Saturday, April 07, 2007

Yoga Is Dead

File under: The Siddhi of PR

While it's not really about any sort of self-proclaimed "divine" flimflammer... you know, the kind that make us want to scratch our eyes out with a dead cat's paw, this article – suggested by one of our very astute readers – delinates the flimflammery that has irrevocably defiled the art and science of Yoga:
It all adds up to what a friend recently called the "hostile New Age takeover of yoga." "New Age" culture being those scented-candle shrines to self-worship, the love-oneself lit of The Secret, the "applied kinesiology"-type medical and metaphysical quackery used to support a vast array of alternative-this or alternative-that magical-thinking workshops and spa weekends. At its best, it's harmless mental self-massage. At its worst, it's the kind of thinking that blames cancer victims for their disease because they didn't "manifest" enough positive vibes.
Read it and weep for the fact that all that was good about Vedic-based spirituality has been utterly lost in the West. Swami Vivekananda is little more than a log in the lake at a lumberjack competition right now.

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28 Comments:

At 4/08/2007 2:01 AM, Anonymous Matthew said...

Not really surprising that Yoga is dead. Any spiritual path, once it hits main stream culture, becomes accepted by main stream culture
is DOA. Yet even in Yoga there are isolated individuals, like Iyengar, to whom it really is a spiritual practice, not just a bunch of poses to help the body.

 
At 4/08/2007 9:50 AM, Anonymous moi said...

"Not really surprising that Yoga is dead."

I didn't get the impression that what the author is trying to convey is that yoga is dead just because it has been transformed by the american spiritual market. I am no fan of new age culture, but I would rather that than the ideology of fundamentalist Christianity. I sometimes wonder if excessive criticism of new age culture as a form of narcissism will create a spiritual backlash and cause seekers to return to more dogmatic forms of spirituality where sacrifice and obedience are the buzz words.
(btw- the responses to the article say a lot about what is going on with the american yoga scene-- I learned more from that than the article itself.)

 
At 4/08/2007 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the writers observations about the evolutions in the world of (Western) yoga. I know many practicioners who fit the profile of nascissism and self-obsession to a T. However, I think the root causes of this are considerably more complex then the writer grasps. Yoga has undoubtedly been yoked into the service of the selfish/material Western zeitgist, but OTOH, yogic practices have also evolved (liked or not) to fill the needs of an incredibly damaged and fractured populace. I don't give new-agism (and new-agey-yoga) a complete pass, as it often fails to lead to true wellness and service to others, but I do see that that it often has less to do with abundance-seeking than with sanity-seeking. Maybe it's not yoga anymore, but if pain and suffering can be eased thusly, even marginally, I can not refute it as a solution for those who need it. What is the split? Could 50% of New Agism be about self and slimmer abs and better jobs and sex? I would accept that. But in a culture of failed religion and community, the another 50% have every right (and need) to bring their fractured, disconnected selves into whatever temple that heals. The idea of yoga is to release the 'me', not to indulge in it. But when the collective 'me's' are so incredibly fucked up, as in here in the US, we should have compassion and think first to extend every lifeboat possible.

 
At 4/09/2007 12:56 AM, Anonymous vivek said...

But still raising interesting questions, how to teach at all....

For if you say your are that, there is no difference between the self of all and you, then you risk ending up with this.

But on the other hand say be selfless, forget about you, then you risk to end up with blind following authority and all that

Its really tricky

Personally I really liked UG who just thrash everything, in best modern buddha negative style, but when you read the responses on this site, apparently a lot of people cant see any light in UG at all.

Tricky, as a spiritual teacher once said it is all lies so we have to tell expert lies.....

 
At 4/09/2007 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the Nike catelog comes and in it is all the "gear" ya need for yoga practice. The caption is "No chanting, No Patchouli, No granola".... and goes on to advertise the clothing "necessary" for proper yoga practice. Yoga, for many people has become a sport, something to compete in, to be the best in, like any other sport. Patchouli aside (always hated that stench), if someone practicing "Yoga" (if you can call it that with this type of attitude -- it's really just exercise and stretching if it's competetive) thinks that mantras, chanting, a sattvic diet (hence the slam at granola) are not necessary or part of the path of at least hatha yoga, then yeah, it's dead, at least in America. I can see the point.

