I didn't realize there was such a hubbub (To Some Hindus, Modern Yoga Has Lost Its Way) about yoga's roots. According to the Hindu American Foundation (Is Yoga a Hindu Practice? and Take Yoga Back), American yoga practices are too far removed from its more spiritual Hindu roots.
The positive is that everyone feels like yoga is more approachable when it's religion- or spirituality-free. Folks are more likely to feel welcome to participate. The mentally pacifying and physically invigorating practice seems a great draw in its melding of ying and yang.
The bad side is that many of the real underlying belief systems, reasoning, and spiritual aspirations of the practice get lost in favor of a glamorized pop culture version of the art and science of the practice.
Have you heard about yoga raves (Raving About Yoga Party in Midtown)? When I read articles about yoga conferences (Wanderlust 2011: A Summary), I have a hard time discerning whether I'm reading about Lollapalooza or what should otherwise really be a new age-y mind-body festival.
The HAF doesn't necessarily want people to worship Hindu deities while practicing yoga, rather, be better educated about the origins and foundational principles, and gain a better understanding of the spiritual and worshiping aspects that are involved in a holistic yoga practice. It's never been just about the breathing and the poses, you see. And definitely not about breaking your back to reach a perfect pretzel shape.
A recent article denouncing the possible health risks to practicing yoga used extreme examples that does, however, in the end, reflect how superficially people deal with yoga. Most people think that rabbit-food eating hippies or financially-well-off people engage in yoga--kind of an extremist view right there.
In my own experience at a locally, financially affluent location in Illinois, I've noticed materialism, social status, beauty, age, and socialization taking precedence over a thoughtful practice. I'm probably the weirdest person in my classes, staying to myself and deeply focusing during a pose rather than stretching provocatively next to a male student like I've seen other female students do. To be honest, all that pheromone action turns my stomach.
I do smile, laugh, and guffaw at my fellow student and instructor especially during funny stories, jokes, and funny situations. Though I can tell most people enjoy the more "cinematic" type of instructors versus the down-to-earth ones that I organically gravitate towards. Birds of a feather I guess.
Life is but a roadway we meander through. We sometimes pick up something shiny to take with us during a portion of our journey. Sometimes, it's nice to stop and look around to where other's paths have taken others.
In my path, I'm avoiding the $100 yoga bags and $98 sweat-wicking capris. I was watching a CNN video earlier, and saw an Indian man using a bath towel as his mat--practicality and function meet to facilitate spirituality. I love it.