That it's (yoga) mostly a physical exercise program, no different than any basic stretching course you can take at a community college or at the Y. The problem arises is that we are led to believe that the more physically adept one is at Hatha Yoga the more spiritually evolved they are. Then you get the cults of personality that surround all the big dogs of Yoga here in the West, and the people who excuse their monsterous behavior. Then come the sex and money scandals.
Google any well know Yoga teacher and you'll find plenty of people just praising the instructor to the heavens for thier spiritualness, etc. They don't get they are praising a two bit jock who couldn't even make it in college athletics.
Yep, jocks who stretch like Gumby.
Here is my hunch on why so very many cannot allow yoga to just be what it is--one physical conditioning program among many.
Yoga has been presented as a respite and also as a place where one can idealize and mythologise both the teacher and the method itself. Thats its popularity--its a venue not just for getting physically healthy.
It provides a venue for idealization--something lots of us feel afraid to do elsewhere.
Problem is, not enough yoga teachers understand how intoxicating it is to be a focus for idealization and buy into it--then get swept into a riptide of temptation and ego inflation.
Yoga became wildly popular in the early to mid 1990s. Thats when you saw the yoga mat and bag becoming the public badge of identification that someone was a yogi/ini.
My suggestion is the 1990s were a time of crushed hopes and (via the internet boom) info overload and then, with the Dot.com crash, more crushed hopes.
During Watergate in the 1970s, they spoke of 'crediblity gaps'. The 1990s, I suggest were an idealization gap. And yoga offered a focus, a place where one could idealize and hope to be safe in doing so.
Thats why folks didnt want yoga and still dont want yoga to become just a method of body conditioning.
In the 1990s, I frequented a swank gym. At the time that gym opened, it and several other 'hip' gyms in our very cosmopolitan city were offering the most fashionable choices which were, Spinning (insert trademark here), boxing, kick boxing and yes, Pilates.
The Pilates classes were packed and wait lists were as long. Ditto for the Spinning classes.
In about he mid to late 1990s, yoga mats and yoga mat bags began to appear and yoga classes began sprouting up.
Then WHAMMMM!!! the yoga thing took off like the Space Shuttle.
And I can remember it being the late 1990s when this sudden shift to mega popularity happened and yoga became ubiquitous
My guess is the 1990s were a period where there was a huge and aching hunger for someone and something to idealize. So many hopes had been smashed.
It may be worth recalling that the drugs associated with the early to mid 1990s were the anti depressants. Remember when Prozac was the cultural catchword?
Perhaps part of being human is that there is a hunger to idealize. And the early to mid 1990s were a period of hopes and idealizations being smashed. It may not be a coincidance that yoga became such a focus for idealization at that time.
Pilates kept itself as just a body conditioning program. Ditto for Spinning(TM) and the various forms of boxing.
Those were shoved to the side as yoga classes proliferated.
And, increasingly in public life, there has been a shortage of honorable persons and ideals to emulate. So many of our heroes have turned out to have shadow sides.
I can remember how yoga turned hugely popular in the 1990s. In the US, people who were in the demographic that had put high hopes on the Democrats being elected to the Presidency in 1992 and 1996 found that life remained a sad slog and the scandals in the Clinton administration were an utter humiliation.
In the UK, there was the painful public meltdown of the Prince and Princess of Wales' marriage.
The Berlin Wall came down. The old Soviet Union crumbled and we stopped being terrified of dying in a nuclear war with the Soviets.
Then, despite this burst of sunshine, all at once the horrible war in the former Yugoslavia broke out and we began reading terrible news about genocidal slaughter, as though humans had learned nothing since World War II.
And...the added horror of reading about 'rape camps.'
So, there was, in the 1990s, a burst of optimism followed by a wholesale crushing of hopes.
Humans have to have someone/something to honor and emulate. Its like marine creatures that must find something stable to hang onto, such as a wharf piling or ship's hull.
So perhaps that is why so very many made yoga and its teachers the focus of idealization, and literally did not want yoga to be what it was -- just a body conditoning program.
Yoga, safetly boundaried and set apart from the vagaries of politics and the outside world seemingly offered a respite, a safe space/bunker and a sole remaining nook where idealization of a leader and method could take place.
In yoga you could find someone to idealize and a method that promised ancient myteries.
---ancient, older than the modernism that was breaking down all around.
During the trials and tributions that followed 9 - 11, this need for a focus for intense idealization remained.
The problems begin when the persons who are the focus of such idealization have little or no training in how intoxicating they will feel when finding such idealization focused upon them. If you're male and have a good looking body and surrounded by scantily dressed good looking persons, eyes focused on you, the intoxication factor must skyrocket.
Leonard Nimoy, interviewed for the film, Trekkies, has told how stunned and even frighted he felt when he first experienced the potent blast of adoring energy directed at him by fans who related to him as though he were Mr Spock.
And yoga not only provided a focus for idealization, it, unlike boxing and Spinning(TM) and Pilates, lent itself to CONSUMERISM. You needed to keep buying more and more cutsy clothes and yoga accessories. This supplied revenue for gyms, and created a niche market in ways that the other body conditioning modalities did not--you didnt need to keep adding to your pile of accessories in order to do Pilates.
(Nimoy wrote a book entitled I am Not Spock. In that book he told how a lady brought her sick baby to him begging him to lay on his hands and heal her child.)
Unlike many a yoga teacher, Mr Nimoy has apparently managed to avoid identifying himself with the Spock character.