"so how was the yoga show?" my parents ask over dinner on Sunday night. "Well, it was a trade show,' I replied, "which is kind of disturbing." "Why?" my dad wants to know.
"Yoga is not a trade!" I say, my voice rising in agitation. "It was a shopping mall!"
"But they have shows like that for golf and skiing," he says. I cut him off with a very unenlightened sounding shriek. "Yoga is not a sport!"
My poor dad. It's not his fault that I'm sick to death of explaining this. Everywhere I look these days I see models on the covers of fashion magazines or in editorials posed in yoga asanas, and ads for major companies using yoga to hock their wares.
When I mention that I'm a yoga teacher, I'm often met with smug hipster amusement, and sometimes I even think: "Yeah, I don't blame you."
I go to the show on Friday with Nitya, a yogi from Kerala, India. He has lived as a swami and monk and is a direct disciple of Swami Vishnu Devananda (the man who brought yoga to North America in 1956). He runs the Swami Vishnu Yoga Centre in Kensington Market and lives a quiet, simple life chanting, meditating and doing asanas. His wardrobe consists of sweatpants and shawls. On a fancy day, he puts on some shoes.
I think it will be fun to drag him to this grandiose event, where it costs $15 to get in and $65 to take a class. "Yoga show?" he says, shaking his head. "Yoga has nothing to show." He means, of course, that the 5,000-year-old practice, which involves meditation, devotion and intense discipline to relinquish ego and become one with the self, is counter to the very idea of a show. But here Aveda has a booth at the entrance, where they're offering free make-overs. Adidas and Roots are set up at the most prominent of kiosks.
"This has nothing to do with yoga," says Nitya, stating the obvious as he passes on a make-over. It quickly becomes apparent after I buy a 500ml bottle of water for $2.50 at the Karma Café that since we don't have any money, there's not much for us to do.
We can watch asana demonstrations, but that just doesn't seem very exciting. Yoga schools of every discipline are represented at the kiosks.
"There should be some integration," Nitya muses. "Maybe some discussions between teachers would be interesting. It would develop awareness. But this is just 'OK, if I wear this kind of underwear I can do this yoga.' That's not going to help beginners or new students."
He soon leaves me alone but not before glancing down at his sweatpants with a laugh. Yep. It gets to the best of them. Yoga chic.
Make-overs have nothing to do with yoga. Neither do cute outfits. You're not supposed to care what you look like when you're practising yoga.
You simply cannot rid oneself of your ego if you're concerned about what your ass looks like in your pants.
But we're not immune. An internal struggle rages within me as the need to rid myself of ego battles the desire to have a really cute outfit and a way hotter bod.
Lately, as I take classes all over Toronto, I find that I'm always the worst-dressed student. My $10 grey seconds-store pants (of which I have several) stand out in a sea of adorable and funky pastel and black ensembles.
I see the women in ads doing what I've been doing for 10 years and think, "Why the hell doesn't my body look like that?" I have to remind myself that yoga is not a fitness regimen. North America has turned it into a vanity project.
I have students who tell me they're just taking my class to "get skinny." Fact is, everyone in the world should be doing yoga. It's not supposed to be exclusive to people with cash to burn.
Because of my press pass, I get to take a free class with David Life. He used to run the Life Café in New York and is now a big yoga dude. I also get to go to a concert featuring Tripsichore, a yoga/dance troupe, and Bhagavan Das. Tripsichore blows my mind with some of the most beautiful movement I've ever seen, incredible strong and graceful.
As Nitya later says, "We may not approve of the fashion and the emphasis on the body, but when people do yoga it makes them more peaceful.'