Since yoga means union, and there are so many types of yoga, the fact that mainstream America has picked up only on the grossest form, hatha yoga, and turned it into a new form of exercise class at the gym, with a little emphasis on mind control (so you can beat everyone else at work, because you are now calm in your cutthroat competition in the world), basically kills it, imo. The point has been lost on material America.

 
At 4/09/2007 8:43 AM, Anonymous betty said...

anonymous said...The point has been lost on material America.

From what I have heard from devoted Indian practitioners of various yoga systems, the general population of India cares little for yoga and meditation. Yes, mainstream America has not taken to the deeper values of yoga. But the very fact that this conversation includes several Americans shows that many here are interested. This is just another chance to bash America, a favorite American past time. How is yoga fairing in the UK, in France, Mexico, Germany? Are we so different? Indians generally don't even do yoga or practice meditation. Aside from Semblance they just go through their religious motions with little or no understanding of what they are doing.

 
At 4/09/2007 12:58 PM, Anonymous durga said...

"Since yoga means union, and there are so many types of yoga, the fact that mainstream America has picked up only on the grossest form, hatha yoga, "

I read something on Jody's recommended websites yesterday by UG and it seems to apply to this conversation.. He says something like there is no difference between spiritual materialism and the non materialistic kind. In both cases people are striving to be something other than what they are. While spirituality for the sake of getting cars, mansions and the like strikes me as childish, the same can be said for those who join non-materialistic cults and spiritual organizations. Often those people are trying to be better, i.e. more saintly than everyone else and claim the moral high ground. Besides, I don't really think anyone can claim total selflessness, except maybe the Buddha. And also, why should yoga have to stay the same as it makes inroads into american culture. Every tradition undergoes transformations when it is transplanted somewhere else.. There may be some disappointing trends in yoga as it's being practiced today, but the same goes for everything else in the world in which we live. It is a world of duality.

 
At 4/09/2007 1:54 PM, Blogger Stuart said...

Yoga is a set of ideas and practices, any of which might be useful in the right situation. If I can find the right ideas ("Everything is One") or the right practices (repeating a mantra, sitting still in a particular posture for 30 mins a day, etc), there's some fantasy that it will give me lasting clarity and wisdom and higher whatever. An expansion of this fantasy is that if I can only get everyone in society (or maybe just 1%!) to share these beliefs and/or practices, THEN it'd all be sweetness and light forever.

I think that fantasy is what's dead. And like most cases of disillusionment, it turns out to be not that terrible. It's not that any idea or practice will give me permanent higher whatever; rather, each moment is a new opportunity to freely choose between questioning and belief, between clarity and dogma.

Systems of beliefs and practices from ancient India may be perfectly nice to learn. But no system will ever relieve us of our responsibility to be attentive in the moment. The truth isn't going to be found in what some old dead Indian said; I can only find it for myself in this moment.

Yeah, those dead Indians gave us some fine pointers to perceiving truth. Props to them. But I think the dead Indians were pointing to something that *doesn't* depend on their particular words. The barking of a dog or the chirping of a bird are the highest sutras.

Stuart
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/socalled.htm

 
At 4/10/2007 12:28 AM, Anonymous P. George Stewart said...

Hmm, not sure about that article actually. I'm always suspicious of critiques of the "New Age" pespective from soi-disant Leftists (which is what the guy sounds like - all that "me, me, me" critique sounds typically Leftist). It's really just a dyspeptic rant.

I think there are sound reasons for criticising a lot of Yoga that's taught, but to me it's more on technical grounds that most Yoga teachers don't really know what they are doing. I think the "real thing" is probably quite rare. I'd compare it with what I think of are practices that work with similar aspects of the body, the Chinese practices of Qigong and "internal" martial arts, in which genuine teaching is hard enough to find even in China, far less your local mall in the States.

