Yoga Needs Greater Balance and Less Flexibility, Author Argues

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Yoga instructor and social scientist Tom Pilarzyk argues in his recently-released book Yoga Beyond Fitness (Quest Books, Chicago) that yoga today is an unusual blend of ancient spiritual path from India and American commercialism, begging the question, "Is yoga merely fitness masquerading as spirituality?" Its evolution reflects the very nature of American culture and its incestuous relationship with business enterprise.

Yoga instructor and social scientist Tom Pilarzyk argues in his recently-released book Yoga Beyond Fitness (Quest Books, Chicago) that yoga today is an unusual blend of ancient spiritual path from India and American commercialism, begging the question, "Is yoga merely fitness masquerading as spirituality?" Its evolution reflects the very nature of American culture and its incestuous relationship with business enterprise.

An estimated 16 million Americans practice Yoga and spend roughly 6 billion dollars annually on classes, workshops, products, and services. On the one hand, yoga's widespread popularity means that more people are being exposed to the benefits it offers. And yet, yoga has expanded over the decades to become a full-fledged industry of the contemporary marketplace, with producers, sellers, and consumers outnumbering the spiritual teachers, healers, and devoted adepts.

Its double-edged development as a popular fitness workout and a path of spiritual liberation poses a unique dilemma for those sensitive to yoga's ancient roots. "As it morphs into physicality, fun and foolishness attracting more secular and fitness-driven consumers," says Pilarzyk, "industry leaders argue that more people now have a chance to explore its spirituality. But what is the inclusive spirituality inherent in the path and can yoga students 'get it' if more and more teachers only teach hatha yoga poses?" He wants to provide a resource for those just discovering Yoga and those who have practiced for a while and feel that there is a deeper meaning readily accessible but not directly evident.

Pilarzyk argues for restoration of yoga's transformative heart by showing how to bring greater attention to its more serious practice, both on and off the mat. His recent Quest publication, he says, "is both a sober wakeup call about how Yoga is being transformed and a hopeful, heartfelt tribute to its highest aspirations." Or as a December 2008 review of his work in Yoga Chicago Magazine concludes, "Ultimately, Pilarzyk's book is both a love letter to yoga and a plea to yoga's leaders."

He received his doctorate in the social sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has written on Eastern religions and yoga as well as on educational management, and has practiced daily yoga and meditation for over 20 years. Currently a college administrator, he has been a staff director for a national medical society as well as a market researcher which together shape his unique views on American yoga. With personal stories and testimonials from students, teachers, and other professionals, Pilarzyk delivers a guide for staying true to the essence of Yoga.

http://yogabeyondfitness.com

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Thomas Pilarzyk


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