Say you're given a magic key. It's like one of those beautiful old, over-sized keys made of iron that were used for cathedrals and 300 year old Tuscan villas. This key is magic in that it can open a door to ecstasy. It can open a door to wholeness in mind, heart, body and spirit. Imagine you've got this magnificent key but instead of using it to open these doors to freedom you start using it to open bottles with it, or pick your teeth, or to barbeque shish kabobs on. Pretty soon this magic key starts to become another mundane fixture in your house. It gathers dusts and is stuck on a shelf with all the other gadgets, and "what-nots" cluttering up your life. That would be a bit of a bummer, no?
Across the world this is what's happened to yoga. Yoga is a magical tool for enchanting your life, for giving meaning to suffering and for setting your heart on fire. Every time this profound intent is diluted by a yoga class dedicated solely to fitness we are one step closer to placing this magic key on a shelf with every other fitness fad. It's not that fitness isn't great, I've been involved with fitness since I was a teen, I've done it all. From Jane Fonda to P90X fitness has always been a part of my life. It is something that I have done to foster health on one level, in one dimension of my being. Yoga is different. It is a tool to remind us that we are more than one dimension, that we are a complex, mysterious, symphony of energy yearning to live free from ego's narcissistic hold. And, in an ultimate sense, using yoga as fitness is certainly not wrong but it could have a particular effect: The more we associate yoga with a one dimensional system of fitness the closer we are to losing its ability to enlighten our lives. As generations begin to forget about the "magic" behind this system it would become a hollow ghost of it's former self. And still human suffering would go on, and still we would lament the tragedy of our lives wishing that someone would come up with something that would make us feel alive again. Connected. Enchanted. Sacred.
Society has the tendency to de-sacralize everything for the sake of the ego. Sacred scriptures become t-shirt slogans, ancient figures become cool to have as your screensaver, and now, yoga becomes the next hopeful avenue for getting that great butt, and lost are it's nourishing and enlightening qualities.
I know that most of this blog's readership comes from this perspective - essentially I'm preaching to the choir. But even if you agree will you take a moment in your next practice to be reminded of the sacred nature of yoga? Can we all be called by yoga's practice and ancient philosophy into the multidimensional mystery of our whole being? In the end, fitness is great, but there are all sorts of "bottle openers, toothpicks and barbeque skewers" out there, surely we don't need to use this magic key to do their job.(A small caveat needed! I know of a few wonderful, multidimensional yoga classes being taught in fitness centres - its not about the location but the intent of the teaching or practice!)