It's a big subject, but I just thought I'd flag this viewpoint. There's something real and physical and very interesting going on with all these things, that I think has to do with recondite properties of the body's fascia (the white connective tissue that runs throughout the whole body, connecting skeleton, muscles and organs) that Western science hasn't quite cottoned onto yet, although research into acupuncture and therapies that manipulate the fascia is starting to turn up some interesting things. The upshot of it is that training the fascia in the right way (and combining that training with clever leverage in the "internal" martial arts) results in some benefits to health, especially to the immune system, that are unusual - not just cardiovascular benefits, or muscular strength benefits, but something else.

IMHO and FWIW.

 
At 4/10/2007 7:50 AM, Anonymous durga said...

"But in a culture of failed religion and community, the another 50% have every right (and need) to bring their fractured, disconnected selves into whatever temple that heals. The idea of yoga is to release the 'me', not to indulge in it. But when the collective 'me's' are so incredibly fucked up, as in here in the US, we should have compassion and think first to extend every lifeboat possible."

I think this anon gave a compassionate response . There should be a critique of new age practices, but also an understanding of why it's there. Criticizing people for focusing on the self doesn't help those who have ruptured selves. People who suffer from having a ruptured self can't help but personalize everything. The way back to selflessness is intense introspection and self acceptance. The narcissism of the secret, however, is a different story altogether and should not be lumped together with all other healing practices. Some people hang on to it to find relief from sufferering but its message is inherently flawed, IMO. The message its promotors convey is that something is wrong with you if you suffer and we should all ideally have perfectly good days all the time, and as a fringe benny, be able to manifest sports cars.

 
At 4/10/2007 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I live in a small sports oriented town. There are more "yoga teachers" here per capita than priests and preachers. Lately they seem to be more intersted in learning more about the roots of physical yoga. So maybe there will be a trend going deeper at some point. Regardless, as Stuart says, we have to attend to our own self moment by moment and try to develope compassion as a general way of seeing others.

 
At 4/10/2007 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, betty, lots of Indians practice yoga (hatha & meditation). If you are in the USA all you have to do is buy onhe of the many Indian cable channels to find out that at least one yoga class is taught daily on them, and lots and lots of spiritual talks, including instructions on meditation and pranayama are given also daily. I hardly think those channels would be purchased if the audience they are targeting had no interest in these topics. Example: Zee TV features mostly this type of programming for several hours every morning in Hindi, in the US.

The fact that Americans have decided that "dead indians" have little to offer them, being dead, after all, to me is just more of the same culture of youth worship. It's great, fun, vital, etc., but there doesn't seem to be depth or wisdom in it. It seems to me that it is important that we have elders, even dead people to look to for inspiration on the path. It's easy to say that there is no path, and in fact it's so, when one is at a particular level. But until that Understanding is reached, it's sort of like a 5 year old chattering on about how great sex is. They have no idea, they just heard about it, and talk about it. It's not their experience. In the same way, it appears to me that quite a lot of well-meaning "advaita" teachers and teachings carry on about everything being pathless, and One, etc., when the people talking really have no knowledge, but read something somewhere.

It's good to start with reading, but to say that a tradition of learning thousands of years old is worn out or no longer of value could very well be folly.

Just my opinion.

 
At 4/10/2007 1:45 PM, Blogger jody said...

to say that a tradition of learning thousands of years old is worn out or no longer of value could very well be folly.

When that tradition is laden with ridiculous superstition that has since been refuted by science, it is the folly rather than the rejection of it.

 
At 4/10/2007 4:35 PM, Anonymous Matthew said...

"Maybe it's not yoga anymore, but if pain and suffering can be eased thusly, even marginally, I can not refute it"

......I agree. They just need
to stop calling it yoga. Perhaps refering to it as "Yoga Inspired Healing" or some such...

 
At 4/10/2007 4:38 PM, Anonymous Matthew said...

" Could 50% of New Agism be about self and slimmer abs and better jobs and sex? "

.....I was at the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park last year
(or the year before, I forget)
and I would put it at more like
90%.

