Saturday, September 15, 2007

Om Yoga Kendra

As I'm on holiday from school this week I too the opportunity to join a yoga class at a the nearby Om Yoga Kendra, “kendra” meaning a school or center. I've been on my own all week but Thursday, when a German woman showed up, a youth pastor in the Catholic Church who practices yoga at home and who wanted to see what yoga was like in the land of yoga. Over tea afterwards she revealed how surprised she was. At home in Germany they practice very slowly, a kind of meditative exercise as much as physical exercise. What we experience at the kendra is much more animated. The teacher seems to be a bit hyperactive, always bouncing on his feet or pacing about the room while we're doing our stretching, and when he thinks were finished, peppering us with “OK?” He encourages us to move a little faster, to thrust a little harder, to bend a little deeper. He likes to joke whole we're practicing, though his repertoire (at least in English) so far seems limited. From what I have seen of his classes prior to and after mine, the students are largely middle-aged women, who I imagine are not too interested in meditation or contemplation so much as they are in controlling their weight or some other physical problem, or simply in maintaining physical flexibility and stamina.

The difference in this woman's yoga experience and her expectation I put down to the same difference one sees here with Buddhism. In the west it is almost strictly a contemplative practice, whereas here Buddhism is much more pedestrian, more about following the rules than transcending them, more about believing precepts than about faith in experience. In the west Buddhists meditate; here they say prayers, do prostrations, spin prayer wheels, make offerings, and are generally more concerned with making merit and not accruing bad karma than with transcendental experience. I suppose this is true across all cultures and all religions. Few contemplate or seek the mystical; most are comfortable with the familiar myths and traditional practice.

A class of Tibetan ladies



Post a Comment