Nothing was more obvious as to how much of a business yoga is, than at this year’s Om Yoga Show in London. It tied in with the Mind, Body, Soul Show, buy one ticket and go to both exhibitions. It felt like one enormous, never-ending circus, everyone vying for your attention and selling their soul.
Every possible item you can imagine is for sale from the obvious such as mats, clothes to the less obvious shamanic witchcraft and food dice. (Which literally is what it says: a set of dice with food names on it)
Ghostbusters Camouflaged as Bridegrooms
The first stall I encounter is a man performing weird prodding and jabbing movements to someone lying on a table. Is this a new style of massage with swirly flourishes? Why is the masseur dressed as a bridegroom?
What I was witnessing was a ‘Psychic Surgeon’ pulling the trauma from a spine. I investigated further and discovered that he was also a ‘Trance Medium and Physical Medium’, and as proof, a delightful photo of him vomiting ectoplasm.
(In case you’ve not seen Ghostbusters, ‘ectoplasm is a supernatural viscous substance that exudes from the body of a medium during a spiritualistic trance. Rather like copious amounts of snot’.)
An Important Quest
Moving swiftly on, I walk past a Jesus stand, a Scientology stand, a Maitreya stand, to name but a few. Often being asked if I wanted them to pray for me or heal me, which was very nice, but I didn’t have time to stop as I was on an important mission. The hunt was on for a pair of yoga pants that wouldn’t make me look like a stuffed sausage. Despite all the wonderful adverts suggesting that I too would have a pair of 2 metre long legs in these new uplifting bamboo, bum sculpting, sweat wicking, stomach flattening, strengthened yoga pants, which will help me float and hold Pincha- I just never look the part. Nothing was going to distract me from my cause.
Declining all spiritual offers, I moved swiftly on my journey to then find myself in front of a sausage stall, snuggled between the vegan and the pigs’ animal sanctuary stalls. After a quick hotdog with some organic kale to give me strength, I was side-lined from my quest as I stumbled upon a flask. Not anyordinary flask, but a glass flask with a removable glass pod that houses crystals. For a mere £30, this magical receptacle meant I could change the crystals and alter the vibration of my beverage:
‘igniting my inner sparkle and bringing mindfulness to my day’
What does that even mean? How does this help with mindfulness? If I put champagne in my miraculous container would it change the vibrations of the bubbles? Could it help me meditate for longer? Is this a substitute for my meditation app?
As I explore more stalls in the Mind, Body, Soul hall the more irritated I get; tarot card readings to helpyou see your future, aura photography allowing you to see your energy fields. It just all feels so absurd. I make a dash for the Yoga Hall in the hope to progress with my more sensible quest of finding my magic yoga pants.
There was an array of training schools from established traditional yoga lineages such as Iyengar, Kundalini, Sivananda. The ongoing free yoga classes throughout the whole day, open to everyone in various corners, meant you could try everything and anything. There was a dizzying amount of yoga: yoga for children, acroyoga, acroyoga dance, yoga in a French farmhouse, yoga retreats in Fuerteventura/ Wales/ Morocco, yoga with specific set sequences, hot pod yoga, I could go on, but you get the picture.
On the one hand it was wonderful that there was something for everyone and on the other hand it was overwhelming. It was gluttonous. Is this still yoga?
Breathing Makes You Sick
I decided to book a workshop about breath. The teacher introduced herself as ‘an expert with a 20-year track record of unrivalled expertise, a scientist, an author of 9 best-selling books, a global educator …who has inspired more than 100,000 people…’ She was a very charming speaker and obviously passionate about what she was peddling.
She began by explaining the difference between respiration and breathing.
“The former is a brain stem reflex and controls your body pH as well as other things and you don’t really do anything. The latter is the actual mechanical process of using various muscles amongst which the diaphragm. It’s the drawing air in and out of the body, which you can alter e.g. panting, breath retention etc.”
According to our ‘breath expert’, 90% of people breathe dysfunctionally, potentially triggering more than 200 symptoms such as memory loss, fainting, ADHD, cardio-vascular problems. It was a hypochondriac’s nightmare.
This is serious stuff. Our expert warned that if you don’t know what you are doing and you alter your breath, you can do more harm than good, such as changing our CO2 levels, changing the acidity of the alkaline in the gaseous exchange and numerous other alarming sounding things.
But here is the thing, and where I got a little confused. Our expert here, is against breathing exercises for the reasons she explained above. But we were then guided to lie on our backs and begin continuously breathing deeply from the mouth, (for what went on for an eternity) with the ‘purpose of triggering dysfunctional breathing habits to be able to work on them’.
If, oh global educator, you are against breathing exercises, then what are we doing here? To add to my bafflement, what about my body’s pH? My altered CO2 levels? Isn’t this meant to be terrible for me? Now 40 people, myself included, are hyperventilating on the floor; of course we are going to feel some of the potential 200 symptoms!
I am afraid I walked out, discreetly, but quickly. I don’t know the end of the workshop, maybe it was all made clear and had I stayed it would have changed my life or maybe I would have just ended up needing to pass wind after gulping all that air. Who knows.
Yoga the Business
I spent the rest of my time flitting from one clothes stall to another. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that no skin-tight material hugging my thighs would be able to remove my natural sausage shape. This is life.
Just like I had to accept that although yoga is something joyous, the business of yoga is less joyous. It challenges even the most virtuous and traditional to keep the message pure. And what does ‘pure’ even mean? As with everything in life, it is about choice. What works for you might not work for me and this diversity should be celebrated, so who am I to judge? (Despite my cynical viewpoint.)
I will probably go back next year, in the hope to find my special yoga pants that makes me look like a yoga teacher and not like a frankfurter.