Jessamyn Stanley is one of the only yoga instructors that doesn’t come off as phony to me. Her new title Yoke is a deep dive into what makes yoga yoga. The idea of practicing yoga is to join mind, body, breath, and movement with the light, dark, good, and bad in us all. Literally, the yoga of your day could just be getting up every day, taking a deep breath, and being thankful you’re still here within yourself. American yoga, nay, Western yoga in general, seems to have little to do with the yoga I just described.
Yoke: Mind, Body, and Spirit
Ms. Stanley goes pretty in-depth about her conflicting feelings on American yoga and the community it breeds, especially when it comes to White supremacy, bigger bodies, and capitalism. However, she also points out that to teach yoga—past and present—one has to be a mercenary when it comes to making money. Sure, enlightenment, do no harm, be above the hubbub of the world...but, how are you going to eat and pay bills while searching for enlightenment and the true self? Spirituality costs, baby! Are you willing to pay the price for the chance to have a perfect body, a pure soul, and to live forever? Sure you are! Your soul is money, and your god will be your yoga instructor—who will lovingly hawk overpriced subscriptions and unnecessary swag to make you feel more a part, or shall we say yoked to the practice. But, only if you have the correct dress size and bank account.
Jessamyn Stanley speaks about how one cuts through all that to find oneself. Sure, maybe, one should always strive to enlighten others, but not before enlightening one’s self. Yoga shouldn’t be performative or attention-seeking; it doesn’t have to be some elaborate thing. Yoga can be found in the quiet spaces of your day, your mind, and your body: Your yoga could be living your true self every day without causing harm to others while doing the most elaborate ashtanga practice for an hour every day in a perfectly heated room, on a biodegradable vegan mat with zero props. Your yoga could also be just using the bathroom in silence while your kids tear down the house around you.