The Kim Kardashians of yoga
By Louis Cortese
My friend Carly is a very attuned culture creature. She is keenly aware of the latest fashion, the juiciest celebrity gossip, who’s hot and who’s not.
She knows I practice yoga, which until recently has been flying under her radar. But lately, it has been incessantly popping up all over the zeitgeist of her world in bits and pieces. So she asked me to bring her up to speed on what yoga is all about. At first, I told her she should start by reading Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Pradipika. She immediately downloaded e-book versions onto her iPad but didn’t get very far reading any of them. She came back and asked me to just give her a quick synopsis in a language that she could understand. Here is how I explained it to her:
The modern yoga world is divided into various overarching major categories and each of these categories contains their own specific types of yogis and yoginis. Carly loved those names for male and female practitioners. She thought they are sooooo cute!
Anyway, the most popular group by way of the greatest number of participants is the one where there is a very superficial connection to the core principles and more of a concentrated interest in cosmetic appearance. To make her understand, I labeled this group, the Kim Kardashian yoga school. It looks great, makes lots of money, it’s sexy and fashionable, but has no substance whatsoever.
The next group in terms of size is the Laurence Olivier school. His approach to acting was one of pretending by employing outward mannerisms. These yogis are exceptional performers. They do the most amazing things with their bodies. They are renowned for their command of the most difficult asanas. Their focus is on the outer appearance and they have very little concern with inward exploration.
The third group is the Sean Penn type. He employed “the method” in his approach to the acting craft. Not only do these yogis dig deep into both the history of yoga and it’s many manifestations but they also delve deeply into their own souls to shed mundane attachments and strive to become their true selves. But just like in the acting world, there are many who think they’re plumbing the depths of their psyches with somber serious overtones, but come off as just bad pretenders and make those of us watching them cringe with embarrassment for them. The genuine article in this group is rare. Most are assholes.
At this point Carly was a bit confused and other than the lure of a Kim Kardashian style that seemed somewhat appealing, she saw little reason to start practicing yoga herself because she was afraid of not being good at it and didn’t want to make a fool of herself.
Look, I told her, there are the Fred Astairs and the Michael Jacksons of yoga who move with supernatural grace. It’s almost as though the movement is flowing through them. They have a beauty of form, which is under the influence of freedom, paraphrasing Friedrich Schiller. Most yogis, though, are like Elaine from Seinfeld, thinking they’re dancing like ballerinas but outwardly moving like dorks. But in yoga, the outer form is not important. It’s an exploration of the internal. The dance goes on inside you as you realize your true self. She looked at me slack-jawed with a blank glaze and said, “I have to run. Barney’s is having its annual warehouse sale.”
About Louis Cortese
Lou , in his life, has been a precocious young boy in an anachronistic town in the mountains of Sicily, an immigrant at the age of 8 arriving by way of an ocean liner to the shores of the west side of Manhattan, a guido from the Bronx, a hippy, a Zen Buddhist, a businessman, a yogi and a conventional family man with three sons and two grandchildren, among other things, none of which describes his true self and all of which in the aggregate do not give a full account of him. If his story is not he, then what is? He’s still looking.