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Modern Yoga

Transformation or Bastardization?

The love of makeovers is as American as deep-fried Oreos at a country fair. We celebrate the teacher turned self-made millionaire, the former convict turned master chef and the Red Sox after they finally won the World Series. We love novelty; almost as much as we love the idea of something, anything, metamorphosing into something better.

But much like our fried Oreos, sometimes that change can turn the original into something unrecognizable. Perhaps, even something that it shouldn’t be consumed at all.

In 2017, it is fair to say that Yoga has become intertwined into the American zeitgeist. Studies show that between 20-37 million Americans are now practicing regularly. Undoubtedly, this huge surge in popularity is due to the fact that the concept of yoga itself has changed so much in the past few decades.

Sure, there are still your standard Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga classes. But now there is prenatal yoga, yoga for children, and silent yoga, for those who want an enhanced meditative experience.

The Rebranding

For the more athletic, there is boxing yoga and yoga for martial arts. For the more adventurous, there are other more niche styles of yoga. Such as voguing yoga, samba yoga, trap yoga, stiletto yoga and the ultimate—Polga (Pole dancing and yoga).

In fact, as an experiment, type in the word yoga and any noun you can think of into a search engine. More likely than not, there will be a class for that.

This isn’t altogether a bad thing. “People need yoga…” says Tara Stiles. Founder of Strala, a fusion Tai Chi and yoga company and Deepak Chopra’s personal teacher. Jane Fonda, another of her students, claims that Stiles makes yoga more assessable and less “esoteric.”

Stiles, by the way, is a thin, white, beautiful former model who gained popularity through her Youtube channel. Her success led to a partnership with the upscale W Hotel and a case study of her accomplishments in a class at Harvard.

As the perfect oppositional counterpart to Strala, there is DDP Yoga. Named for its founder, Diamond Dallas Page, a former professional wrestler, DDP Yoga was originally conceived as YRG: Yoga for Regular Guys. Throughout his televised infomercials, Page claims that he was formerly the type of guy who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga. But now professes that his method is different. It is “not your mamma’s yoga.”

Just Another Form of Exercise

Both styles embrace the physicality but reject the stereotypes that have been arbitrarily forced on yoga. Ironically, DDP rejects the style that Strala represents: feminine and upscale. While Strala rejects the philosophical aspect of yoga. And both forms clearly rebel against the New Age/Hippie/Granola vibe that has haunted yoga since the 60s. Both choosing instead to transform yoga into another form of weight loss.

Spirituality, however esoteric it may be, is not nonsense. There was a reason why the asanas or poses were developed alongside a system of practice for how to live life. Mastering the asanas is a metaphor for how to master life and the difficult position that we sometimes find ourselves in. Quieting the mind and allowing oneself to both push past and settle into one’s pain—both physical and spiritual.

But with these so-called non-crunchy “styles” of yoga, students don’t get a chance to stretch their minds past stereotypes and extend them into an uncomfortable space. Instead, these forms of “yoga” have been dipped into the batter of marketing, deep fried in capitalism and served up to the hungry masses as something familiar—yet brand new. But no better for the spirit than deep-fried Oreos.