Yoga Body, Yoga Spirit: Can We Have Both?

It is simple to grasp why John Good friend extremely recommends the guide Yoga Physique: The Origins of Trendy Posture Yoga “for all honest college students of yoga.” As a result of, Mark Singleton’s thesis is a nicely researched expose of how trendy hatha yoga, or “posture apply,” as he phrases it, has modified inside and after the apply left India.

However the guide is principally about how jain yoga remodeled in India itself within the final 150 years. How yoga’s fundamental, trendy proponents-T. Krishnamacharya and his college students, Okay. Patttabhi Jois and B. Okay. S. Iyengar-mixed their homegrown hatha yoga practices with European gymnastics.

This was what number of Indian yogis coped with modernity: Slightly than remaining within the caves of the Himalayas, they moved to town and embraced the oncoming European cultural tendencies. They particularly embraced its extra “esoteric types of gymnastics,” together with the influential Swedish strategies of Ling (1766-1839).

Singleton makes use of the phrase yoga as a homonym to elucidate the primary aim of his thesis. That’s, he emphasizes that the phrase yoga has a number of meanings, relying on who makes use of the time period.

This emphasis is in itself a worthy enterprise for college students of every thing yoga; to understand and settle for that your yoga might not be the identical sort of yoga as my yoga. Merely, that there are lots of paths of yoga.

In that regard, John Good friend is completely proper: that is by far essentially the most complete research of the tradition and historical past of the influential yoga lineage that runs from T. Krishnamacharya’s humid and scorching palace studio in Mysore to Bikram’s artificially heated studio in Hollywood.

Singleton’s research on “postural yoga” makes up the majority of the guide. However he additionally devotes some pages to stipulate the historical past of “conventional” yoga, from Patanjali to the Shaiva Tantrics who, primarily based on a lot earlier yoga traditions, compiled the hatha yoga custom within the center ages and penned the well-known yoga textual content books the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Geranda Samhita.

It’s whereas doing these examinations that Singleton will get into water a lot hotter than a Bikram sweat. Thus I hesitate in giving Singleton a straight A for his in any other case glorious dissertation.

Singleton claims his venture is solely the research of contemporary posture yoga. If he had caught to that venture alone, his guide would have been nice and obtained solely accolades. However sadly, he commits the identical blunder so many trendy hatha yogis do.

All yoga kinds are tremendous, these hatha yogis say. All homonyms are equally good and legitimate, they declare. Besides that homonym, which the cultural relativist hatha yogis understand as an conceited model of yoga. Why? As a result of its adherents, the traditionalists, declare it’s a deeper, extra non secular and conventional from of yoga.

This sort of rating, thinks Singleton, is counterproductive and a waste of time.

Georg Feuerstein disagrees. Undoubtedly essentially the most prolific and well-respected yoga scholar exterior India in the present day, he’s a kind of traditionalists who holds yoga to be an integral practice-a physique, thoughts, spirit apply. So how does Feuerstein’s integral yoga homonym differ from the non-integral trendy posture yoga homonym introduced to us by Singleton?

Merely put, Feuerstein’s exceptional writings on yoga have centered on the holistic apply of yoga. On the entire shebang of practices that conventional yoga developed over the previous 5000 plus years: asanas, pranayama (respiration workouts), chakra (refined vitality facilities), kundalini (non secular vitality), bandhas (superior physique locks), mantras, mudras (hand gestures), and so forth.

Therefore, whereas posture yoga primarily focuses on the bodily physique, on doing postures, integral yoga consists of each the bodily and the refined physique and entails an entire plethora of bodily, psychological and non secular practices hardly practiced in any of in the present day’s trendy yoga studios.

I’d not have bothered to convey all this up had it not been for the truth that Singleton talked about Feuerstein in a essential gentle in his guide’s “Concluding Reflections.” In different phrases, it’s strategically essential for Singleton to critique Feuerstein’s interpretation of yoga, a type of yoga which occurs to just about coincide with my very own.

Singleton writes: “For some, corresponding to best-selling yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein, the trendy fascination with postural yoga can solely be a perversion of the genuine yoga of custom.” Then Singleton quotes Feuerstein, who writes that when yoga reached Western shores it “was regularly stripped of its non secular orientation and reworked into health coaching.”

Singleton then accurately factors out that yoga had already began this health change in India. He additionally accurately factors out that health yoga shouldn’t be apposed to any “non secular” enterprise of yoga. However that isn’t precisely Feuerstein’s level: he merely factors out how the bodily train a part of trendy yoga lacks a deep “non secular orientation.” And that could be a essential distinction.

