Genetically Modified Yoga

I recommend you read this article from The New York Times

With our brilliant western brains that always believe it knows better, we managed to go to the core of the ancient yoga’s DNA and change it to accommodate our ways. What I mean by “genetically modifying Yoga,” is the manner in which we have modified it to suit our egos and to fit it into the business world by mixing trends and fashion with spirituality.

Photo credit: Danielle Levitt for The New York Times
Photo credit: Danielle Levitt for The New York Times

If originally yoga practice was meant for going deeper, bringing stillness, finding our inner silence and connecting with our higher self, genetically modified Yoga changed the practice to a fast, restless, physical and aggressive practice, where the main modus operandi for “gaining”  is through physical strain and pain, we are all familiar with the expression “no pain no gain”.

When we genetically modify food, by manipulating the natural order of the earth, we pay with our wellbeing. The same happens with the practice of yoga in the modern world. Change it to be a sport or form of performance and you will pay the price in physical injuries and more so by gaining even bigger egos.

You may find, after reading this article, that the descriptions in the article are quite extreme. Trust me, they are not. The only difference is that now the truth of what is happening in the yoga world is starting to surface and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Often I sit with a group of yoga students that are floating from one yoga center to another, from one style of yoga to another and they describe to me the different injuries they collected along the way, since they started their yoga practice. Shoulder, knees, neck, lower back, sciatica, hips, wrists…and the list goes on and on. What amazes me the most is that they do not find it awkward at all that their “spiritual practice” is actually adding more suffering to their being, rather than ease. Look around and you will find more and more balms and other aids for yoga injuries. The New York Times reported that yoga is the second sport that is currently creating most injuries.

The reason for this is first a large number of yoga teachers who, instead of passing on the ancient teachings to their students, mostly approach yoga as performance and they themselves are restless and pushy.

Next are the students who want to change their life but without changing their ways. They bring the same attitude and manners they have towards life, themselves, and others, to the yoga mat, yet they are hoping to experience something different.

I call upon all the hatha yoga teachers who teach the asanas with the understanding that the yoga postures are only a means for higher consciousness and who understand the postures are not intended to be a circus performance, to keep up their very good work. I urge them not to sacrifice the teaching to be trendy, for fame, or to further their business interests.

Lastly, avoid applying external pressure to a student’s body with your hands as you never know what is underneath the skin. Hands are meant to direct, without using force, and intended to transmit love and energy.

Love shakti

13 Responses to “Genetically Modified Yoga”

  1. Chingtai

    Thanks for reminding us about authentic Yoga practice.

  2. Madi

    Thanks Shakti. All yoga teachers need to read and heed this article. I love your safe approach to yoga.

  3. Christof

    Could not agree more. When I originally read this article, I totally understood it…not because Yoga is unsafe, but because teachers do not teach from the right place.

    I read a reply-article basically arguing that it’s normal for a Yogi to experience injuries from their practice…

    I honestly think the training process for Yoga teachers needs to be more extensive. I know I learned safety (and use it all the time), but some people do not. I feel that anyone, even I, would have benefited from my foundations training being 2-3 times longer.

  4. Daralee Sheppard

    I have often felt frustrated with my teaching practice as I believe it does not need to be fast and crazy.
    I have been criticized at times for keeping my classes soft and somewhat easy. I always start my classes with a word
    Of encouragement. The ‘ego’ of yoga has no place in my class. No competition. Thank you for letting me know that I have been doing the right thing.

  5. Daralee Sheppard

    Recently, I worked at a resort where it was reported to me that the teachers do not go around to students and make corrections. I was horrified. I am blessed to have done my training with you.

  6. patti hirschberg

    This should be Required Reading for everyone: from yoga-curious to yoginis.
    Many thanks.

  7. Anouscka

    Thanks for reminding us Shakti and for sharing with me the true face of yoga. I miss hearing your sometimes sharp but oh soooo true words!
    Anouscka van der Kuyp

  8. Diane Lu-Hovasse

    Shakti… I hope you don’t keep your comments to yourself! The New York Times needs to hear how twisted Western practice has become. Every day I am seeing this “mis-translation” and usually when I comment that yoga is “not extreme gymnastics” there is a lot of skepticism because I’m a fairly new teacher and sometimes discredited for not have much experience. Thank you for all the messages you emphasized in our training about how yoga counteracts stress. That is the best argument when I explain what authentic, classical yoga is. Very few people can admit that they have not experienced stress. Stress shouldn’t come from trying to “perform” in a yoga class!

  9. Tim Cyr

    Teaching from the heart of the matter… or is that teaching from the heart of the mat?! Rather than picking out the hottest fashion or trendiest style of mat to match the colour of LL Lemon pants… let’s get back to us… human beings on a journey of being. Thank you Shakti… always…connecting.

  10. Nahkole

    thank you Shakti for sharing! Isnt this true. I personally have such a struggle going to yoga classes anymore because they are so pushy and physical. After taking your yoga teacher training my opinion on the practice of yoga has been much more eastern and I enjoy it much more. Westerns haven’t caught on to the real thing, but they will eventually :) Thanks much!

  11. willow

    When I read the article in the NYT the day it was published, I inner smiled deeply:) Ahhh Yes I came to the right place for my teacher training. My heart feels confident about being an ambassador for SAFE yoga. We are on the forefront of a huge shift:)

    Giving so much thanks!

  12. Penny Irvine

    amen .. I too am so very thankful to have been ‘directed’ to Shakti’s classes as I returned to the mat about 12 years ago at Prana … having recently moved around a bit and attending other centres and community classes, I have been alarmed at the lack of safety and detailed instruction.
    Continually in gratitude and practice of ‘coming home’ and the gift of your cds and video wherever I go .. currently on Pender Island. Namaste

  13. shakti

    Hi Penny, it is so nice to hear from you.

    Lots of love



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