Destroying and then Rebuilding a Relationship with Yoga

There was a time that I really enjoyed my daily routine of Yoga. This was even before I really experienced the work and play reward cycle of Yoga through Sarah Margaux.

Before Union Yoga (the best yoga studio I have ever been to in all of life,) I truly embraced the magic of connecting breath with movement in my practice. The scent of sandalwood incense and the sunrise truly saluted the day ahead as I moved through multiple vinyasas with true joy in mindfulness. I wanted more than this quiet practice and sought to perfect my form and learn more about the Dharma (teachings) of yoga – (this is what most people refer to as the “hippie-dippie” part of yoga.) Personally, I love the vibrations of “ohm” in my heart and the reminders to stay present, loving, and accepting of the universe in myself and the self in the universe.

I began attending 1 (and eventually 2) classes per week with Sarah Margaux at Union Yoga SF. I invited all my friends to experience the incredible healing power of Sarah’s cheerful spirit and great teaching. I felt so inspired that I subscribed to Yoga Journal in hopes of growing a wider community while the studio (very sadly) started winding down and began the process of closing the studio. The building had been bought out and the owners had to move out due to the incredibly high rent demands of the new building owners.

This was when my faith and healing in Yoga ended. I don’t blame the studio closing for turning my peaceful oasis of mind into a dark place of irony and alienation. I actually blame the Yoga Journal. Because of Yoga Journal, I stopped practicing Yoga for a year. The pages are filled with advertisements of yoga retreats with white women leading the way, interesting recipes highly recommended by white women, asana recommendations demoed by white women, and Q&A’s with oh-so-very-inspiring white women yogis.

I’ve never felt so alienated by a publication that so ironically shares messages of all acceptance!

99% of the content is written by white women for white women with the exception of the 1% of Black women and the occasional Indian man leading a women’s yoga retreat. I am a Chinese woman; my Union Yoga classmates were a mix of Indian, white, black, asian, hispanic, what-have-you women and men. This magazine with its flawless and idealized photos placed white yogis on a pedestal (intentionally or not) and made me feel that either I am trying to be white (and denying my Chinese culture) or that I am not white enough to do Yoga. This so very much echoes the bias in U.S. media (casting white actors for non-white roles) and is quite frankly such a turn off that I tacked the entire Yoga practice to this (very popular) magazine’s poor content.

A year has gone by and I am still skeptical of the “all inclusive” nature of Yoga. I live in a mostly white community with tons of Power Yoga and yoga-fusion studios. Does this also not pervert the traditional practice of Yoga as a whole? Isn’t Power Yoga simply a “yoga inspired” aerobics class? Where is the dharma? Yoga is more than just the asanas, but rather a whole mind-body practice. Yoga is more than dollar signs riddled with scandal and capitalism – it’s a personal, secular belief system that is actually free to learn and live by. Teachers are here to guide and inspire, not to lock people into a payment plan.

Aside from the political gruel of the White Yoga Industry, I’m trying to rebuild my relationship with my practice of yoga and adapt mindfulness. I hold two images as reminders to calm down my anxious and noisy mind (a.k.a. the Black Noise) – the lotus flower (do more for my heart) and the hamsa (protect myself from the Black Noise.) These images tell me to focus on what is in front of me now in this moment and that the Black Noise is just noise that I can turn off.

I’ve started up a loose yoga practice (even if it’s just a couple sun salutations) and am tuning into my present moment.

Tuning now…

Thanks for reading! XOXO
~ L

Additional reading:
Yoga: The Cult of Conformity… (
Has Yoga Lost its Soul? (Huffpost)
Why Your Yoga Class is so White (the Atlantic, 2013)


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