There’s a small yoga studio at the end of my street. I went there a few times some years ago, but it wasn’t the place for me. It’s changed hands since and I feel a little guilty that I’ve not supported it in any way by attending even the odd class. But I’m happy trotting across town to my usual place. My time is too limited to be yogically promiscuous.
And now there’s talk of another studio opening, on the next street along. It’s still at the phase of planning permissions and all the formal bureaucracy. In these early crucial stages of decision-making the local community email list has been running hot with opinions for and against. Arguments range from the economic viability of a yoga business, how sympathetic the architect’s plans are to the local area, the diminishment of the garden space and the likely impact on wildlife, opening hours and noise levels, parking provision…. Anything and everything really. Small communities have big opinions.
In among the amusingly positive characterizations of the average yogi as so peace-loving and respectful that no-one could possibly object to this initiative, there was one objection that really made me chuckle. Someone said it would all be OK provided there was no chanting! They said they’d lived next door to a yogi couple who used to chant in the garden and it had driven them to distraction. They said by analogy if a Christian sang hymns, or rather sang a single hymn repeatedly, for hours on end everything would think it was crazy and anti-social. Why was it different for a yogi?
I’m always self-conscious of my own home practice of chanting with the harmonium. Now even more so! It’s a combination of my lack of musicality, the fact that I’m non-traditional in style (not proper Vedic style, just a mish-mash of melodies I’ve picked up here and there), and the general discomfort I have about Hinduism and cultural appropriation and all that stuff… But now should I worry also that my neighbours are being driven crazy but too polite to call me on it? Perhaps they’ll contribute a comment to the community email list in some very British passive-aggressive form of communication??
Meantime I’m watching the progress of the planning permission application for the new studio and wondering what I feel about it. I can see pros and cons. Like a good yogi I look for balance of course 😉 . But the business of yoga is a very strange thing, I think. As I my own teaching increases steadily and organically, without any particular plan or ambition on my part, I find myself seeking a compromise between giving and receiving, and a changing awareness of how yoga teaching fits into other areas of my life (economic, personal, spiritual and so on). I feel privileged to have space to consider such questions.