The Blog title poster above forms part of a series of posters I made up for a book, 'Krishnamacharya's original Ashtanga Yoga', based on the public domain translation from the Tamil edition of Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda (Mysore 1934) . It's available for free on my Free Downloads page above. There is a print edition on Lulu.com ( Note: It's best to buy it in print from Lulu as I can reduce the price down almost to cost rather than on Amazon where I have less control of pricing.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

What yoga is and What yoga isn't, go there at your peril

Our friend Megan of Damn Good Yoga got fired from a yoga studio over a disagreement on what yoga is or isn't. How bloody absurd is that, shame on you people. Read about it HERE.

And my comment on her post.

'Sorry you got fired Meagan, how ridiculous, hope you find somewhere more enlightened to teach and share your obvious talents and integrity.
Of course I would perhaps have got fired from an ashtanga shala too for arguing that Ashtanga is just asana also and from elsewhere for disagreeing with your good self that yoga is a breathing practice (in the Krishnamacharya tradition of asana perhaps that doesn't mean that yoga per se is) and for disagreeing too with the commonly held belief that yoga is a devotional practice (It's Samkhya, epistemic not theistic - devotional was added later it seems).


I think you were right the first time, yoga is a meditational practice, everything else is periphery...in my view.


Saying what yoga is or isn't is a minefield, how foolish that they weren't open to reflection on and questioning of their own views on what is and isn't..... now that IS yoga.'


Sadly the blogosphere too is full of highly inflammatory posts and comments, quite vitriolic at times, on what is and isn't yoga who is and isn't doing it correctly, who's doing what and isn't..... strewth, what happened to rational, reasoned discussion.


So here's a new Sunday feature for the blog, Claudia has Sunday Blog Times, I have

WORD OF THE (Sun) DAY

Today's word for no good reason is....

Bigotry
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs. The predominant usage in modern English refers to persons hostile to those of differing sex, race, ethnicity, religion or spirituality, nationality, language, inter-regional prejudice, gender and sexual orientation, age, homelessness, various medical disorders particularly behavioral disorders and addictive disorders. Forms of bigotry may have a related ideology or world views.

Etymology
The origin of the word bigot and bigoterie (bigotry) in English dates back to at least 1598, via Middle French, and started with the sense of "religious hypocrite". The exact origin of the word is unknown, but it may have come from the German bei and gott, or the English by God. William Camden wrote that the Normans were first called bigots, when their Duke Rollo, who when receiving Gisla, daughter of King Charles, in marriage, and with her the investiture of the dukedom, refused to kiss the king's foot in token of subjection - unless the king would hold it out for that specific purpose. When being urged to do it by those present, Rollo answered hastily "No, by God", whereupon the King, turning about, called him bigot, which then passed from him to his people.[1] This is quite probably fictional, as Gisla is unknown in Frankish sources. It is true, however, that the French used the term bigot to abuse the Normans.[2]
The twelfth century Anglo-Norman author Wace claimed that bigot was an insult which the French used against the Normans, but it is unclear whether or not this is how it entered the English language.[3]
According to Egon Friedell, "bigot" is of the same root as "Visigoth". In Vulgar Latin, the initial v transformed into b (a phenomenon today encountered in Iberian languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese; visi had truncated into bi in Vulgar Latin (a phenomenon common in French and Portuguese).[1][2]
The French used to call the English les goddams after their favorite curse, Clément Janequin's "La Guerre"[3] which is about the Battle of Marignano, similarly uses the Swiss German curse 'bigot', i.e. "by god!", in a context about the Protestant Swiss.

My favourite part of the above is that the French use to call us ( the English ) les goddams : )

NEXT WEEK : Intolerance
              ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Back in my Philosophy days ( haven't picked up my Heidegger in a year),  I always thought that one of the most important questions in Philosophy was....

What is Philosophy?
(which probably explains why on this blog I keep chewing away at the yoga question and push back a little when anyone tries to tell me with certainty what it is and isn't)

...and being good philosophers then going so far as to question the question. Should we be asking the question ontically (what it is ) or ontologically (how it is). I happen to lean towards the latter, it makes a big difference

What IS Art or HOW is Art
What IS Truth or HOW is Truth

 and so on.....

so rather than What IS Yoga, I prefer

HOW is Yoga?

LATER
The penny just dropped during my tadasana sequence, that's why everyone gets so het up, Yoga has become a devotional practice,  rather than the epistemic practice of the Samkhyas. You can't have a rational, reasoned discussion where belief is concerned in the end you come up against I believe this to be true...or false and all discussion goes out the window..... or does it?

16 comments:

  1. I just head a quote over the weekend, dont remember by whom, saying that there is no point in discussing things when all reason has stopped...

    Good choice of words to reflect on. I find there is a lot of projection and a lot of anger and a lot of controlling issues... the trick is finding our way in the midst of it I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Morning Claudia ( have changed my link to this weeks Sunday blog times : )

    '...the trick is finding our way in the midst of it I suppose.'

    Guess we just put it all to one side when we're on the mat and cushion.

    ...good to question everything but that too is periphery

    ReplyDelete
  3. As usual, Grimm, you have brought a unique perspective to this discussion. And I, too, am completely mind-boggled that this question led to my termination.