Then Singleton exclaims that Feuerstein’s assertions misses the “deeply non secular orientation of some trendy bodybuilding and girls’s health coaching within the harmonial gymnastics custom.”

Whereas I feel I’m fairly clear about what Feuerstein means by “deeply non secular,” I’m nonetheless undecided what Singleton means by it from simply studying Yoga Physique. And that makes an clever comparability tough. Therefore why did Singleton convey this up in his concluding arguments in a guide dedicated to bodily postures? Absolutely to make some extent.

Since he did make some extent about it, I want to reply.

In line with Feuerstein, the aim of yoga is enlightenment (Samadhi), not bodily health, not even non secular bodily health. Not a greater, slimmer physique, however a greater likelihood at non secular liberation.

For him, yoga is primarily a non secular apply involving deep postures, deep research and deep meditation. Despite the fact that postures are an integral a part of conventional yoga, enlightenment is feasible even with out the apply of posture yoga, indisputably confirmed by such sages as Ananda Mai Ma, Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and others.

The broader query in regards to the aim of yoga, from the perspective of conventional yoga is that this: is it doable to achieve enlightenment by the apply of health yoga alone? The reply: Not very simple. Not even possible. Not even by practising the sort of health yoga Singleton claims is “non secular.”

In line with integral yoga, the physique is the primary and outer layer of the thoughts. Enlightenment, nonetheless, takes place in and past the fifth and innermost layer of the refined physique, or kosa, not within the bodily physique. Therefore, from this explicit perspective of yoga, health yoga has sure limits, just because it can not alone ship the specified outcomes.

Similarily, Feuerstein and all us different traditionalists (oh, these darn labels!) are merely saying that in case your aim is enlightenment, then health yoga most likely will not do the trick. You’ll be able to stand in your head and do energy yoga from daybreak to midnight, however you continue to will not be enlightened.

Therefore, they designed sitting yoga postures (padmasana, siddhasana, viirasana, and so forth) for such explicit functions. Certainly, they spent extra time sitting nonetheless in meditation over shifting about doing postures, because it was the sitting practices which induced the specified trance states of enlightenment, or Samadhi.

In different phrases, you may be enlightened with out ever practising the numerous hatha postures, however you most likely will not get enlightened by simply practising these postures alone, irrespective of how “non secular” these postures are.

These are the sorts of layered insights and views I sorely missed whereas studying Yoga Physique. Therefore his criticism of Feuerstein appears fairly shallow and kneejerk.

Singleton’s sole give attention to describing the bodily apply and historical past of contemporary yoga is complete, most likely fairly correct, and fairly spectacular, however his insistence that there are “deeply non secular” facets of contemporary gymnastics and posture yoga misses an essential level about yoga. Specifically, that our our bodies are solely as non secular as we’re, from that house in our hearts, deep inside and past the physique.

Yoga Physique thus misses an important level many people have the fitting to assert, and with out having to be criticized for being conceited or mean-minded: that yoga is primarily a holistic apply, through which the bodily physique is seen as the primary layer of a collection of ascending and all-embracing layers of being-from physique to thoughts to spirit. And that in the end, even the physique is the dwelling place of Spirit. In sum, the physique is the sacred temple of Spirit.

And the place does this yoga perspective hail from? In line with Feuerstein, “It underlies the complete Tantric custom, notably the colleges of hatha yoga, that are an offshoot of Tantrism.”

In Tantra it’s clearly understood that the human being is a three-tiered being-physical, psychological and non secular. Therefore, the Tantrics very skillfully and thoroughly developed practices for all three ranges of being.

From this historical perspective, it is vitally gratifying to see how the extra non secular, all-embracing tantric and yogic practices corresponding to hatha yoga, mantra meditation, respiration workouts, ayurveda, kirtan, and scriptural research are more and more changing into integral options of many trendy yoga studios.

So, to reply the query within the title of this text. Can now we have each a limber physique and a sacred spirit whereas practising yoga? Sure, in fact we will. Yoga shouldn’t be both/or. Yoga is sure/and. The extra holistic our yoga apply becomes-that is, the extra non secular apply is added to our posture practice-the extra these two seemingly reverse poles-the physique and the spirit-will mix and unify. Unity was, in any case, the aim of historical Tantra.

Maybe quickly somebody will write a guide about this new, ever-growing homonym of worldwide yoga? Mark Singleton’s Yoga Physique shouldn’t be such a guide. However a guide about this, lets name it, neo-traditional, or holistic type of yoga would definitely be an fascinating cultural exploration.

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