Yoga, Inc.

I came across the movie Yoga, Inc. the other day and watched it Friday night before going out to a fashion week thing with my colleagues. As you might already know, I do various types of yoga one of which is Bikram - the bad boy of yoga... I love my Bikram practice but I still can’t come to terms with the fact that Bikram has patented his series of yoga asana and that he is in on the whole yoga asana championship thing. And this movie hasn’t helped. Bikram is in it, but he wouldn't let the film use his interviews after he found out what the movie was about. Watch it for yourself to see how much money the yoga industry actually makes and how far it all is from the traditional yoga philosophy about non-greed (aparigraha).

A part of me wants to say that greed is inevitable when you adopt yoga into the Western World but I just hate to see how big chains of yoga studios are taking over America and forcing the small independent studios to close down. Of course you should be able to combine yoga with good business sense but forbidding people to teach asana that date more than 5000 years back is beyond me... No doubt the right thing to do would be to stop doing Bikram and support the small studios instead. I do support smaller studios too, but so far I haven't found a (hot) studio that can give me what Bikram can. I'll keep looking, though.

Have a look here and let me know what you think.


Honeymoon Yoga Retreat in Sri Lanka

So I’m a Mrs! And I’m back home in Copenhagen after three weeks holiday. One week in England planning our English wedding (which was absolutely magic) and two wonderful weeks of honeymoon in Sri Lanka. The latter has left me recharged and feeling happy and healthy.

Part of our honeymoon was spent at the amazing eco jungle resort Ulpotha. We came across Ulpotha in my Great Yoga Retreat book earlier this year and knew that we had to go there. If you’ve seen the pictures you’ll know why. After reading only positive reviews on Tripadvisor the decision was made; Sri Lanka was our honeymoon destination.

We were at Ulpotha for a Vinyasa course and Ayurveda detox (which I’ll write about later) so five hours a day were spent doing yoga with 14 other yogis from various parts of the world. We began our days with a meditation at the bank of the beautiful lake in the middle of the village and made our way to the yoga shala where we did a 2,5 hour dynamic solar vinyasa practice.The afternoon sessions were more lunar and focused on pranayama, and I was introduced to yin yoga, which I haven’t done before. Our teacher, Daniella, who runs a studio in Paris, had a beautiful way of putting the classes together to correspond with the five elements: air, water, fire and earth.

Ulpotha is a small village in the middle of the jungle. It has no hot water, electricity or mobile network (I needed a social media detox) but it still feels very luxurious. We stayed in a large hut without walls - so we basically slept outside but felt oddly safe because of our mosquito nets.

The animals were around us at all times of the day: monkeys, beautiful kingfishers, water buffaloes, lizards, snakes, frogs and turtles just to name a few. All were amazing - apart from a giant spider with one shiney eye that we came across one night. Because of the lack of electricity the village was lit by oil lamps, which would magically appear every day at dusk. Just beautiful. And the food. The food deserves a chapter on its own: all vegan and consisting of local vegetable curries, sambols, grain, beans, fruits and juices. Oh, and coconut water straight from the coconut. There’s nothing like a glass of coconut water after an intense yoga practice - but until now I’ve only ever had it out of a carton...

The combination of yoga, Ayurveda and the vegan diet (and my favorite hammock by the lake) has left me feeling healthy and recharged and ready for the autumn (and married life). To prolong the feeling back here in Copenhagen (which has been taken over by Fashion Week, food and drinks this week) the plan is to do a three day juice detox on the weekend. I’ll let you know how that goes provided I make it through without killing anybody.... :)

If you ever get the chance to go to Sri Lanka. Find Ulpotha.


International Yoga Asana Championship

This weekend is the International Yoga Asana Championship in LA. As you might know, I love the Bikram practice but I’ve already aired my opinion about competing in yoga asana; I don’t get it. Yoga and competition don’t match in my world. That said I can’t help but be a little bit curious, so I had a peek at the live stream.

Although Mr. and Mrs. Bikram are setting up the competition in LA they don't want the Bikram name on it as they want yogis from all traditions to be able to join. According to an article in the New York Times the ultimate goal for the Bikrams is for yoga asana to qualify as an Olympic sport, but they of course have most of the yoga community against them as the idea of competition goes against the philosophy of yoga.

It's impressive to watch the participants of the championships but without the philosophy, the pranayama and all the rest that defines yoga, it's nothing but gymnastics to me.

I’d probably watch more if I didn’t have a hen night to go to this weekend. My own (!).

Have a look, and let me know what  you think :)


The Story of Yoga

A cute, little video on the story of yoga.



Bikram and the Definition of Yoga

As my third month of doing Bikram yoga every other day is coming to an end, and as I'm considering whether or not I should pay for yet another expensive (it costs at least twice as much as any other yoga studio I ve been to) month pass, I've come to realise that what was supposed to be a fling with a new type of yoga has become a full on relationship. Within the last three months I've gone from the back of the hot room to the front row, staring all my abilities and inabilities right in the face in the mirror and accepted each and every one of them. Starting Bikram yoga almost felt like starting from scratch despite my fairly strong yoga experience, and I have no doubt that that it is healthy to be kicked out of ones habits and thrown into new territory once in a while.

I have come to love the practice for its challenging physical aspects. I love being able to push myself further than I thought I could, even though I never considered this to be yoga and still don t know what to think of it. I ve come to realise that maybe I shouldn t be so stuck in my or other s definition of what yoga is and just appreciate that I think of nothing but the yoga for 90 minutes, that my body feels incredible after 90 minutes of sweating, and that my mind feels calm. According to Patanjali yoga is a way to unite body, mind and soul. He sais, that yoga is the ability to stop the constant movements of the mind. And this is exactly what Bikram yoga does to me.

 I do think it's a shame that the philosophical aspects of yoga aren't introduced or encouraged in the Bikram dialogue, but after listening closer to some of the teacher's words I have notised encouragements to meditate, let go, focus on the breath and calm down the mind. When thinking about it I wonder f the guy doing his practice next to me is meditating while he is in his asana or only considers his practice a physical one. But what does it matter anyway? Isn't it quite liberating that nobody dictates what kind of spiritual experience you should be having while doing your practice?

I've heard from lots of people that the talk of chakras puts them off as they only acknowledge the physical benefits of yoga. I do think they re missing out on the great potential that yoga holds but isn't their practice as valuable as mine? And don't all the other benefits sneak up on you whether you're open to them or not? I'd love to hear your thoughts.