    My intention in my blog post was to say that yoga is a breathing practice, a devotional practice AND/OR a meditative practice. I agree that the devotional element is non-essential. I guess I'm just using deductive reasoning in my slow spiral toward a definition of yoga. I may not know exactly what IT IS, but damned if I don't know what it's not.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Grimmly, fight the good fight.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was talking about Jois ashtanga as being 'just' asana, Sharath has himself come out and said it's breath with sound not ujjaii, not pranayama. Personally I've always found Jois Ashtanga as suiting a meditative approach in the sense of a way of working on concentration, one pointedness, the gaze, the breath with sound, bandhas all lend themselves to that. But of course gym yoga can be meditative, reflective too, as you say it comes down to attention, how you choose to approach your asana.

    I'm contrasting it with Vinyasa Krama of course which is an integrative practice, you do your asana followed by pranayama, pratyahara and meditation and you do that from when you first begin to practice that style. Not saying one is better than the other, as you know I love and practice both, but VK is perhaps more integrative of the other limbs from the start (probably why it's not so popular).

    My point about devotion was that Yoga way back when, was an extension of Samkhya philosophy and was non theistic so non devotional. At some time the ishvara pranidhana sutra seems to have made it's way into Patanajali's Sutras. IF it was there from the beginning and it's a big IF then it was just one meditative option if you were religiously inclined.

    Krishnamacharya and Jois were quite...very devotional but that doesn't mean that yoga HAS to be practiced that way or that devotion... or surrender has to be or necessarily should be a part of ones practice.

    Of course this is just one view and the devotional aspect has been part of yoga for the last six to eight hundred years or so.

    ReplyDelete
  6. for me, Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is poetry, not prose. The essential purpose of prose is to communicate ideas, and the essential purpose of poetry is to move us with beauty.
    God is felt.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Having just started reading Tarif Khalidi translation of The Qur'an, you have a point, beautiful version.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Although I would argue that nothing communicates ideas as well as poetry...prose is for when your feel the need to explain them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. http://www.poemtree.com/articles/PoetryOrProse.htm

    ReplyDelete
  10. is that the one you put up on FB Chris? I glanced at it but didn't swollow his opening premis so left him to it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. devotion and devotional have completely different connotations. I like the loyalty and enthusiasm of devotion but can do without the religious aspect of devotional. I think Laruga says it better than me:
    http://peaceloveyoga.blogspot.com/2011/11/faith-and-reverence.html

    ReplyDelete
  12. es Laruga writes wonderfully here. There are times when I lean towards devotion, to the practice that is in the sense of dedication. And there is something of the sacred that I bring to that, the same time the same place, I try not to let anything interfere, interrupt ...corrupt that time, that place. I've taken to lighting a candle before practice, to chanting mantras before and after practice (something I never used to do). The space I practice is blocked off from the rest of the house, it's just used for practice, whether asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting through the sutras, I do all that there, in that space (Note to self: must reread Bachelard's Poetics of Space). Have I made it something sacred, something holy or is it just respect for the practice, for the discipline, creating rituals perhaps to help with motivation (although that's something I've never had a problem with so why do I do it?).

    I can see the place of devotion of reverence of the sacred but they also worry me too. Often they can come at the expense of a questioning attitude, devotion almost excludes it, can you question that which your devoted too... Job tried and Kierkegaard tries to understand why Abraham didn't.

    I'm aware that the questioning attitude I have excludes me from many of the pleasures of the practice but there's so much that should be questioned, the korunta, the idea that the practice, this practice we do is thousands of years old, that there exists a lineage rather than just a style, that it's unchanging, that the deification of krishna was in the original Gita or Mahabharata or Ishvarha in the original yoga sutras, whether Yoga in it's original conception was a secular, non theistic, epistemic questioning attitude. And also whether, however much I respect my teachers teacher Krishnamacharya (and Jois too), whether the devotional aspect he (they) brought to the practice was misleading, a misrepresentation of yoga. How can you question all that your are when you carry the baggage of your devotion, of something that can not, must not be questioned.

    And that questioning is in the yoga sutras, it's in buddhism, question your teachers, question what they say, putting it to the test of own experience.

    but not while your on the mat an cushion...that times..sacred.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Doubt, faith and courage. I sort of see them like the gunas. Pretty useless on their own. However, if one can get them flowing.... I used to prefer it when "the" shala was AYRI (Research being operative) rather than KPJAYI.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Interesting to play with those,
    faith without courage,
    courage without doubt,
    doubt without the courage to doubt (obviously my favourite),
    doubt without faith (paused at that but then i thought faith in the method of doubt),
    courage without faith (the safest of them all perhaps.

    they dropped the 'research' I hadn't noticed , does that mean no more changes, it was used as the answer when anyone asked about them.

    But then it's always research in our bodies no?, We're always trying some subtle difference in our approach to postures, often we don't notice but then tere'sll be those ahhh moments " now that was interesting, what did I do there".

    By the way i went off on one and didn't pick up your 'without the religious aspect of the devotional' I hear you but the religious is also the sangha which is a blessing....it's the dogma that's the problem but also the mortar that glues the sangha together, perhaps you you need just enough dogma to hold the structure up and yet the freedom to rebuild and reshape when and where necessary. It's not the dogma that we believe in so much as it gives shape to what we believe in.

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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