THE BLOG
05/31/2013 04:33 pm ET | Updated Aug 23, 2016

Ira Israel: The Business of Yoga III

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Whither is yoga headed in America?

"It's all good," I often hear fellow yogis say--or truisms such as, "Yoga is evolving"--when they hawk their "Yoga and Chocolate" workshops and "Yoga for Better Butts" videos and create their individual "brands" of yoga.

Last year I corresponded with the president of Yoga Alliance, Richard Karpel--who was the consummate gentleman and always responded thoughtfully and graciously--and told him that what America has done to the Hindu religious practices formerly known as Yoga is tantamount to smearing Brie on Holy Communion Wafers and selling them at the Whole Foods next to the church.

There's a Yoga Porn website.

"Yoga and Bondage" launched last month.

Richard Karpel told me that it's not up to Yoga Alliance to decide what yoga is or isn't.

I'm not advocating for some kind of Yoga Police, but if someone tried to convince you that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that you could have a more shapely rump, or that The Book of Job is really about how to get a flatter tummy, would you reply, "It's all good! Christianity and Judaism are evolving!"?

As I stated in the Huffington Post a few weeks ago, I am dismayed by the dearth of intelligent dialogue regarding the future of yoga in North America. And yet a video of a sprightly woman doing handstands in her panties gets FIVE MILLION, SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND viewers!

It holds little benefit to me professionally or personally to be deemed a moralist. And anyone who has attended my yoga and mindfulness workshops and retreats--as well as all of my psychotherapy patients -- knows that my only mantra is "Authenticity! Authenticity! Authenticity!"

In the words of Rahm Emmanuel, "I hope we don't let this crisis go to waste." For if we don't see something like "Yoga and Bondage" as an opportunity and allow it unquestioned into the yoga canon and say, "It's all good," then who is going to say that "Yoga for More Pleasurable Anal Sex" is or isn't yoga? Who is going to say, "Yoga for the Perfect Murder" is or isn't yoga? It's a slippery-slope, no pun intended.

I fear that the yoga community's laissez-faire attitude of "It's all good!" may ultimately become its undoing - because if we don't decide what yoga is and what yoga isn't, then someone is going to decide for us; namely, each state government's Board of Behavioral Sciences or equivalent, whomever licenses Massage Therapists, Psychotherapists, Acupuncturists, Social Workers, etc.

So ask yourself, please, when you encounter something such as "Fifty Shades of Yoga" do you consider it to be art? Or just brilliant commerce? Or is it both?

Do you think it is respectful of the history of yoga and is just an obvious part of yoga's evolution? And before you answer, please recall "Maus," a cartoon about the Shoah.

Do you find "Fifty Shades of Yoga" to be respectful towards women? And, if so, is it remotely possible that yoginis are complicit in their own sexual objectification and commodification by wearing sexy outfits? Or is this just how we Americanize everything? Sex sells, baby!

Or possibly, as Nina Mel so poignantly articulated in "Why I Quit the Yoga Business," is it becoming more and more evident that yoga and capitalism are fundamentally incompatible?

(I pray that you find the above farcical, horribly salacious, and intentionally grotesque titles to be thought-provoking and not gratuitous. If they do offend your sensibilities, then please forgive the vulgarity; my intent is not to offend but to raise consciousness about an extremely serious subject, namely the one I raised when I first started writing for Huffington Post back in January of 2012.)
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