Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

The Bait and Switch


Bait and Switch

the action (generally illegal) of advertising goods that are an apparent bargain, with the intention of substituting inferior or more expensive goods.

“a bait-and-switch scheme” –Google

Sometimes the switch is done by others, and sometimes, we do it to ourselves. Instead of going higher up the ladder of yoga, we switch to something that will keep us in the comfortable realm of lateral movement.  Just like lateral movement in the corporate world, we get a different job but we are actually still in the same place.  We go from student to yoga teacher but we are still afraid of death. We go from wine to kombucha but we still feel unworthy of love. We go from the board room to the soup kitchen but we still don’t know who we are.  We feel good about the bargain we are getting, and indeed lateral movement can still have a powerful effect, but it still leaves us in the realm of suffering that yoga is here to get us out of.

We can say , “I am a better person”  which can mean anything because it is based on comparison. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hang out with someone who is just a step above Charles Manson.  Maybe I am better then I was before, but again, where am I starting from? Yoga is not simply becoming a better person.  “Person” is something we have built using impermanent concepts and beliefs. Yoga is the ability to see beyond the idea of person to the unchanging soul.

Like in the corporate world, the yoga industry benefits from you staying exactly the way you are.  If you change, they lose you as a customer.  So they are happy to keep you in the realm of lateral movement.  When I first started yoga, the bait, which was the physicality, was supposed to lead to the spiritual. For instance,  get people interested in asana then talk to them about meditation. I don’t see that happening. What I see happening is that someone ups the ante of sensuality.  “Basic asana” to arm balancing. Warm yoga to crazy hot. Student to teacher. Primary series to second series to third.  Practicing in a studio to retreat centers.  Hometown to Mysore, India.  Authorization to certification.  Champion to Lululemon.  Aldi to Whole Foods.  Yoga has been booming in the West for sometime now. There should be more than enough people to now have well attended meditation, pranayama, Yoga Sutra etc classes as a regular thing on yoga studio schedules.  The UN says that over 2 billion people worldwide practice yoga. We should have meditation centers on every other block.  Because, if the bait and switch from physicality to spirituality was really working, that would be the result. Its not because it is not working.

 We bait and switch yoga practice for yoga community drama.  Yes, issues should be discussed but issues should never be mistaken for yoga. The issues were not created by yoga. They were created by human beings. So why do we stop talking about yoga?  Why do we stop doing yoga? The issues should not overshadow yoga because yoga is the eradication of those issues. Name one issue, in the yoga world, that wouldn’t be fixed by Yamas and Niyamas? If anything, we should do even more yoga when the community is troubled. Stopping yoga is like going to to the doctor and saying, “this treatment is helping me, but I am sad, so I am going to stop taking it.”

Yoga brings us to a new path. One that will change our lives.  A voice whispers to our hearts that there is another way of walking in this world.  Our hearts then tell us to open up, let down our guards and step into the unknown.  Then the the Klesha of  Abhinivesha, clinging to life or fear of death, comes in. Stepping off our current path feels like death, and indeed, it is. It is death to the comforting beliefs that keep us from being truly free. Until we deal with our fears of lose, we will always have this feeling of death when making major changes in our lives. The path of yoga is here to help with this. Through a daily ritual of surrender, self study and disciplining our minds, we can overcome the fear of change. We can then transform life from a battle ground for suffering and pain to a haven for grace, love and freedom.


Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.


  • Bill

    An interesting observation… and true. Ultimately, yoga is a solitary pursuit, I think. A teacher can get one started, but the real work has to be done alone by studying The Yoga Sutras and learning to apply them in our daily lives. I do like your blog. Thanks!

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