|Influenced by the International Physical culture movement, really?|
I linked to a Q. and A. on Richard Freeman's Yoga Workshop site this morning. The questioner asks..
"Recently I have started studying Ashtanga at Jois Yoga studio in Encinitas. In the learning process, I found the following book: Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice by Mark Singleton.
In shedding light on the evolution and synthesis of yoga, the author does quite a bit of research. From gleaning the reviews, it appears that Singleton debunks a lot of "myth" about where yoga really came from. Here’s a quote from an article in LA Times:
“Mark Singleton has written a sweeping and nuanced account of the origins and development of modern postural yoga in early twentieth-century India and the West, arguing convincingly that yoga as we know it today does not flow directly from the Yoga Sutras or India’s medieval hatha yoga traditions, but rather emerged out of a confluence of practices, movements and ideologies, ranging from contortionist acts in carnival sideshows, British Army calisthenics and women’s stretching exercises to social Darwinism, eugenics, and the Indian nationalist movement...an ancient tradition was reinvented against the backdrop of India’s colonial experience.”
What are your thoughts? And how does this connect with the origins of Ashtanga Vinyasa?"
I really want to quote all of Richard's response but that hardly seems fair, so here is the link so you can head over and read it at his place.
OK I'll just quote Richard's the last paragraph
"It is important to note that the practice of asana is well documented in ancient texts. It is not strictly a modern invention as has been misinterpreted by some when reading Singleton’s work. In good Ashtanga vinyasa yoga and in good yoga in general, we are working asana in direct relationship to balancing and cleansing of the nadis, the proper practice of bhanda, mudra and pranayama. More and more practice reveals that these things are the purpose and primary focus of asana, and when done well lead directly into Raja yoga and deep contemplative practice".
Don't get me wrong, big fan of Mark and his book, great read and made me think and question the practice I love, it still does.
Whenever I come across reference to the Yoga body discussion, the argument that Modern postural yoga owes much to the international physical culture movement I'm reminded of a couple of sections in Krishnamacharya's own books from the 30's and 40', Yoga Makaranda ( 1934) and Yogasanagalu (1941). Krishnamacharya was keen to stress the distinction between what he saw as the traditional Yoga he was presenting of which asana was one small element and the modern forms of exercise being introduced into India.
This of course doesn't refute Mark's claims necessarily but Krishnamacharya clearly thought there was a distinction, however much the 'traditional' practice he was presenting was reintroduced/repopularised on the coattails of the enthusiasm for health and fitness prevalent at the time. My own suspicion was that it was a response to the introduction of modern 'foreign' approaches to health and fitness, along the lines of "We don't need that, we have our traditional yoga arts....now where did we put them".
Here are what I consider the relevant quotes from Krishnamacharya's texts.
"Q. 9.Why don’t we move our limbs faster like they do in today’s physical exercises such as drill and sports? A.9 If you move your limbs quickly like they do in drill and sports, it will lead to imbalance in blood circulation and movement of pranavayu and will lead to sthoola kaya and vakra kaya body type instead of samakaya, but may also develop crooked limbs". Krishnamacharya Yogasanagalu (1941)
Also this from Yoga makaranda (1934)
"But we cannot say that people outside India are practising yogabhyasa and not just some form of physical exercise. I don’t know about their practice earlier, but their practice nowadays may resemble or be based on yogabhayasa as noted by people who go abroad."
and, again from Yoga Makaranda
"These people then ridicule yogavidya and their sanatana dharma, and start doing physical exercises that are contrary to our country’s ahara guna (diet), jala guna (water) and vayu guna (climate) and waste a lot of money on this. Who is at fault?"
also this long section, yep 1934 again and Yoga Makaranda
"Nowadays, we follow Western exercises and methodology, think that this is easy, spend a lot of money on it, procure expensive equipment from abroad and exercise with no consistency or routine. This is not an achievement of the body but a bodiless eort or a body destroying eort. We did not make up these names. We realize this from the kinds of kriyas that are being followed by the practitioner of these exercises. Moreover, such exercises will give proper blood circulation to some parts of the body while reducing the blood flow in others. This will result in poor strength, and eventually will cause paralysis and lead to an early, untimely death.
To make things worse, when we observe the practitioners of the kinds of physical exercises that exist nowadays, they make loud noises while practising and we notice that they breathe through their mouths. This is very dangerous. It is a danger to our lives. We have life only as long as prana vayu exists in our body. Therefore, such exercises are not suitable for people in our country. It is more intelligent to spend the money nourishing the body than to spend the money on such physical exercises.
There are only three forms of physical exercises that give equal strength to the joints and blood vessels in our bodies: yogabhyasa, karadi sadhana (fencing or fighting with weapons) and archery. I don’t know why people have given up the skill of archery in the present day".
And one more Yoga Makranda quote
"For such achievements in yoga, we do not need to send our country’s money elsewhere to procure any items. Whatever money we get, there is plenty of place in our country to store it. The foreigners have stolen all the skills and knowledge and treasures of mother India, either right in front of us or in a hidden way. They pretend that they have discovered all this by themselves, bundle it together, and then bring it back here as though doing us a favour and in exchange take all the money and things we have saved up for our family’s welfare. After some time passes, they will try and do the same thing with yogavidya. We can clearly state that the blame for this is that while we have read the books required for the knowledge of yoga to shine, we have not understood or studied the concepts or brought them into our experience. If we still sleep and keep our eyes closed, then the foreigners will become our gurus in yogavidya.
We have already given the gold vessels we had to them and bought vessels from them made from bad-smelling skin and have started using these. This is a very sad state. Our descendents do not need these sorts of bad habits.
The physical exercise that is yoga, this asana kriya that is with us is more than enough for us. The hut that we live in is enough. We don’t need excessive amounts of money for that. What yoga mata wishes for us is that we eat only the sattvic food that Bharatmata can give us. The ability that our youngsters have to follow outsiders can also be used to follow the knowledge and skills of our country. I have complete faith in this. In schools, it is very important to have this yoga vidya in the curriculum. I do not need to emphasize this specifically to the great scholars who know the secrets of vidya."
Got to run off to work but page numbers to come for all the above quotes.