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Lions Roar : March 2007
GO TO SNARF’S, a beach bum’s sandwich paradise, any day of the week and you’ll see a hip, fit crowd hanging on the side- walk outside Richard Freeman’s legendary Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. When one class ends, or just before another begins, a momentary social scene arises that any one of the advertisers in this magazine would die to spend five minutes with. We come for the yoga, sure, but we stay (outside, on the sidewalk) for the conversation, the phone numbers, the Friday-night plans. I’m a Buddhist. I call myself a Buddhist. And I practice yoga. I practice it not at all when I’m really busy, once or twice a week regularly, and other weeks maybe three or four times. But I don’t call myself a yogi. A yogi, I think, is an emaciated Indian with a painted face and long hair in full lotus doing some sort of rude trick with himself. But I do consider myself—and proudly—part of the yoga culture. So do my brothers and sisters my age (32) and younger. We like to go out. We like to work hard. We like to wear organic cotton and even hemp (Natural High, that is, not that hippie stuff ) and shop at our local Co-op or Whole Foods. We like to drink organic wine at art galleries and check out the other men and women pretending to check out the art. Yoga is spiritual, sure, in the way Buddhism is spiritual. It’s got niyamas and sutras and all sorts of things. But, by and large, 15.7 million Americans aren’t practicing yoga for it’s niyamas and sutras—we’re practicing yoga for its asanas (postures), vinyasas (movements), and calories (burned). We’re practicing it to stay limber, to meet girls, or (futilely) to get away from guys who are just trying to meet girls. We’re practicing it to have an hour or two a day when we aren’t in the vice of our burgeoning careers, on the treadmill that is our daily life. We’re young, we care about the future of the world, we eat organic, live sustain- ably, and have a host of rationalizations about why we drive an SUV along the way. So I’m a Buddhist. But if you asked me whether I thought yoga or buddhadharma was more important in the U.S., I’d have to think about it. For about half a second. Buddhism is to enlightened social action as hybrids are to ending global warming. It’s a nice thought, but it isn’t in and of itself going to reverse the rising tide. Yoga, on the other hand, is all social action. It’s outward facing. If you practice yoga—and I should know, in my line of work—you care not only about yoga but also about organics, sustainability in design and everyday life, medi- tation, the arts, “eco-fashion,” politics, and spending your dollars on independent, local businesses. And that’s a wonderful thing. For we’ve had three genera- tions in a row—X, Y, and now Z—who haven’t made enough of a mark to earn themselves a name. Young people are sup- posed to be about youthful idealism, even arrogance—“We can do it better than you, old man!”—but all we do is ski and Xbox and drink Red Bull mixed with vodka. So for those youthful idealists who dream of more than MTV Beach Par ty, yoga serves as a linchpin to a life with meaning. Whether you’re asking if your sushi is sustainably harvest- ed, drinking “for-here” so as not to waste a to-go cup, buy- ing as much organic as possible when dining or grocery shopping, meditating in the morning, yogaing at lunch, supporting independent businesses over chains—every moment of your day becomes an opportunity to practice mindfulness. You want to change the world and have a good time doing so? Get thee to a yoga class. ♦ WAYLON H. LEWIS is a “Dharma Brat”—a second-generation Western Buddhist—and the founder of elephant, a free eco/yoga/ dharma magazine based in Boulder. 66 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 Generation Y(og a) For people under thirty-five, says WAYLON LEWIS, yoga is an important expression of spiritual and social values. Generation “Y ” yoga buffs congregating between classes at the front door of Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado.