I read this article earlier in the week detailing a troubling issue with people who seem nice all the time. The study found that people who were described as having agreeable personalities, those who want to please others by following orders, are generally considered nice people. In this case, the nice people followed orders to administer electric shocks to a stranger that knowingly would cause that person harm. Those that would ‘sacrifice their own popularity’ and were described as unfriendly, stuck up for themselves and refused to follow these orders.
Does this mean that one who practices Ashtanga Yoga in the traditional sense; following a set sequence, following orders of; no new postures on Tuesday, primary once a week, intermediate only after standing up from backbends, no stealing asana’s, etc. are nice and polite people who are morally less genuine towards others?
This is contrary to what the third limb is attempting to teach, this is not congruent with what the first 2 limbs of Ashtanga yoga are about. I would argue that those who practice Ashtanga yoga are far more antisocial. Those people who practice generally at 5AM are people who go against the grain, are not popular, and refuse to follow orders simply to please someone in charge. (This is only a perception. If one is already inside the Ashtanga bubble then there is an entire different level to go, but aren’t there always?)
Sometimes going against the grain, not following ‘traditional beliefs’ leads to popularity, Kino MacGregor, (read her confessions) had she tried to follow the ‘traditional’ path of a yoga teacher, I would not be sitting in Mysore today experimenting with my own path. I am forever grateful for her rebellion. This does not mean that we should all wear colorful short shorts, and turn each moment into an Instagram share, that would not be remaining authentic to our own individual paths.
Those who are genuine to themselves know how dark and deep this practice gets. Those who practice don’t have to wear white to fit in to a stereotype yoga personality showing how pure and genuine they are. They don’t need to fit into or uphold a mold dictated by societies popular belief, the moral fiber of their character is present in their absence of color, maybe their absence of self, absence of ego. Sometimes, it is the man or women in black who says Fuck it, goes against the grain and follows their mission and honors their path, who isn’t always nice or polite that will be truly genuine, and morally supportive of their fellow human. The original experiment conducted in the 60’s tried to explain how nice people can do terrible things. The experiment above evaluated these nice people and concluded that nice people are simply trying to follow orders and trying to be polite. Those with perceived antisocial, ‘disagreeable personalities’ are often more willing to sacrifice popularity for acting in a moral and just way towards other people.
Yoga asana may be gaining popularity in the west but it is far from the normal, standard psychological school of fitting in. To the misfits, rejects, outcasts of society, rebels, those who have a voice, thank you for not being ‘nice’ it is too vanilla of a word anyway.