Yoga Body, Yoga Spirit: Can We Have Both?

by Martha J. Johnston on December 11, 2017

It’s understandable why John Good friend highly suggests guide Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Position Yoga “for all sincere pupils of yoga.” Because, Mark Singleton’s thesis is a well looked into subject of just how contemporary hatha yoga, or “pose technique,” as he terms it, has altered within as well as after the practice left India.

However the book is mostly about exactly how yoga transformed in India itself in the last 150 years. Exactly how yoga’s primary, modern proponents – T. Krishnamacharya and his students, K. Patttabhi Jois and B. K. S. Iyengar-mixed their homegrown hatha yoga experiment European acrobatics.

This was the amount of Indian yogis managed modernity: As opposed to remaining in the caverns of the Himalayas, they relocated to the city and also embraced the oncoming European social fads. They specifically welcomed its more “heavy types of acrobatics,” consisting of the prominent Swedish techniques of Ling (1766-1839).

Singleton uses the word yoga as a homonym to clarify the primary goal of his thesis. That is, he stresses that the word yoga has several meanings, relying on who makes use of the term.

This focus is in itself a deserving venture for students of whatever yoga; to comprehend as well as accept that your yoga could not be the same sort of yoga as my yoga. Merely, that there are many paths of yoga.

Because respect, John Close friend is dead-on: this is by far one of the most detailed research study of the culture as well as background of the prominent yoga lineage that ranges from T. Krishnamacharya’s moist as well as warm palace studio in Mysore to Bikram’s synthetically heated workshop in Hollywood.

Singleton’s research study on “postural yoga” composes the mass of the book. But he likewise dedicates some pages to outline the background of “traditional” yoga, from Patanjali to the Shaiva Tantrics that, based upon much earlier yoga traditions, assembled the hatha yoga tradition between ages and penciled the popular yoga message books the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as well as the Geranda Samhita.

It is while doing these evaluations that Singleton enters water much hotter compared to a Bikram sweat. Hence I think twice in providing Singleton a straight A for his otherwise excellent dissertation.

Singleton asserts his task is exclusively the research of contemporary stance yoga. If he had stayed with that task alone, his book would have been excellent as well as received just accolades. But regrettably, he devotes the very same oversight so many modern hatha yogis do.

All yoga styles are fine, these hatha yogis claim. All homonyms are just as excellent and legitimate, they assert. Other than that homonym, which the social relativist hatha yogis view as an egotistic version of yoga. Why? Since its followers, the reactionaries, declare it is a deeper, more spiritual and standard from of yoga.

This kind of ranking, assumes Singleton, is detrimental as well as a wild-goose chase.

Georg Feuerstein disagrees. Undoubtedly the most respected as well as well-respected yoga scholar outside India today, he is among those traditionalists who holds yoga to be an integral practice-a body, mind, spirit technique. So exactly how does Feuerstein’s integral yoga homonym vary from the non-integral modern stance yoga homonym presented to us by Singleton?

Simply put, Feuerstein’s remarkable writings on yoga have concentrated on the all natural practice of yoga. Overall ball of wax of techniques that typical yoga created over the past 5000 plus years: asanas, pranayama (breathing exercises), chakra (subtle energy centers), kundalini (spiritual power), bandhas (innovative body locks), mantras, mudras (hand motions), and so on.

Therefore, while posture yoga primarily concentrates on the physique, on doing postures, essential yoga consists of both the physical and the subtle body and involves an entire plethora of physical, psychological as well as spiritual practices rarely practiced in any one of today’s modern yoga studios.

I would not have bothered to bring all this up had it not been for the fact that Singleton stated Feuerstein in an essential light in his book’s “Wrapping up Representations.” In other words, it is purposefully vital for Singleton to review Feuerstein’s interpretation of yoga, a form of yoga which happens to practically coincide with my own.

Singleton writes: “For some, such as very popular yoga scholar Georg Feuerstein, the modern fascination with postural yoga can only be a perversion of the authentic yoga of custom.” After that Singleton quotes Feuerstein, that creates that when yoga reached Western shores it “was gradually removed of its spiritual orientation and also remodeled right into health and fitness training.”

Singleton then properly mentions that yoga had already started this fitness change in India. He likewise properly explains that health and fitness yoga is not apposed to any type of “spiritual” venture of yoga. But that is not specifically Feuerstein’s point: he just explains exactly how the workout part of modern yoga does not have a deep “spiritual positioning.” Which is a crucial difference.

