use your yoga voice

When you walk into a yoga class, there is usually someone in the front of the room telling you all sorts of things to do with your body, your breath, and hopefully your mind. Sometimes they’re helpful and these things make sense, other times you’re sitting there scratching your head wondering what in the heck this person just said.

Some things yoga teachers are known for:

  • talking like you’re a cuddly baby who has pooped themselves (when you hear it, you just know).
  • talking like you’re a dog that needs coaxing back into the house (It’s okay, just breathe, take a deep breath and keep breathing, good job!)
  • talking like you’re in preschool and you need special attention and story time to understand what it means to raise your arms or something silly. (Now when you lift your arms up, make them straight like they’re poles you’re holding little flags at the end of– oops your pole is bendy! Make it straight!).
  • yelling at you to do something they want you to do. (STAY IN THE ROOM!)
  • using anatomical terms that most students don’t understand (press the femur bones back into the hip socket.)
  • using language that sounds like a flower threw up in their mouth. (melt your anahata chakra and get in tune with the flow of your muladhara chakra vibration)
  • explaining postures using strange euphemisms and movements (spiral the thighs away from each other and melt your heart down toward the floor)

It’s nothing personal, if the high pitched yoga teacher voice does it for you, awesome. Personally, I get instantly annoyed and want to leave the class. But that’s irrelevant. 🙂

The point is that there’s a voice that you’re supposed to have. It’s yoga and it seems like when the voice is yoga the shits, fucks, screws, sucks, and all other theoretically nasty words are supposed to be left out of the conversation. If you say anything bad, you’re breaking the yoga rules.

Words are powerful things that can affect you deeply and profoundly. I make it a point to say “silly” instead of “stupid.” I make it a point to say “dislike” instead of “hate.” I still say “fuck” but I’m not going to choose words that seem benign (stupid) when they aren’t. Fuck is fuck. You can’t make it better or worse– it’s fuck. Stupid is socially acceptable but really mean. You can make this better with silly.

Sure saying “fuck” in a yoga class is probably not your first choice word on the mat. I get that. I do think, however, that limiting your vocabulary based on what’s socially acceptable and “yogic” (as defined by whom, really?) is playing into a limiting paradigm. The word “cunt” used to mean goddess until it became socially unacceptable to use it at all. Words are always first derogatory and then they just get silenced all together. And then you’re left with the dominant cultural ideas, culturally sanitized verbiage, prevailing norms, values, and vision that may or may not be yours. A view of the world that may fundamentally disagree with your view of the world and yourself is now the filter through which you define your entire existence.

I am generally referred to as a female or a woman. Do I really feel like, as a bringer of human life, as science has proven that we all begin as “fe”male, that I am an extension of the default “male?” NO! I disagree. What is the alternative? Some ridiculous misspelling of the words in question that when pronounced still sound frustratingly similar to the original abomination of womanhood (womyn)? Is the alternative to refer to myself as some as-yet undetermined word describing the feminine?

I think this little tango of how to refer to myself as the empowered goddess that I am, sucks. And while there isn’t the same level of compelling argument that can be made for saying “screw” or “sucks,” there is a compelling argument that can be made for your voice altogether. I can say that I am dissatisfied with the lack of regard given to feminine individuality and contribution to the male culture. I can reject the “prim and proper” paradigm that was placed on women from a patriarchal culture that in a great double standard allows boys to spew fart jokes and all forms of crude into the consciousness or choose to be “proper” with little concern for which they prefer. If I just say that sucks, I’m acting in a way that is disrespectful? It seems like I’m being limited through my speech by a paradigm that supports a greater level of social inequity than anyone cares to acknowledge with yoga or without.

If yoga is about evolution, self-development and the like, then shouldn’t there be implicit justification for speaking directly and transcending paradigms put in place against your greatest expression and evolution? Even should the language be somewhat offensive or crass by cultural standards, aren’t we at a point in this lifetime and history of the earth where we are looking to transcend outdated paradigms and standards that no longer function?

I fully understand the power of words and that is why I stand by them. I do not think that you should censor you desire to speak words no matter their level of social acceptability. Daily we use words that are demeaning– she, female, woman– without even a second thought to the word. By saying woman it’s not considered the word itself says woman is an extension of man (the root of the word) in a culture that objectifies and undervalues women. Saying woman is also saying “person who makes less than a man does per hour, person that gives birth, person that has higher health insurance costs for “risk” of pregnancy, person with anatomical differences to men, person excluded from equal rights legislation, …” There are many political and personal issues intertwined with being a woman or female or she which makes the language so frustrating! What can you call yourself? A cunt? A bitch? A slut? A whore?

So while I understand that hearing words seemingly crass is unpleasant, I also think hearing loaded words that are considered benign and standard is even more unpleasant. Being called a woman seems inappropriate for who and what a woman really is. I take more offense to the idea that the only manner by which I can define myself is through oppressive language or inaccurate depictions.

Using language others deem is “inappropriate” seems hypocritical in comparison to using words with origins and meanings that are disempowering. Where is the appropriate language? Does it make a difference if you use “crass” language if you buy into a paradigm that seeks to elevate one group of people above another by silencing their ascension to equality– through usage like masculine defaults, masculine root words and such?

Are you using your yoga voice when you say one thing about non-harming, truthfulness, and melting your heart while you still use a verbal system of speaking that is based out of harm, lies, and closing the hearts and minds of millions if not billions? Does it matter if you maintain a sing-song voice when you do it?

I think your yoga voice should be authentic. I do not believe that authenticity stems from a language that seeks to suppress others through its use of words and the lack thereof. I think that despite its crass nature, using words that are expressive of truth are the words of an authentic voice. Trying to silence the voice speaking from a place of verbal neutrality is silencing the true voice of yoga. How can we say we have a yoga voice if the words we speak harm through their ignorant usage and complicit acceptance of a distorted reality (avidya)?

I think it’s shitty.
And it sucks.
So screw it all.

With quiet reflection,

Sarah

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