Sunday, January 21, 2007

ai-yi-yi, yoga

"'yoga is definitely more accepted in the south," [yoga teacher leighanne] buchanan said. 'it used to be a big stumbling block because many people thought to go to yoga they would be practicing hinduism.'

in buchanan's classes, she sometimes ends with a prayer. she is open about her belief in jesus. and she is careful to stick to breathing and poses, rather than chanting or using a lot of sanskrit terms, to make it more benign to those who might worry it's a hindu practice, she said.

'in my classes, since i'm a christian, any references to god is to the christian god, the one and only true god,' she said. 'that's the main difference between my classes and hindu classes. i don't pray to other gods during class.'

moreover, she said that yoga has never been a religion. 'it's a spiritual practice. i think the misconception is that yoga is a religion.'"

well, i agree with buchanan on one thing -- yoga isn't a religion in and of itself. the yoga sutras makes that pretty clear.

so i don't know why she's trying to make it into one with these discussions of what's hindu, christian, or yoruba in this article, you know? as long-time readers know, i've said it many times before: in yoga you can bring any devotion (bhakti) you like, or no devotion at all.

yoga is a process or tool that you utilize with your own bad self. you put your own content into it, just as i can make cookies, pizzas, or cakes with my stand mixer, depending on what i dump in the bowl.

all the mixer does is mix. the rest is up to you.

dr. georg feuerstein in his books is always going on about the "archaic" origins of yoga, how there is evidence it pre-dates hinduism as we know it. but hinduism of course is amazingly tolerant and syncretic -- it can absorb anything -- a friend of mine from india calls himself a hindu christian!

the sanskrit isn't a sign of yoga's hinduism, anymore than the use of latin in botany means that science is somehow roman catholic. it's a historical situation, you know?

it's not as if we are discussing mutually exclusive things here; those who are educated understand that, i think. this is why i'm surprised at the article's quote from the now-present pope, a man for whom all serious people must have great respect, based on his formidable scholarship alone.

the article quotes his holiness as if he believes that hindu thought is only starkly dualist; when in fact indian thought's much more nuanced. and i'm sure the pope must know this.

in nearly every article like this, some hindu scholars are likewise trotted out to claim that yoga and hinduism are inseparable. let me just politely and gently say that just as there may be a regrettable political abuse of christianity, so there can be of hinduism.

at the same time it's pointless to deny that yoga as we know it comes to us from india and is often presented in an indian cultural context. but again, yoga is an implement -- it can be authentic in an indian or other design, just as i can have an english spode cup or a ming dynasty one.

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posted by fortune | 11:15 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 2 comments

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