After that Singleton says loudly that Feuerstein’s assertions misses the “deeply spiritual orientation of some contemporary bodybuilding and ladies’s fitness training in the harmonial gymnastics practice.”

While I believe I am rather clear regarding exactly what Feuerstein means by “deeply spiritual,” I am still uncertain exactly what Singleton means by it from simply reading Yoga Body. Which makes an intelligent contrast difficult. Thus why did Singleton bring this up in his wrapping up disagreements in a book dedicated to physical stances? Undoubtedly to earn a point.

Since he did make a point about it, I would like to react.

According to Feuerstein, the goal of yoga is knowledge (Samadhi), not physical conditioning, not also spiritual physical fitness. Not a better, slimmer physique, however a far better chance at spiritual liberation.

For him, yoga is primarily a spiritual technique entailing deep poses, deep research and also deep meditation. Although postures are an important part of traditional yoga, enlightenment is possible even without the practice of position yoga, indisputably confirmed by such sages as Ananda Mai Ma, Ramana Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and also others.

The wider concern concerning the objective of yoga, from the viewpoint of traditional yoga is this: is it feasible to attain knowledge via the method of health and fitness yoga alone? The solution: Not very simple. Not also likely. Not also by practicing the type of physical fitness yoga Singleton claims is “spiritual.”.

According to Infinite Vitality System Yoga Burn, the body is the very first as well as external layer of the mind. Knowledge, nonetheless, occurs in and also past the 5th as well as innermost layer of the subtle body, or kosa, not in the physical body. Therefore, from this specific point of view of yoga, health and fitness yoga has certain limitations, just since it could not alone supply the preferred results.

Similarily, Feuerstein and all us various other traditionalists (oh, those darn tags!) are just claiming that if your goal is knowledge, after that fitness yoga most likely will not suffice. You can depend on your head and also do power yoga from dawn to twelve o’clock at night, however you still will not be enlightened.

Therefore, they developed sitting yoga postures (padmasana, siddhasana, viirasana, etc) for such certain objectives. Indeed, they spent even more time resting still in meditation over stiring doing poses, as it was the resting methods which induced the wanted hypnotic trance states of enlightenment, or Samadhi.

Simply puts, you could be enlightened without ever practicing the different hatha postures, but you probably won’t get enlightened by just exercising these stances alone, no matter exactly how “spiritual” those poses are.

These are the kinds of split insights and also viewpoints I sorely missed while checking out Yoga Body. Therefore his criticism of Feuerstein appears rather shallow and also kneejerk.

Singleton’s single concentrate on describing the physical practice and background of modern yoga is detailed, possibly rather precise, and instead impressive, but his persistence that there are “deeply spiritual” elements of modern-day gymnastics and posture yoga misses an important point concerning yoga. Particularly, that our bodies are just as spiritual as we are, from that area in our hearts, deep within as well as past the body.

Yoga Body thus misses a crucial point a number of us can case, and without needing to be criticized for being arrogant or mean-minded: that yoga is primarily an all natural method, where the physique is viewed as the initial layer of a series of ascending and also all-inclusive layers of being-from body to mind to spirit. And that ultimately, also the body is the home place of Spirit. Altogether, the body is the sacred holy place of Spirit.

And where does this yoga viewpoint come from? Inning accordance with Feuerstein, “It underlies the entire Tantric custom, notably the colleges of hatha yoga, which are a spin-off of Tantrism.”.

In Tantra it is plainly understood that the person is a three-tiered being-physical, psychological and spiritual. Hence, the Tantrics really masterfully as well as thoroughly established techniques for all three levels of being.

From this ancient point of view, it is really pleasing to see exactly how the extra spiritual, all-inclusive tantric and yogic practices such as hatha yoga, rule reflection, breathing workouts, ayurveda, kirtan, and also scriptural research study are increasingly coming to be indispensable attributes of several contemporary yoga workshops.

So, to address the inquiry in the title of this post. Can we have both a limber figure as well as a sacred spirit while practicing yoga? Yes, obviously we can. Yoga is not either/or. Yoga is yes/and. The more alternative our yoga practice becomes-that is, the much more spiritual technique is contributed to our posture practice-the much more these two apparently contrary poles-the body as well as the spirit-will mix as well as combine. Unity was, after all, the objective of ancient Tantra.

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