What’s a “Yoga Vacation” and Why is Yoga Journal Anal Assaulting My Intellect?

Now, I know it’s sort of a cheap shot to spend any more than a wink on Yoga Journal. The mag is almost entirely dismissible, and unpacking it on any serious level borders on the absurd. HOWEVER (said with a monster head roll), what I like about YJ is that it provides a wide array of talking points for people interested in sizing up the whole commercial yoga scene.

On that note, let’s take a look at some of the language used in “Retreat to Paradise: 5 tips to help you plan your ideal yoga vacation” featured in the February 2013 issue of Yoga Journal. As an article it’s pretty standard YJ fare, offering potential tourists sage travel advice. Advice like “pack an umbrella,” “pick a location,” “think about the time of year you’d like to travel,” “decide if you want a friend to come,” and of course “find out how much your trip will cost ahead of time.” You know, the tough questions people are always afraid to ask. Ugh. God! Did f’ing Elmo write this?!

The low down on potty....

The low down on potty….

What interests me most, though, is when YJ begins pontificating on the means and meanings of actually going on a yoga vacation. As stated:

By removing yourself from your daily life and concerns, you deepen your practice. You set apart time and create space to renew your body and replenish your spirit. Plus, you are surrounded by like-minded souls who are on a similar path, part of a yoga tribe in a special setting.” [emphasis added]

Now, there’s a few ways to take this passage, and each one is, I think, a little problematic. On the one hand you could be all “engaged Buddhism” about it claiming…

“This is bullshit. Yoga and meditation is about engaging in the world, engaging in one’s daily life and concerns more fully. Fuck this spiritual escapism!”

On the other hand you might think,

“Yes, but traditionally, and even in contemporary practice, the idea of setting aside some time to be with one’s self in the early morning hours is considered absolutely integral, if not entirely necessary, to spiritual awakening.”

Both positions have their place. And yet, both would be assuming that the article had anything whatsoever to do with yoga practice.

As the title states, the article is not about “yoga,” but rather about something called an “ideal yoga vacation.” Although the piece interchanges this concept with the term “retreat,” there is little here that speaks to anything that might resemble the classical ashram model, particularly of the silent variety. (Though, admittedly, many of these “ashrams” are really just B&B’s with an earlier curfew). The term “retreat” is used almost explicitly as in “to retreat,” or “to remove oneself.” Which, as I often say, is perfectly fine, if that’s your thing. But, let’s call a spade a spade on this whacky Wednesday.

Now, I’ve done the whole live in a small village amongst “the people” thing, and have gained quite a bit from it. Sometimes, though, I like to get on the bus with a group of drunk Australians and listen to some tour guide make bad puns all day long. Obviously, if the situation allows for it, I’m gonna have that yoga practice of mine bagged and tagged before breakfast. But, to hell if I plan on making an entire vacation out of it!

Room for one more?

Room for one more?

Wikipedia defines a vacation as “a specific trip or journey, usually for the purpose of recreation or tourism.” The American Heritage College dictionary (my personal fav) defines it as “a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation, esp. one with pay granted to an employee” [emphasis mine, ’cause I love that part]. Personally, I don’t find yoga to be “pleasurable,” restful,” or “relaxing.” Rarely have I found encounters with blocked nadis and psycho-spiritual attic demons to be anything but “engaging,” to say the least. Of course, the effects of yoga may often lead to pleasure, rest, and relaxation. But, damn. Getting there ain’t no joke.

Which is all to say that, for me, any “vacation,” as it is typically defined, revolving around “yoga,” as I have experienced it, sounds like a hell of a lot of work. Personally, I’d rather just go on a sick vacation, tan myself into a cancerous oblivion, drool over gorgeous people, watch the sun set as I grill something from the left-hand path menu, and just try and drag my sorry self out of bed early enough the next morning  to practice yoga. That way I can have an excuse to repeat steps 1–4 all over again. All with the hope that by maintaining my practice on some humble level my sun-saturated Saturnalian self will retain some level of humility, respect, and genuine heart-full-ness to it.

Saturnalia-1024x691

To the baths!

17 comments

  1. “left-hand path menu”
    is that clever-speak for meat?

  2. “Personally, I don’t find yoga to be “pleasurable,” restful,” or “relaxing.” Rarely have I found encounters with blocked nadis and psycho-spiritual attic demons to be anything but “engaging,” to say the least. Of course, the effects of yoga may often lead to pleasure, rest, and relaxation. But, damn. Getting there ain’t no joke.”