 
At 4/11/2007 5:53 PM, Blogger semblance s and orchestra said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/12/2007 5:01 AM, Blogger semblance s and orchestra said...

The idea of yoga is to release the 'me', not to indulge in it. But when the collective 'me's' are so incredibly fucked up, as in here in the US, we should have compassion and think first to extend every lifeboat possible.

~~~~ The idea of Yoga is not to release 'me' but to unite the insular 'me' with the totality.
The me factor will remain despite one had climbed the highest rung on the spiritual ladder. 'Me' is never a problem, according to yoga,
as long as it is connnected to its source. The fucked up collective american society, as you claim, only needs to connect to its source, known as the collective consciousness and can send all the indian gurus packed back to india who were supposed to just tell that!!!

 
At 4/12/2007 7:52 AM, Anonymous durga said...

"The idea of Yoga is not to release 'me' but to unite the insular 'me' with the totality."

That's good semblance, I like that interpretation.

"The fucked up collective american society, as you claim, only needs to connect to its source, known as the collective consciousness and can send all the indian gurus packed back to india who were supposed to just tell that!!!"

That's kind of why I don't follow gurus. There are lots of ways to connect to the source. No one tradition has a monopoly on it. It could be, as Stuart says, as simple as listening to the chirping of a bird.

 
At 4/12/2007 3:03 PM, Blogger semblance s and orchestra said...

mdurga said...>>>>>>

"The idea of Yoga is not to release 'me' but to unite the insular 'me' with the totality."

That's good semblance, I like that interpretation.


~~~ Kewl Durga ! The reefer effect on my silly head has been quite contemplative over the years. Little more on that....Yoga is not the destination but only a journey(path). Thats why there are many yoga(s). Yoga is anything that unites 'me' with my essential Self. The true self is never independent of the envelopes it is hidden.

Body is the most comprehensive layer of consciousness. If so, then it cannot be condemned, even if its a doublewide in denim. If somebody gets little narcissistic on the kingsize mirrors on the walls of a studio, i think, thats the first step towards moving still further IN.

The yoga studios and Club Meds are just passingby stations ahead of the destination. The layers of the matter that surround the pure consciousness cannot be ignored.

So what perhaps required is to expand my vision from just pampering my body to connect to my essential self. (huh really???).

1.Connecting to one's body is
10 % pampering the self (most gurus(acharyas) help you here...BKS iyengar,swami ramdev etc)

2.Connecting to one's breath is
30 % pampering the self (this is mahesh yogi and she she's domain)

3.connecting to one's mind is
40 % pampering the self (quite a many but particularly the tearjerkers -ammachi and hoardes of therapists belong here)

4.Connecting to the intellect is perhaps 80 % pampering the self
(many gurus can cripple you here with their ever bending logic -JK
UGK,osho,eckharte tolle, andrew cohen etc )

5. connecting (by 'me') to consciousness is 100 % pampering the self. (rare few who apparently reached here, i cant site names here. My personal ignorance does not recognize the ones arrived there)This is where the yoga attains its fulfillment. Till then it is known as bhoga(indulgence).

Thats my equation.

The yoga acharya has to make the seeker aware that his disciple's search should not end with just 'hugging' onto his body but he needs to probe on THAT which is 'hugged' by his body all the time....

I reason myself this way, everytime I heard someone blurped that yoga helps in maintaining the skin texture or keeps the hard on all night long...(excuse me for punching my keys this long and hard!)

 
At 4/12/2007 7:36 PM, Anonymous durga said...

"I reason myself this way, everytime I heard someone blurped that yoga helps in maintaining the skin texture or keeps the hard on all night long..."

What are you trying to say here, Semblance? I'm getting a little confused.

I like your taxonomy of yoga. I try to drag myself there once a week for mostly physical purposes, but like the diversity in the small class I take- it's a mix of asians and americans mostly. I am the only bedouin.

 
At 4/13/2007 7:50 AM, Anonymous chuck said...

semblance said...Body is the most comprehensive layer of consciousness. If so, then it cannot be condemned, even if its a doublewide in denim. If somebody gets little narcissistic on the kingsize mirrors...

