The commercialization of yoga is not a new phenomenon. There has been a long legacy of ‘watering-down’ yoga’s primary ethical teachings, and of propagandizing a blind belief in practices like extreme austerity, embedded in a promise of some kind of extraordinary experience.
There have also always been practitioners who, due to their own inadequate training and practice, were not able to enter the realm of non-discrimination. Their inability to penetrate the deep conditioning of their own minds has fomented a proliferation and commercialization of yogic texts that oversimplify the work of liberation. Though highly appreciated by modern yoga, these non-discerning belief complexes function to obscure what is actual, adequate, ethical, rational and true, in the work of growing and being in harmony with nature. The emotional repression and bypassing that is common Pop-yoga practice clarifies its fundamental inability to foster intelligent growth.
Practitioners who dwell only in physical realms, or only in mental realms, or who pursue momentary pleasures, and are thus unable to sustain right concentration, cannot completely eradicate their own patterns of ignorance. With their minds in perpetual disequilibrium, they remain in bondage, trapped in self-reinforcing cycles of conditioning that actually create deeper and stronger patterns of ignorance. Meanwhile, attachment to the illusion of some sort of exorcism, godly absorption, or holy progress can overpower their unconscious minds, shaping them into bundles of misery and addiction.
Intense bodily disintegration, accompanied simultaneously by any expectation or yearning for some sort of a juicy, delicious experience, cannot possibly engender non-discrimination. Such expectation and yearning is rather the embodiment of ignorance, and a prison of eternal suffering. Indeed, physical bodily experiences, when bound up in desire, are nothing but an abuse of physical energy, and a waste of great opportunities to develop clear perception and intelligence. As a result of modernity’s deep penetration into our lives, this pattern is visible in almost all of our interactions with the world, from the way we eat, to the way we relate to one another and to the earth, to the way we perceive, understand, define, and describe ourselves.
As it neglects and downplays core features of the ancient wisdom and practices at yoga’s heart, commercialized yoga will always fail to bring into being the true depth of yoga’s promise and potential, leaving ultimate peace, harmony, vitality, freedom, joy, tranquility, equilibrium, health, awakening, wisdom, universality, mental clarity, emotional strength, and many other states perpetually out of reach, except on the most superficial and mostly artificial level.
Today, however, cracks are beginning to show in this shallow, commercialized yoga, foretelling the beginning of a new era for yoga, one that returns to the core of these teachings. As it acknowledges and appreciates responsibility, relationship, universality, and authenticity, in the truest sense of these ideals, this new era may be defined by a truly holistic approach, embodied within right methods for individual transformation and the empowerment of human intelligence.
As individual consciousness continues to evolve, the collective consciousness evolves in unison; awakening becomes more and more natural within an awakening community and society. Though this process may seem slow, there have always been and will always be enlightened teachers, who protect and nurture the ancient teachings and insights, in order to bring their students and societies into ever greater alignment with nature, and to empower the next generation of practitioners to discern and respect the deepest laws of nature.
In this way, the process of enlightenment and liberation may be lived in their fullness, freed from endless patterns of pleasure seeking and suffering.
Yazdan Raees & Brandon Bertram