    Nailed it.

    I’ve thought it was only me. The most memorable vacation I ever had (and I can count # of vacations on the fingers of one hand, did involve dancing .. oh, and when I was still allowed to drink (medical problems these days) …

  3. denise

    I cancelled my subscription. I felt like reading it was becoming akin to watching the Discovery or TLC. It used to be informative and interesting. Now it’s just Honey Boo Boo with better hair and bods.

  4. I cancelled my subscription. I felt like reading it was becoming akin to watching the Discovery or TLC. It used to be informative and interesting. Now it’s just Honey Boo Boo with better hair and bods.

  5. My experience of people on “yoga vacations” is unfortunately negative. Some of them have such deep-rooted issues and the false dream of a yoga retreat and doing hard-core yoga all day long will somehow clear them of it somehow brings out the worst in them instead which they then take out on the rest of the group. That, or you see them go in the total opposite direction on some bat-shit crazy bender on every level with no limits whatsoever. Drama Central.
    No thanks. if that’s what I want, I’ll go to Euro-trash hot spots like Ibizia or Bodrum instead and watch drunken rich Russians and horny Germans make fools of themselves, that’s more fun.

  6. Garuda

    What would a Buddhist be on vacation from?…Emptiness?

  7. :D

    Yoga Urinal, as I believe it’s now called.

    To be fair though, your pretext here seems a little thin. What’s wrong with taking some time away in a beautiful, peaceful location to do some sustained reflection in a supportive environment?

    • Oh, not a thing, :D. Just experimenting with thoughts and ideas about yoga and vacations and what is a this and what is a that and what sells for what and who goes to where? What you’re describing sounds like a fantastic get-away!

  8. I remember reading a blog by one Yogi E. and he as much as stated that there is a difference between a “yoga retreat” and a “yoga vacation”. At a yoga retreat, you do face down your dark shadows, you do test your limits (and limiting beliefs), you do stretch your boundaries and transcend. And THAT’S a lot of WORK …

    At a yoga vacation—on the other hand—you get to hang out on the beach … and he wrote as if really hanging out on the beach was a BAD thing …

  9. Hey, how come the lid cover is down for Baby David?

  10. Garuda

    A Yoga Vacation is a tranquil retreat, designed to sustain a marriage through the Superbowl

  11. Oh, I’m quoting Garuda. Frequently.

  12. Linda-Sama

    I tried booking a weekend retreat at a place where my own teacher has been conducting retreats for years. They told me they don’t book things that involve “yogis” anymore. I was confused. I said, yeah but my teacher still has his retreat at your facility and they told he’s the only one, he’s grandfathered in. When I asked what the problem was the administrator wouldn’t tell me anything other than “we’ve had problems with yoga people.”

    ’nuff said. wow. when the Catholics don’t even want ya…..! (the place is a former monastery!)

    • Greenpoint

      “we’ve had problems with yoga people”…I think that’s just awesome!

    • Greenpoint

      “we’ve had problems with yoga people…” I think that’s just awesome!

    • Yoga Whelp

      I make no secret of the fact that I am a practicing catholic and that I also enjoy yoga I have always found — despite the routine and utterly perfunctory claim of an “ecumenism” toward all religions — that American yoga’s rabid hostility toward anything that smacks of a Christian outlook is scarcely veiled. And really, why not? The Tantric and Christian views of the mind-body connection are entirely different. There’s no sense papering over these differences, though a healthy dialogue is long overdue.

      I was appalled to learn that a Catholic Church in my neighborhood here allowed local yogis to hold an inaugural ball in their parish. I called the church and said they might want to replace the Holy Water, or at least test it for urine? No yoga studio would ever permit a mass or even anything vaguely Christian to occur on its vaunted premises.

      All I can say is: I do hope the Church charged them out the ass. If I have anything to say about it – I’m a real wallflower – they will never be invited back/

    • Yoga Whelp

      Why are you surprised? Catholic monasteries – and the Catholic mystical and meditative traditions, and there are many – have nothing to do with anything yoga-related. They are sacred refuges of the kind that do not exist anywhere in the American yoga world – and probably never will. Catholics do donate to the plate at mass, but you may have noticed that Catholic priests do not actually charge for their sermons or hawk their priestly robes and sandals on the Internet. It’s possible that there are some gay priests that wear cosmetics. We’re not commercial whores, though.

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