Yoga has just been in the news way too much! Usually I would say this is good, be the publicity positive or negative. But lately it is just too much and most of it does not mirror my experiences with yoga. This publicity on yoga is spurred because suddenly science is interested in “proving yoga good or bad”. But science right now is even struggling telling us if salt and saturated fats are good or bad for us! It seems all those people who have been limiting salt are now having more heart troubles than those eating salt . . . and same for saturated fats — as it turns out we need them in our body and it seems saturated fats from corn fed cows acts much different in our body than saturated fat from grass fed cows . . . so science does not give all the answers — There seems to always be some phenomena that science can not explain . . . there are other planes and elements and energies that move and operate in our body that goes beyond what we can see and explain.
So I want to start by saying go by your own experience of yoga — not what you are reading about in the media! Remember how good you feel after a practice 🙂 and also the benefits to your life. As we were hiking out of the Haleakala crater in Maui Mary Jane said to me “I feel the fittest I’ve ever felt — and it ain’t from basketball (its from my yoga practice)!”
The studies that I am reading about are mostly done on the forms of Hatha and Iyengar yoga — so the results do not apply to ashtanga — specifically on cardio vascular benefits and weight loss are correct for some forms of yoga but not for ashtanga 🙂 The studies do promote that yoga is great at stress reduction and tension relief, which is a major benefit seeing as how stress is the root cause of most diseases. Practicing yoga and deep breathing does help to lower your heart and blood pressure — and in many forms of yoga this also lowers your metabolism. In the Hatha and Iyengar forms of yoga there is no continuity–no vinyasa or moving in rhythm to your breath and no use of bandha. In Asthanga yoga with our deep rhythmic breathing, bandhas and moving in synchronicity with our breathing we actually increase our body heat and our metabolism.
As far as the cardiovascular system in concerned I can share with you my experience; I commute on my bike — however I am a fair weather commuter . . . so I don’t ride my bike for 3-4 months through the winter, my only “exercise” is my 6 day per week ashtanga practice and pranayama. In the spring I hop on my bike and take off like I never stopped riding — something is maintaing my aerobic capacity . . . and I feel certain it is my yoga practice (and maybe the pranayama too).
Yoga and sex scandals
There have been several articles lately on yoga and sex spurred by the founder of Anusara Yoga, John Friend being found to have been having sex with many students.
You don’t have to look very far to find sex scandals . .. start at church! or in politics . . . Our society is a little confused about sex, we are made to believe it is a dark thing but yet we are sexual beings . . . so this leaves in a place of confusion about our sexuality, which makes us hide it or try to “stop” it . . . which can make it come out in unfavorable ways . . .
The article pointed out that a yoga practice can improve your sex drive. Yoga does improve the function of all the systems of the our body — including increasing our sexuality. This is not bad! We need to make more love — love with our partners — then there would be a whole lot less promiscuity! and probably less war too . . .
In another article that came out in the New York Times by the same guy (Broad) who wrote that horrid article on the risks of yoga in the New York Times he spilled the beans about yoga’s Tantric roots . . . yes Yoga does have its roots in Tantra. Tantra is not just sex, Tantra means tool or method — its a method to use energies in the body to reach higher states of consciousness — sex is just one of many of those tools, however most people associate Tantra with sex but tantra does not always mean sex. Yoga got its “bad” reputation in old days as some of the schools of yoga started to get a little too into the tantric sex (orgies and such) and yoga fell out of grace and practically disappeared. Then in the 30’s Krishnamacharaya came back from spending 7 years in the Himalayas with his teacher learning yoga and had to bring yoga back in to a Hindu society, so he stripped it of its tantric roots and made it a clean and pure practice. Which is one of the reasons celibacy is promoted in many yogic practices — however keep in mind celibacy is not natural, take the lesson from the catholic churches and their priests . . .
Instead of all this we need a new way of accepting and liking our sexual beings, a new acceptance of ourselves in this light would solve many of the sex scandals and perversions we have going on.
In some of the recent publicity on yoga and sex scandals the media has been looking at yoga ashrams and certain yogis who have been revered as famous yogis with followers, etc. Most of these “gurus” end up with too much power, money, and sex — they start having sex with their devotees and live exorbitant lifestyles while preaching modest living and abstinence . . . such as Osho, swami muktananda, swami satchidananda, swami rama, and the list goes on . . .
In my opinion from what i have read and researched there is really only one true Guru I have heard of, that is Ram Dass’s Guru Neem Karoli Baba known as Maharaji. He was said to be an incarnation of Hanuman, stories I have heard told by Ram Dass, Krishna Das, and Jai Uttal tell of miracles he performed and things he knew about people that he could never have seen or heard. He also truly used his powers for the good of all those around him and taught his devotees to Love, Serve, and Remember (we all are one).
