extra large fees here and there too – your choice (because I love asking for and receiving money).  I will probably mostly give the money away to charities to lower my taxes.  Smile.  I am winking at you as I type this.  Start where you are.  If the thought of a cute arse, gets your arse on the mat, then by all means, let that guide you into a yoga class.  It will, hopefully, lead to a true and committed sadhana.

Oh to have no attachment to any outcomes, eh?

– Bhagavad Gita.  Jaya Yoga.

Om shantih om,

Sumukhi

 

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