Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I’m reading a book called Yoga Body: The Origins of the Modern Posture Practice by a guy named Mark Singleton, who, in addition to teaching Eastern religion at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, is an advanced practitioner of several forms of yoga, including Ashtanga and Iyengar; so I’d say he probably knows pretty well of what he speaks.

And what he speaks of, essentially, is that the well-known asana (or posture) practice that most people think of when they think of yoga isn’t, after all, twenty-five hundred or even ten-thousand years old, as many yoga teachers and aficionados claim, but rather, was developed in the late 19th and early to mid 20th century as an outgrowth of a nationalist movement in India to promote health and “physical culture” among the country’s citizenry.

Consequently, all the bending and stretching we do in our yoga practice isn’t so much connecting us to an ancient esoteric tradition as it is to something like a modern system of calisthenics. Even the series taught by my guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, was his own 20th century innovation designed specifically for teaching large classes of young boys in a gymnasium-like setting.

Of course, this makes the entire endeavor of getting up every morning to bend and jump around even more absurd; not only is it no longer the favored path to enlightenment of Lord Krishna or whomever; it’s now something more akin to the daily exercise regimen of Jack LaLanne!

Can testimonials from Juice Daddy be far behind?

I suppose this knowledge could make me less excited about my planned trip to India in January, but, surprisingly, it doesn’t. I’ve always been skeptical about the metaphysics that go along with yoga practice. My dedication to it hasn’t depended upon its liberating me from the otherwise endless cycle of death and rebirth; rather, I do it because it feels right in this life now. And even a 100 year-old tradition can do that.


Post a Comment

<< Home