Tag Archives: Wanderlust

Why I don’t attend Wanderlust

Every February, The Wanderlust Festival comes to O’ahu. I get loads of ads for this event on my Facebook feed, with all the annoying commentary like “Last year was AMAZING!!! (emoji, emoji, emoji).” Some people even write me on my blog asking which events I will be attending at the festival, and are shocked when I tell them I wouldn’t be caught dead at ANY of this event.

To me, Wanderlust is very much like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (Coachella) of modern music. When Coachella first started, it was a cool idea. All the unknown indie bands were given proper stage time and it brought about a burgeoning hip early 2000s music scene. Once commercial interests got involved it all went to pot. This year’s headliner: Guns n’ Roses. Far from Indie or original or hip.

In very much the same way, the early yoga festivals were more a venue for “indie” yoga teachers to show their craft. In 2000, Shandor Remete who was one of Iyengar’s students and subsequently designed his own style called “Shadow Yoga” was at the Southwest Yoga Conference. One blogger wrote then:

People tend to have a strong reaction to the unconventional teaching style of Shandor Remete. Take last year’s Southwest Yoga Conference. Some of his devotees signed up for every single one of his classes. Many who hadn’t registered tried to sneak in, causing the organizers to post a guard outside his door.

Others took one class with Shandor-who’s been known to have students stand on their tiptoes for as long as 30 minutes in order to cultivate Uddiyana Bandha-and didn’t come back.

Modern festivals lack this sort of essence now. All we see are Yoga groupies who are more into the trappings of the “yoga scene” instead of the actual yoga. It’s all about the selfies from O’ahu’s famous North Shore. The sponsors and promoters are like the “big tobacco” of the Yoga world: Yoga Alliance, Yoga Journal, DoTerra, Lululemon and Wanderlust peddling endless 200 hour teacher trainings to those who have been doing yoga for a month.

With events like “The One, One Arm Handstands and Mono Limb Acrobatics,” I reflect that this has now become circus training, and not so much Yoga. Patanjali is nowhere in the “lineup.” “Kirtronics” is the closest thing to a good old fashioned Kirtan. And of course there are plenty of DJs and rock bands to ensure that no Pratyahara will be had by anyone.

On another note, my hometown of Kailua is where many of these attendees stay in illegally operated bed and breakfasts. Many have little regard for the community and clog the roadways in the beaches. Every time I see a selfie in front of the Mokalua Islands off Kailua Beach, or from the Pillboxes atop Lanikai, I get viscerally ill. Most Lanikai residents can’t get out of their neighborhood because of traffic congestion from these folks.

There was a recent episode of South Park where Kenny’s hometown gets gentrified and rebranded as Sodosopa where annoying out of towners overtake his neighborhood and put up a Whole Foods. That exact phenomenon is happening in Kailua, and with the rest of the Yoga World. So no, I will not be going to Wanderlust!

 

 

 

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Appreciating Yoga’s relationship to Hinduism (instead of fearing it)

hanuman

People seem deathly afraid of Hinduism cropping up in the West for some strange reason. Just this week, two state legislators in Idaho protested when a Hindu prayer was said before the start of a session. One of the big debates of late is whether Yoga is a Hindu practice. There seems to even be legal rulings on whether or not Yoga should be considered a religion or a workout. In the same vein, why are we not afraid that Sufism is rooted in Islam, or that Qabbala is rooted in Judaism?

Many of the texts and concepts in Yoga are shared with people who practice Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita (Song of God) being a good example. It the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna on a battlefield where Arjuna is in the middle. On one side are his teachers, and the other side are his family members. Arjuna is in an awful dilemma. Krishna advises him to use Yoga to conquer the dilemma and to do his dharma as a warrior.

Other Hindu elements crop of in the names of Yoga Asanas. Bharadvaja, Vashistha, Marchi, and Hanuman just to name a few were figures in the Mahabharata. Of course in Western Yoga classes, these poses are renamed based on their body movements like “the splits” and “twists.”

My view may not be a popular one, but instead of watering down the names and concepts of Yoga that come from Hinduism, why not embrace them? I am not asking you to drop your faith and become Hindu. But I am asking that Yoga practitioners in the West more deeply explore the relationship between Yoga and Hinduism, rather than just using the parts that are convenient for them to present to a judge who will rule and decide if Yoga is considered a religion or a workout.

When you study the Yoga Sutras and read about Siddhis  (superpowers that come from Yoga practice), it is helpful to read about Hanuman who displays his mastery of all the Siddhis in his efforts to reunite Sita and Rama. These stories show how powers cultivated in Yoga can be used properly and for the good of mankind. Not to say that anyone actually will attain Siddhis in their practice, but If you woke up one day and were able to float on air, wouldn’t it be nice to have a guideline on how to use this power?

Being a New Mexico native, then moving to Hawai’i, I have seen the recurrent theme of having a rich culture be exploited by people who first try to make money off the unique attributes of the culture, then completely water it down until there is no culture left to market. They just built a Target store in my hometown of Kailua, transforming a charming beach community into Anywhere Else, USA full of traffic. I see the same thing happening in Yoga. Look no further than the Wanderlust Facebook page to see what I mean.

So my challenge to practitioners of Yoga in the West is to read some of these texts like The Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana. Try to understand the concepts of reincarnation even though  that may not be your belief system. And minimally, use the Sanskrit terms of the Asana names instead of just calling them things like “updog.” As a deeper practice, go 30 days without buying things from those who commercialize and exploit Yoga, like the Lululemon store. Your Yoga practice will only get richer as a result.