If Yoga Culture Were B-Boy Culture

If popular yoga culture were B-Boy culture (later dubbed “break-dancing” by the media), than this video would represent where we are at currently in the celebrified abyss that is contemporary commercial yoga. Simply replace “break-dancing” and “break-dancers” with “yoga” and “yogi/nis” and you end up with a spot-on documentation of what’s going on in the yoga scene today.

Remember. This video is about yoga:

What’s also great is that if you ignore all the commercial flabbery, keep to the practice, and let mainstream commercial interest and nomenclature fade, you’ll find out that behind all the muck this was (that is, you were) slowly and steadily growing:

Just as every generation believes their own to be the last, so too does every commercially viable fad assume its own permanence. However, in cases of commercialization, the saying has never been more true: “This too shall pass.”

The only question is: What will remain?

We’ve got an idea.


  1. Erica

    Thanks…. I needed to hear that

  2. Yoga is currently in an environment of unabashed kyriarchy (bring on Briohny, bring on Tiffany, bring on Meghan, bring on all the Cirque du Soleil rejects, while you are at it) under a guise of spirituality. I am into dance now, more than so in years (partially out of yoga.) Treating yoga like the breakdancing of the 20teens causes more defections from yoga than they attract students to yoga.

    THAT teacher doing THAT pose on that P.R. oriented website or postcard is the one for you and your fantastical rewritten history of the breakdance classes you were invited to partake in … a couple decades ago … or whatever it is that makes you. (who has to probably be a lot younger than yours truly), objectively, NOT Briohny, Tiffany, Meghan, et al … and these teachers (who have to earn a living) might flatter you, or be obnoxious or anything in between if you show up at their class, mostly because of the commercialism … [masochists love to be taught by obnoxious teachers, so it’s not so farfetched …]

    Like that young kid says in the first video, breakdancing HURTS …

    • Linda-Sama

      yoga that is not the “celebrified abyss that is contemporary commercial yoga” is out there if you search for it. there are plenty of teachers like me who have given up on teaching weekly classes at studios, who rent small spaces or church basements or who teach out of their houses as I do and don’t care about reaching the masses, they let people find them.

  3. Bryan

    “With each new hit, the urban edges get slicker.”

  4. Just so you know, the name had purposely been changed from Yoga Spanda ….

  5. TC

    misc. thoughts:
    -Thankyou for this.
    -I’ve always wanted to be a breakdancer.
    -The term Commercial Flabbery is stuck in my brain and I sort of love it.
    -And. IMHO Dance IS yoga anyway (the Natya Shastra, a treatise on classical Indian dance is sometimes thought of as a fifth Veda!). And literally takes the form of asana sometimes http://wordoflifeindia.org/images/c59.jpg

  6. @ Carol, no shortage of bakasana or adho mukha vrksasana by a practitioner here and there in one of the 5 Rhythms dance based movement classes I go to…. ☺

