Tag Archives: Adi Shankara

Integrity in Yoga

Yoga was once shared among friends. Someone would wander off to India or some ashram, blowing everyone’s minds in the mean time, and then come back and perhaps start teaching a few hesitant friends in someone’s living room. That was before the Yoga Alliance stepped in to “promote and support the integrity and diversity of the teaching of yoga.”

Yoga had much more integrity before weekend workshops started selling for 500 bucks, before people playing on their SUP boards started calling their balance games yoga, before arm balances became in integral to a yoga practice, and well before yoga got associated with temperatures above 40 degrees and pools of sweat at your feet.

I noticed Mr. Chopra, the famous self-help guru has taken it upon himself to certify people who have likely never read the Vedas or heard of Panini as “Vedic Masters.” I would assume that anyone carrying the title of Vedic Master would have mastered the Vedas. I have Brahmin friends who have the Vedas memorized who would blush if I called them a Vedic Master. Where’s the integrity?

It seems to me that organizations like the Yoga Alliance and the one headed by Mr. Chopra are more concerned with promoting entrepreneurship than yoga. And I don’t mean to suggest that yoga and materialism are mutually exclusive. The Charavakas were hedonists seeking only self-pleasure for pleasures sake (or perhaps as a way of avoiding pleasures opposite), and Tantrics (especially those on the left hand path) are all about achieving their desires. The Tantrics, of course, follow the path of non-dualism, which, if they follow this philosophy to its conclusion will only intentionally harm others to the same degree that they would intentionally harm themselves.

And this is what I see when I look at yoga and meditation and other such things here in Canada and even in Rishkesh of today: everyone is trying to cash in on everyone else. There is no integrity in teachers trainings, they’re just a cash cows. The moniker “yoga” tagged on to the anything that involves movement other than walking seems to be all you need to create the newest yoga style.

Now I understand that one of the benefits of yoga is that ones sense of shame becomes diminished, and Osho, one of the biggest gurus of modern times (now dead) was famous for his lack of shame, but anyone claiming to be able to make a yoga teacher out of someone in a month for 3 grand, or a meditation teacher out of someone over a weekend for 500 buck ought to be ashamed.

Since the Yoga alliance seems to be doing the opposite of promoting true integrity in yoga, I would think it would be up to those yogis (or even discerning non-yogis) who do have integrity to do so, but modern yoga eschews positivism to the point where it’s bad manners to criticize anyone or anything – criticism is so unyogic. But it’s been said that even Adi Shankara was thoroughly berated before he created the ashram style of living and learning, and formulated Advaita Vedanta. Rumour also has it that even Goraknath had a precious amulet tossed into the river by a sweeper-woman who likewise berated him to go find his own power inside and forget about obtaining any sort of power outside of himself.

Some of the main reasons people turn to the path of yoga is to seek truth, to get in touch with their own personal power and to obtain the holy grail of self knowledge; but in the post Yoga Alliance world, image and the right certifications trump truth and knowledge, and seem to have acquired power unto themselves. Where’s the integrity?