This is personal. Yes, I hate yoga. It's one of those things that I try to explain to people and somewhere in the process of doing so, I sputter with rage, at which point, the person listening usually stops in order to dismiss me as a nonsensical anti-inner peace doofus. So here goes my final attempt to clarify my position without the rage part.
First, yoga as a philosophy and yoga as we know it today are two very different things. The original yoga philosophy dates back millions of years ago with Buddhist monks in Nepal. It's the simplified notion known today as mind over matter, but its practice is much more complex and painful. The principle is that your mind and spirit should be able to overcome any and all outlying forces surrounding it, and through this practice, find inner peace outside of your physical self. This is the principle of walking over hot coals without feeling pain, staying warm in a snowstorm with no jacket, staying cold in sweltering heat with no shade. It's endurance. It's overcoming outside forces through inner strength and discipline. This philosophy accepts pain as a natural and powerful force and encourages pain to be a part of one's daily life.
This has absolutely nothing to do with stretching or pretending to be a tree. Stretching, breathing, tree-posing are all good for you in their own way. But they are not yoga. The yoga that we know today has been whittled down, simplified, and packaged as part of a lifestyle brand. This lifestyle brand doesn't come cheap; it requires expensive top of line ethical clothing, large expensive studios, and weekly commitments to classes, classes and more classes.
Yoga brands have managed to create a need in society. This need has been spurred on by the idea of our hectic lifestyles and how disconnected we are from ourselves and nature. This is a need that could be met by simply taking a walk outside with your cell phone turned off. It doesn't require studio space, an instructor, a fancy mat made of bamboo, $80 seaweed pants, soft music and organic tea. Finding the disconnect is a choice and it's a matter of not allowing society pressure you into thinking you need things you don't or that you need to live a life you don't want to live.
Perhaps the most ironic part of this is the fact that many yogies tend to believe that they are doing just that by taking up yoga: making a choice to disconnect and reconnect with their inner self. But by buying into the yoga lifestyle which has been marketed so well to the public, you are not living an alternative life, you are conforming to exactly what the brands want you to do. And it's a lucrative business. So lucrative, in fact, that yoga has celebrity endorsements and has been seen as a hallmark of an ideal, vibrant California cool lifestyle. And that's another source of my frustration with it.
This isn't to say that the quest for inner peace is silly or useless. This is just to say that the yoga brand is probably not the best vehicle for achieving it. If inner peace comes truly from within, turn everything off for a few hours and reflect quietly. You might be surprised at what comes to you. And it won't be seaweed pants.