  7. I think this is a really interesting argument and of course draws my attention as the creator of Breakti (yes formerly Yoga Spanda)… The thing is that despite the fact that breakin’ (I prefer this term because it’s not just b-boy culture but also includes women – as well as indirectly implies that breakers are more than boys and girls but grown men and women) has shifted from its roots due to commercialism and general evolution (or arguably de-evolution in some cases) of music, the roots themselves are still there AND WILL ALWAYS BE THERE. People still practice the traditional styles and then innovate on them in both yoga and breakin. I studied breakin and street dance styles with traditionalists through and through and have studied yoga with traditionalists as well, strictly Iyengar and strictly Ashtanga, etc. I have also studied yoga and dance with non-traditionalists, innovators, and those who are commercially successful, and sometimes walked away jaded or saddened by the alchemy of mediocrity, but at other times been inspired because they are in fact doing something really amazing with their exploration of the practice.
    It’s funny because I studied with some of the people in the very movies Breakin’ and Wild Style. I would never call myself a breaker anymore because I don’t practice it outside of my own personal training, nor do I compete anymore, but it is a PRACTICE, and a way of life for many I know. My own teacher is 42 and still breakin, still practicing, still innovating. He, like all of his peers, has had to hustle hard to make a living. Some of his peers were extremely successful and thus often dubbed “sell-outs” by others who were less successful. Others with immense talent have remained on the underground circuit as a matter of choice or circumstance. It’s probably true that some people did less than honest things to get to the top, but the bottom line for all the dancers I know is that it is HARD to make a living (no different from yoga, although a different playing field). It is always a challenge to mix a true personal practice with a need to eat and put a roof over your head, and hustling is necessary to live on what you love, unless you come from money. The outcome of this marriage of hustle and practice is sometimes beautiful, sometimes very damaging, as we have seen in breakin culture.
    The same can certainly be said for yoga, and in this free market economy where yoga clothing companies rake in millions and teachers struggle to scrape by, it is hard not to see the comparisons between the commercialism of hip hop/street culture and that of yoga.
    What I warn against, however, is the absolute discrediting of commercialism. After all, it is the free market that has inspired so many to bring yoga to the far reaches of this country. Small towns that never heard of yoga 10 years ago now have studios. People of all walks of life are practicing yoga and that’s a great thing. The same could be said for hip hop culture. While there is a sad story line in many ways of the commercialism of hip hop, it is now an integral part of American culture. I think it is very powerful that a way of life that came from the streets of the South Bronx (and frankly from all over the streets of America) now has a voice in popular culture. That voice is often strewn with negative images and has caught a bad rap many a time, but it is there, and it gives rise to people who would never have known about hip hop exploring its roots, its lineage, its culture in a very real way. That is a beautiful thing.
    In closing, I’d love to share the innovations of my own teacher, Raphael Xavier. He has been breakin his whole life, he’s not from the Boogie Down Bronx, but from Delaware, and he learned about breakin from TELEVISION on Soul Train for the first time, he took up the practice initially on his own because he was so moved by what he saw, and now his whole life has been shaped by it.
    This class is a serious practice. It is like nothing you’ve ever experienced and he created it out of his own lifetime of experience and personal struggles. Truth may not happen often in popular culture, but it is often inspired by it.

    Will try to embed the video but if it doesn’t work, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-CH4Xqtcho

  8. Look forward to your reply, TB. Posted it on my blog as well.

    • Hey, Anya. Thanks again for the thoughtful comment. I reread what you wrote, and really, I don’t think I have much to say. I think we’re pretty much on the same page here. At least close enough that I don’t feel the need to bust out a monster retort. The post we put up was meant to suggest that irregardless of commercial interest, which is always a waning/waxing interest, if the tradition and it’s roots are strong, the tradition continues, and usually blossoms into something quite impressive. Innovation, from my perspective at least, is neither a thing to embrace nor shun, as it is an inevitable happenstance of simply being alive and coming into contact with ideas, practices, etc. Which is to say, a “thing” (yoga, for example) that comes in contact with another “thing” (a human, for example) will be altered based on the quality of the interaction.

      I suppose there might be some disagreement between us regarding whether or not “commercialism” is by its nature a good or bad thing, but that actually feels like a very un-fun conversation to have in a comments room, with few gains to be had in the end.

      I’d also probably take issue with your use of the term “free market” as I don’t think there really is such a thing. This is especially apparent to me when I include race/class/gender/etc. and all the inequalities and uneven levels of access marginalized communities have to goods and ideas into the mix. But, again, perhaps this is for another time.

      As far as our piece and “intent,” if there really was such a thing, I’d say we were attempting to show parallels between how breakin’ (a term I also prefer) was represented back to a commercial audience, and how it was a fitting portrayal for the current state of mainstream yoga pop culture.

      Also, I too have always had a slight interest in how many of the postures/asanas/freezes/etc. were shared among yoga practitioners and b-girls/boys. And, having spent enough time sitting on gymnasium floors watching battles go down, the similarity between break battling and one’s own person battle against the self, has never been lost on me.

      If yre down with talking further, perhaps you’d be into a Q&A with The Babarazzi. Let me/us know.

      • Would love to do a Q&A! I think there is a lot more that could be said well in person… I agree with what you say about free market and I’d love to talk to you more about the connections I’ve made between the practices. Thanks for providing the forum!


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