............................

Doing sun salutations in denim overalls is a path in and of itself! The overalls become blue heavens and we are able to move within them without restriction. The double wide body is perceived as identified with the soul moving effortlessly, expanding and contracting in the blue space. The yoga teacher here in Dime Box is sleek as a roan mare in those bicycle britches she wears. How she gets her 175 pounds into them is something only the initiated know for sure. I prefer overalls in which a man can move while being perceived as standing still.

Semblance sometimes I don't believe you are a pot head at all. What's up with that?

 
At 4/13/2007 3:34 PM, Blogger semblance s and orchestra said...

Semblance sometimes I don't believe you are a pot head at all. What's up with that?


~~~~~Yes chuck, sometimes i dont touch pot at all. I get naturally high. I could be playing my tabla
or driving my brand new, godsent, Ford Endeavor on the back roads to my farm in the dead of night without headlights...

 
At 4/13/2007 4:16 PM, Blogger semblance s and orchestra said...

What are you trying to say here, Semblance? I'm getting a little confused...

~~~~ Yes durga thats quite understandable. Because i myself dont understand when i read what i typed...

 
At 4/14/2007 8:15 AM, Anonymous chuck said...

semblance s and orchestra said... Yes chuck, sometimes i dont touch pot at all. I get naturally high playing my tabla...

..........

I never had any doubt that you played with your "tabla". As much time as you spend playing with that thing, you must be a master by now, semblance!

 
At 4/14/2007 6:59 PM, Anonymous durga said...

"The overalls become blue heavens and we are able to move within them without restriction. The double wide body is perceived as identified with the soul moving effortlessly, ....."

Chuck, forget the cadillac deeksha, you need to start your new career as a fiction writer- you can say that you got your start on Jody's blog!

And btw, my 1st hero was a fat man in blue overalls. His name was Oliver, and he used to take me and my sister on tractor rides when I was a kid. The tractor is now becoming one with the fetid, swampy earth, as is Oliver. I think he would be around 95 if he were still alive.

 
At 4/15/2007 8:00 AM, Anonymous chuck said...

Durga said, Chuck, forget the cadillac deeksha, you need to start your new career as a fiction writer-

..............

Thanks Durga, but between working retail and taking care of horse faced women and hounds and cockapoos, and working the Secret to get my triple-wide and watching John Wayne movies and reruns of Wanted Dead or Alive and Hee Haw, and of course preparing and eating enough soul food to keep my bulk up, there's hardly enough time to play my tabla, something semblance has taught me... But I certainly do appreciate your kind words! As we say around here, "You are a nice lady!"

 
At 4/15/2007 9:45 AM, Blogger semblance s and orchestra said...

But chuckji ! you should realize that the ladies on the message board are particularly nice to you despite your awful triple wide presence, is only out of sympathy and bad karma.

Dont take it seriously and fantasize anything silly. Continue to watch john wayne and gregory peck. Dont forget to drop your dentures in the mug for the flouride rinse before you are brought to the bed in the night time..

 
At 4/16/2007 7:35 AM, Anonymous Chuck said...

semblance s and orchestra said...
But chuckji ! you should realize that the ladies on the message board are particularly nice to you despite your awful triple wide presence, is only out of sympathy...

The sympathy of women is noted, accepted and celebrated! At my age and with my girth and wardrobe I am thrilled by any attention from a woman. When my sway back mare nods at me I start to whinny! If you ever reach my level of maturity, semblance, you will appreciate a woman the way you now do your pot pipe and the tabla between your stringy legs! Before I met and married my horse faced wife I considered asking Ammachi to marry me. This was before she was quite so famous.

You mention Greg Peck, also a hero and a good western actor. My favorite is the Bravados in which he wins the heart of the beautiful Joan Collins. Curly of the Three Stooges also appeared as a hangman. If you knock off 75 pounds, give me some hair and a stronger jawline, I look a bit like Greg. Semblance you are reminding me of Kumar in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, a fine and funny show.

Adios!

 

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