Untouched by time in the middle of the South lay a swathe of land called the Bible Belt and in the buckle of that belt, known to some as the heart center, was a province devoted to church and family and tradition.
Into that province came a stranger and she brought them yoga. It attracted a small group who became like an island in the sea of the province. One woman designated the back room of her modest home as a yoga studio and declared it The Yoga Center. Not long after and spitting distance away, another tiny home no bigger than a room became the property of her friends who called it The Yoga Room.
And a society was created to teach the others about yoga and the society declared that yoga was good. The people had differences and arguments despite the love of yoga but the society and the teaching of yoga kept them together in practice and perhaps it was the circle of community apart from the others that kept them a family.
And there was no need to declare yoga space Sacred, Sanctioned, Sourced or Shiva, Hot or Cold or Works or Plus. There was no yoga market so there were no yoga names and there were no yoga clothes and there were no yoga games. Well, there were games but they were games humans play in the unavoidable way of a species tasked to figure it out. They were small games compared to what would later transpire.
Yoga was the religion or an adjunct to beliefs already held dear. It was a physical and spiritual practice done with intention to follow the steps provided by its creators. It suited the devout. It took itself seriously.
A decade later another stranger came to town. Though she did not know it, she would be the forerunner for something called Modern Yoga. She came from the East Coast and then the West Coast full of dance and fancy and hippy drenched yoga love and she wore flowing clothes to yoga.
The first stranger was gone on the dark wings of cancer. But her yogini daughter befriended the new stranger who was introduced by one who had just created something on the West coast called Power Yoga that would change the yoga world.
The island of yogis in the Bible Belt Sea were kinder than kind but some of them bristled at the stranger who muddied yoga with music and dance and merriment. They resented the intrusion, looked askance at the medium. They did not see the writing on the wall or maybe they did.
The stranger who came from the East Coast and then the West Coast had found a home amongst dancers. She had no dreams but to raise kids and share her passion but the island of yoga had successfully attracted the sea of the town and in a rare moment of synchronicity, it heard her music and her laughter and it stormed her doors.
Ten years later and yoga strangers would change towns all over the country. Yogis would be competitive and name their business and name themselves and open retail stores to create more wealth. They would add music and bands and videos. Keeping pace with consumption, yoga would become a bottomless pit.
The Bible Belt was no longer provincial. Business saw opportunity in a virgin ready, waiting to be delivered and devoured. A steely entrepreneur from afar looked at a map and judged that place to be the ripest in all of the country for a moneymaker called Hot Yoga. I know because she told me. It was the first time yoga would be sold for cold cash.
The Yoga Room had become the first school of teacher training. Who knows if the owners, long gone, knew what that training program would herald. Perhaps they were the first to grow big pockets from the dreams of zealous pioneers who wanted to make yoga their lives. Soon every studio in town would have its own teaching program. Soon every teacher would be in competition with the next and studios would mark themselves in name and battle lines.
It was rumored that the stranger from the East Coast and then the West Coast’s students wild with jealousy and greed finally threw a hood over her head, tossed her in the back of an Audi and hauled her away. With her gone from the light, a new empty room with an empty name would surely fill with their own students. Money can buy so many things. Some say she was never heard from again and in truth it seemed that way.
The Yoga Center became a holdout and laboratory for a quiet and tenacious group of traditionalists who once a week continue to sit at the feet of its original owner, a now 80 something matriarch who could still kick the ass of every yogi in the region when it comes to physical prowess. She carries the mantle of a thoughtful and truthful path.
The one who was harbinger of things to come appears in a ghostly transparency on Sunday mornings, harkening back to the place where yoga blossomed in her adopted town. In a little one room house untouched by time in the neighborhood where yoga was begotten; in that place still simply named The Yoga Room she teaches yoga while others are in church. Her solidity manifests as the music rises.
If you trust the storyteller, believe her that her evolution heralds another shift in the evolution of yoga. It is unfinished business becoming true right now.