I checked out a few ashrams when I was in Rishikesh, and mostly I was turned off by them. They were beautifully decorated and certainly serene and a nice place to escape your life for a bit, but most of them had some “guru” you were supposed to worship in some manner or another. And the sadhus and babas in India –the ones I saw, didn’t do yoga or give lectures on yoga. They sit around all day and beg and smoke pot . . . and meanwhile corporations give donations to the ashrams to “support” the sadhus — but that is based on lies too. The corporations will give $20.00 and get a receipt for $100.00 to write off . . .
Yoga teachers are human real people, not gurus or gods. In the sutras it talks about the siddhis or powers that come with yoga, and it says many of these powers are there to trip up the practitioner that is not really following their path. They get sucked into the powers and end up mis-using them. So beware if you decide to check into an ashram or subscribe to a school of yoga.
Pattabhi Jois is a wonderful yoga teacher, not a yoga god. He dealt with real life problems (like his son committing suicide) and emotions and stress like the rest of us. Nancy Gilgoff is my teacher and my friend. I respect her and I don’t expect her to be godlike or perfect.
Your real guru is inside of you 😉
Ashtanga Yoga in Vanity Fair Magazine!
Wow, this is quite an article specifically on ashtanga yoga. Many people have told me they enjoyed reading just purely to learn some more of the history behind ashtanga yoga.
It is mostly accurate from what i have experienced about the situation, except i would disagree with one part — where they said the old school teachers resent Sonia because she is getting in the way of their relationship with Pattabhi Jois. That’s more like a popularity contest. As an old school teacher I am most concerned about the changes to how the practice is being taught and limited — put in a box . . . there was really no mention of that in the article.
The article did mention concerns about the new “Jois Yoga” they are trying to promote. I am surprised they would do such a thing, Pattabhi Jois has been known to say this is not his yoga, this is Patanjali’s yoga. So i personally do not like the name being changed to Jois Yoga. This is Ashtanga Yoga 🙂
And as far as teaming up with someone for money; Pattabhi Jois is only human . . . He struggled and lived very poor for a long time and still kept teaching yoga because he understood the benefits of it and wanted to share it with the world. The Jois family did not get “rich” from the yoga until Pattabhi Jois was in his 70s, when you struggle for as long as he did you are happy for some money to roll in . . . after all isn’t that what every struggling artist/body worker/therapist wants, someone to come along and bankroll them so they can share their passion with the world and not worry about money?
Yoga Competitions and yoga in the Olympics?
Fox news was reporting on yoga competitions . . . so I guess this is not bad . . . however how do you judge a real yoga competition — with a mula-bandha-meter? Or a breathing meter? Without these elements being judged I would guess the yoga competition is more like a gymnastics competition. Beautiful bodies performing cool stuff 😉 In the end hopefully it will inspire some more people into starting yoga 🙂
So as the physical asanas of yoga once again get more publicity keep in mind that in Ashtanga yoga its what you can not see that is most important — your breathing, bandhas, and mind thoughts. Every body is different and every body will look different in each pose, this is why as I learned the ashtanga yoga (old school . . .) your progression depends on how long and regular you practice, how well you know your body and where you are in the poses, not on how “perfect” you can “master” a pose.
The intensity of the ashtanga practice is there by design, our body needs some intensity for health and fitness of the organs and cardiovascular system. And furthermore the floats and jumps and lightness that come with the ashtanga practice are fun 🙂 However if you focus on them too much or too early in your practice before your body is ready for them you will get frustrated or injured. The longer you practice, the more flexible your body gets, the more you connect with your bandhas the easier this fun stuff gets. So do your practice and let the jumps and floats just come to you — don’t push for them.
Yoga and spirituality article in health today
Yoga and religion . . . yoga does connect you with “what is inside”, so it naturally does promote a more conscious or spiritual living — in a positive way. It is not sect-conscious though. Yoga is not connected to hinduims, just because yoga came from India where Hinduism is dominant does not mean it is Hindu. Yoga will nicely deepen your connection to whatever your belief is.
I don’t understand why some people are so fearful of something interfering with their religion. Nothing is going to brainwash you into believing something you don’t want to believe unless you are not sure what you believe in . . .
I have been “traumatized” by religious people about my yoga . . . people have stopped coming to my studio because we chant the opening chant or say OM at the end of class. Sanskrit is the language the yoga texts and the Hindu scriptures are written in, but speaking Sankskrit does not make you a yogi or hindu, just like speaking hebrew doesn’t make you jewish or speaking spanish doesn’t make you spanish . . . Sanskrit is about vibrations! The design of the language is that the sounds perfectly express the vibrational essence of that which they are describing. Learning the Sanskrit names of the poses is important, it helps you to embody the asana. However if you don’t like the chant I certainly don’t care if you chant along or not . . .
Keeping the devotional connection in yoga is helpful with a daily practice. Going to your mat for exercise day after day feels empty. Going into my yoga room every morning to do my practice and pranayama is a highlight in my day — it is a very auspicious and devotional time for me. The practice allows me to get in touch with what is inside me. I then am able to communicate myself better to other people and also to respond better to those around me.