So with the start of National Yoga Month, I was drawn to thoughts of how exciting it is to have a whole month dedicated to increasing awareness and sharing the practice of yoga. Of course, my ever-questioning mind soon led me to thoughts of how a thousands-of-years old practice has achieved the distinction, in its adoptive West, of having an entire month, of essentially marketing, dedicated to it. Further contemplation began to lead me down a slippery slope from which I was struggling to even reach the keyboard to write this.
I did pull myself up to ask exactly how much of a distinction it is to have September be designated as National Yoga Month, and a quick Google search revealed that NYM also shares this "distinction" with:
National Chicken Month
National Honey Month
National Mushroom Month
National Papaya Month
National Potato Month
National Rice Month
Whole Grains Month
Classical Music Month
National Piano Month
National Courtesy Month
Fair Trade Month
Library Card Sign-Up Month
National Preparedness Month
National Fruit and Veggies Month
National Mind Mapping Month
International Strategic Thinking Month
That's hardly the full list, there are several more awareness organizations who share the month of September as their national month.
I was, then, struck by this particular commemorative month, which I came across almost by accident: National Shameless Self-Promotion Month.
Yes. It exists, and it too happens to be September.
Well, isn't that interesting? I'm sure it's completely coincidental that it falls in the same month as NYM. Interesting that I found it just now, while contemplating the marketing aspect of NYM.
This little nugget of information brings me to a question every yoga teacher struggles with at one time or another but usually early on in their teaching. The conundrum for yoga teachers is this: how does one go about promoting their offerings while remaining in line with yogic principles? In other words, self-promotion can be closely aligned with ego (and other not so nice qualities), yet if you don't promote how will anyone know that you are out there with knowledge and skills to share?
As a mini-aside, it's not only the West associating seemingly un-yogic activities with the practice of yoga. Competitive yoga (yes, such a thing also exists, if you weren't aware.) originated in India approximately 2000 years ago; the current form of competition began 200 years ago - and, also in case you didn't know, Bikram was a competitive yogi1, who won the National India Yoga Championship for three consecutive years, until BKS Iyengar suggested he retire to give others a chance.
Back to NYM, during the month of September, tons of studios and teachers offer one week of free yoga, for new students. Maybe it's not exactly seva (selfless service) but it is giving and something of an energy exchange - the offering of their gift will probably later be repaid by more/new students registering for classes. Energy exchange is a balance. Yoga can help create balance (literally and otherwise).
Don't get me wrong, I will try to spread awareness of yoga in a heartbeat. I recommend starting a yoga practice (to those who don't have one) any chance I get. Does the world need yoga? My answer is a resounding, yes!
I do think we (everyone!) can share yoga without compromising our values, and in my further discovery I came across a well-written piece by Dan Charnas on just that. Because it's been iterated before (and more eloquently than I), I will simply share this abridged section from the article. The full article is here
"If we think of marketing as a spiritual practice in tune with our yoga, then we can distill a few key principles:
Use the yamas and niyamas. The guiding principles of yoga found in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra [...]
Don't miss practice. Teach for a long time, practice yoga every day, and don't expect dividends anytime soon [...]
Have a beginner's mind.
Know your audience, know yourself. Self-study is one of the yamas. Know your own intention [...]"
Teachers and students (but aren't we all students?) alike can put this into practice. So, in the spirit of National Yoga Month energy exchange, grab that free week of yoga or Groupon or Intro package from your local studio, and let's create some balance.
1. This, of course, is hardly surprising.