When I tell people that I am a yoga teacher, I usually get a chuckle. I don’t fit any of the preconceived demographics that are represented in the media about what a Yoga teacher should look like. I am male, I am in my 40s, I don’t have any tattoos, I am a bit chubby, and I haven’t changed my name to Suryachakra (my apologies to those of you who are actually named Suryachakra). Most devestatingly, I do not have an Instagram account.
Now that Yoga is becoming popular, media is portraying all practitioners as being 20ish young, lithe, women who wake up in Bakasana and float around all day like that on Instagram. While that has been a boon for young women who can certainly benefit from all that Yoga has to offer, many others feel “left out” and are having difficulty finding an entry point into the practice.
In Yoga Journal, you will seldom find any of the models over of the age of 50 and certainly no men. If you do, they are in the back of the issue with some article entitled “yoga for the extremely elderly” (that was a joke). In Elephant Journal, all you read about is how to make a cool hip hop playlist or how to deal with your taking your boyfriend to class rather than actually learning how to practice Yoga.
Locally, if you go to your Yelp website, you will find 50 yoga studios who promote a synthesized crossfit “yoga workout” before you find anything that remotely addresses those who are injured, over 50, and/or male. And those are the “one star” reviews because those studios’ teachers do not allow people to do whatever they want and instead teach how to do the pose.
I know I sound like an old fuddy duddy, but Yoga in the West needs to grow up. How many times do we have to read #namasteeverydamnday before we get viscerally ill? I don’t mind that so many young people are into Yoga. But what happens is they get their 200 hour teacher training, take up all the slots at the McYoga studio, find a boyfriend or girlfriend, and poof! Gone with the wind. Then what happens is what ever teaching they learned goes with them and the teachings are eventually lost or eroded.
My students tend to be older. There is also a nice 50/50 ratio of men to women in my class. As I am getting a bit older, Yoga practice is becoming more of a requirement than a preference. If I don’t do my practice, I feel it! I suspect that is the motivation of many of my Saturday students. One student always tells me after class that she was hurting all week and finally feels better.
This December, Geeta Iyengar who is the daughter of B.K.S Iyengar, will conduct a 10 day intensive to celebrate her 70th birthday. You can guarantee that she will teach in full force as she has rented out a whole sports facility to conduct the workshop. If I even make it so 70, I will be grateful if I can do 10 days of anything, nonetheless a 10 day intensive workshop!
My teacher Ray is well into his 60s and can do Bakasana way better than most of these endless instagram images I am plagued with daily. For his recent assessment, he had to do Eka Pada Bakasana (one legged Bakasana) and passed with flying colors.
The point I am trying to make is that if you are “older” or male or injured, there are Yoga classes out there for you. Go online and find your nearest Iyengar teacher. If there are none in your area, read this blog and try to follow along. As the old saying goes “when you are ready the teacher will come” which I have always found the case to be with Iyengar teachers. There is one closer to you than you think.