Is Yoga a “Cult of Narcissism”?

by Christina on February 18, 2011

Had to share this great question and answer from Richard Freeman’s blog:

Ask the Experts: Yoga and Narcissism

How does one maintain a yoga practice without being obsessed about one’s body (looks, limitations, injuries, nutrition). More provocatively, could yoga be just a Cult of Narcissism? –Paul

Yoga could easily become a Cult of Narcissism, of course then it isn’t really yoga. Practice can be done as an internal, meditative discipline and in this way one is able to contemplate what is really important in relationships and in life. One can cultivate in addition to asana practice a pranayama practice, a meditation practice, and the study of various philosophies of contemplative schools.

This way one can break through one’s own narcissism and can watch their own mind construct and then let go of egotistical and selfish obsessions, as the mind returns to what gives true happiness and pleasure rather than deeper and deeper frustration. Concerns with health, injuries, and looks are natural, but need to be dovetailed into a broader and deeper intention to eliminate the very root of suffering and to find genuine happiness for oneself and others.

You also need sangha, feedback from others so that if you drift off into a realm of self indulgence, your friends can kindly let you know. You’ll also see that other people become obsessed with these same things; injuries for example. Everyone experiences injuries of some sort or another and within the context of a sangha. You begin to recognize that and you gain insight into the psychological and mechanical nature of injuries.    –Richard

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Misanthropic Yogini February 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Such a timely post! I was just thinking earlier this morning (while reading others’ practice blogs) about the tendency for yogis to go off the deep end into a place of raging narcissism. I was reminded to watch for that type of behavior in myself. Thanks for sharing this.

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Christina February 18, 2011 at 11:47 pm

I completely agree! I think it is very easy for yoga to make go a bit TOO far inside of our own heads and get a bit narcissistic.

We need to practice yoga so that it keeps us grounded and makes us function BETTER in society. This was some of my favorite advice from Richard at his teacher intensive (more here: http://prescribingyoga.blogspot.com/2010/06/function-better-in-society.html).

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Frank February 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

“Becoming a yoga teacher allows an insecure person to act spiritually superior.”

Check it out: http://www.newsweek.com/2011/02/20/bow-down-to-the-yoga-teacher.html

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Christina February 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm

wow what an interesting article – thanks for sending, Frank!!!!

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