The competitive edge
By Nickie Medici
I got my new Yoga Journal in the mail today. It is a sweeping visual masterpiece. There is someone doing camel pose in front of a pyramid and some other back bend variation showcased on a pastel blue Volkswagen in a field of yellow daisies. There is a picture of hundreds of people doing yoga in Times Square. Don’t forget numerous photos of yoga on paddle boards; where there are paddle boards there must be yoga — and also someone with a camera! There is a picture of a naked woman doing yoga with a conspicuous absence of cellulite. She wants us to buy yoga socks, which in and of themselves can be very helpful if you’re prone to slipping around in down dog. But who in the hell does down dog anymore?
Also featured in this month’s Yoga Journal is a section on weight training to support one’s yoga practice: where Cross Fit meets the spiritual pavement. Improve your plank with kettle bells! Then there is all the stuff you can purchase as advertised in Yoga Journal. There is shit-o-lay everywhere, advertised to improve your yoga practice. Yogi make-up and yogi tea, long mats and round mats and mats made of unwashed diapers from the Christ child.
If you’re more than a yoga practitioner, like say if you’re a sacred teacher on the precipice of becoming a licensed and insured Yoga-lebrity, then you also need all manner of insurance with which you’ll — surprise! — get a free subscription to Yoga Journal for a year, so you can see more advertisements of shit you will need to practice and teach yoga, because, dear readers, Yoga Journal is now the Vogue of the yoga community. Strike a pose!
I have to ask, what is “yoga community” these days?
There seems to be Yoga-lebrities and people who aspire to be or want to be like the Yoga-lebrities everywhere we look. I do have friends who practice yoga with whom I’ve formed a sort of support group that one might call a community. But the greater “yoga community” at large seems more like Old Hollywood. It’s all about branding and marketing. I remember the first time I heard, in reference to building my own yoga classes, “You just have to market yourself!” It gave me a July chill. What in the hell ever happened to the ol’ “If you build it they will come”? Now it’s not just yoga but gold-standard yoga with faces we recognize trying to sell us experiences we think we want and shit we don’t need.
The emperor is naked, folks, and it ain’t pretty.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to my old practice, when I didn’t know anyone or anything about yoga. The only reference point I had was one New York redhead who often confounded and always inspired. Those were the days. But being savage and fearless like I am, I decided to jump headlong into all things yoga, and now don’t like what I see. I feel homesick for when staying still in down dog for five seconds counted as a win for the day. Now what counts as a win?
Nothing! There is no winning in yoga. Practicing yoga doesn’t make you, me or any of us special. Writing about yoga doesn’t make anyone special, but we want it to. Maybe it’d be nice to be a Yoga-lebrity with a salary like an NFL professional. After all, in the 21st century, yoga is like a sport, right? What with all the competition going on and all.
Let’s see, just among friends, who can be the most broken, shattered, enlightened, spoken to by God, forsaken by their guru, lost, found, mutable, bendable, creative and jilted.
Once we’ve got that squared away, let’s put our shit (not the shit we bought out of Yoga Journal, we have to hang onto that) on other people, teachers, friends, strangers… and then we’ll write about how we overcame these things with our superfly Camel Bak water bottle and Christ child diaper yoga mats, which we’ll have signed by our favorite host of American Idol, Yoga Edition. We won’t tell anyone at American Idol that yoga really does help us overcome all these things. Overcoming is so passé.
While waiting for my callback from America’s Next Top Yogi, I renounce the title of yoga teacher, because I can’t teach anyone anything. I facilitate classes and hope students dive more deeply into themselves. I love yoga students and will supply them with floaties but I will not take credit for their depth. I can’t pull anyone out of a tree; I’m lucky to climb down out of my own perch, and when I land it’ll be on my Jade sticky mat. Yoga materialism notwithstanding, I’m southern and believe that you get what you pay for.
Ultimately it’s not about handing over money for exotic retreats. Videos with Yoga-lebrities showing how awesome they are won’t spotlight how awesome you are. By my estimation, yoga’s main draw is self-empowerment, so long as we don’t get blinded by all the shiny shit that can go along with it and the ever increasing and perilous competitive edge. Who needs competition and shiny Yoga-lebrities anyway? It’s not like you can see anything else when you’re in down dog, which somehow became my favorite pose after ten years of practice – once the shininess of everything else wore off.
About Nickie Medici
Nickie Medici fancies herself non-compliant and friendly. Becoming a yoga teacher turned class facilitator was inspired mostly by her mother’s incessant nagging that she get certified. Once official, the Florida Gulf Coast didn’t stand a chance against Nickie’s optimism and space for participants. Learning mostly about yoga by writing about it, she can be caught practicing anytime between mid-night and four am. She is still holding out for a full-time writing gig and funding so she can open a day spa for cats. Please visit her blog icyexhale.com for instructions on how to pick cat claws out of a yoga mat and other important life lessons.