Category Archives: news

Current events in the United States and around the world concerning yoga and related affairs

Fake, Evil, Spiritual, Commodified; What’s the Truth About Popular Yoga?

An inter­view with Andrea R. Jain who wrote Sell­ing Yoga: From Coun­ter­cul­ture to Pop Cul­ture lays down some pretty heavy tim­ber on pop analy­sis of yoga’s intro­duc­tion into Amer­i­can main­stream cul­ture and even the snip­ing from India about West­ern yoga being a bas­tardiza­tion of yoga’s true essence:

Fake, Evil, Spir­i­tual, Com­mod­i­fied; What’s the Truth About Pop­u­lar Yoga? | Reli­gion Dis­patches.
The key mes­sage for Sell­ing Yoga’s read­ers is that yoga has been per­pet­u­ally context-​​sensitive, so there is no “legit­i­mate,” “authen­tic,” “ortho­dox,” or “orig­i­nal” tra­di­tion, only con­tex­tu­al­ized ideas and prac­tices orga­nized around the term yoga. In other words, the inno­va­tions unique to pop cul­ture yoga do not de-​​authenticate them sim­ply because they rep­re­sent prod­ucts of con­sumer cul­ture.
Pos­tural yoga is a transna­tional prod­uct of yoga’s encounter with global processes, par­tic­u­larly the rise and dom­i­nance of mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism, indus­tri­al­iza­tion, glob­al­iza­tion, and the con­se­quent dif­fu­sion of con­sumer cul­ture. To reduce its inno­va­tions to bor­row­ings from, or the mere com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of, oth­er­wise authen­tic reli­gious wares, how­ever, would under­mine the nar­ra­tive and rit­ual func­tions and mean­ings of yoga for many of the prac­ti­tion­ers I engage with in my study — the insid­ers to mod­ern pos­tural yoga.

This means I’m going to have to buy another yoga book on Ama­zon for my Kin­dle. At least, it will not crowd my book­shelves or weigh down my shoul­der bag. It was pub­lished in December

Jain also points to another book, Heaven’s Bride: The Unprint­able Life of Ida C. Crad­dock, Amer­i­can Mys­tic, Scholar, Sex­ol­o­gist, Mar­tyr, and Mad­woman by Leigh Eric Schmidt. He tells the story of of a mod­ern hero, Ida C. Crad­dock (1857-​​1902), “whose life, though tragic, reveals impor­tant themes in the early his­tory of mod­ern yoga.” Schmidt has writ­ten about the Amer­i­can reli­gious expe­ri­ence.  Reli­gious Dis­patches posted an inter­view with Schmidt when the book came out.

One day out of 365

Does it make a difference?

Reuters United Nations declares June 21 Inter­na­tional Day of Yoga
The 193-​​member U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly approved by con­sen­sus a res­o­lu­tion estab­lish­ing a day to com­mem­o­rate the ancient prac­tice, which Modi called for in Sep­tem­ber dur­ing his inau­gural address to the world body.

It’s as much a polit­i­cal vic­tory for Indian pre­mier Modi as it is a recog­ni­tion of yoga’s worth.

Spreading the vibes through public services

Increas­ingly, spe­cial­ized non-​​profits and ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions are spread­ing the use of yoga and med­i­ta­tion in schools and under­priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ties, what in yogic phi­los­o­phy is known as seva. Here is a story from Canada:

Toronto Star Yoga pro­gram teaches kids how to cope with stress at school and home
The goal isn’t really to teach kids about poses, explains New Leaf’s exec­u­tive direc­tor Laura Sygrove, who co-​​founded the orga­ni­za­tion in 2007. Rather, it’s to teach them how to under­stand the con­nec­tion between their emo­tions and what they feel in their bod­ies. New Leaf’s work is rooted in a grow­ing body of research show­ing yoga and mind­ful­ness can sup­port young peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced forms of trauma.

ysc-logoThis ser­vice move­ment has grown so much that it has started coa­lesc­ing in broader orga­ni­za­tions. The Yoga Ser­vice Coun­cil is orga­niz­ing its third con­fer­ence  for May14-​​17, 2015 at the Omega Insti­tute. It has a really impres­sive list of founder and mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions, as well as par­tic­i­pat­ing fac­ulty (almost a Who’s Who of yogic lead­ing edge thinkers in North Amer­ica). The YSC has also brought out its first jour­nal issue.

A yogi gives his take on drug abuse and treatmenet

One of the most acces­si­ble online resources about sub­stance abuse gets down with a lead­ing advo­cate of includ­ing yoga in treatment:

The Fix The Next Phase in Recov­ery — The Tommy Rosen Solu­tion
Ninety min­utes later, hav­ing come through an inti­mate and pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence, I would be directed to lie down, relax com­pletely, and let the full weight of my body rest upon the earth. This was savasana or corpse pose. The feel­ing was elec­tric — energy hum­ming through my body. I felt like blood was pour­ing into areas of my tis­sues that it had not been able to reach for some time. It was reliev­ing and heal­ing. It was sub­tler than the feel­ing from get­ting off on drugs, but it was detectable and lovely, and there would be no hang­over, just a feel­ing of more ease than I could remem­ber. I felt a warmth come over me, sim­i­lar to what I felt when I had done heroin, but far from the dark­ness of that insan­ity, this was pure light — a way through.

Also see Yoga and Recov­ery: Three Ways to Start on The Path To Well­ness.

Yoga helps war veterans deal with trauma

More evi­dence that yoga and related dis­ci­plines can help heal the body and mind of peo­ple suf­fer­ing from post-​​traumatic stress dis­or­der or PSTD:

Wash­ing­ton PostYoga helps war vet­er­ans get a han­dle on their PTSD.But the new study is the first of its kind to pro­vide sci­en­tific sup­port for the ben­e­fits of yoga’s breath­ing tech­niques for PTSD patients in a ran­dom­ized and con­trolled (though small) long-​​term study which mon­i­tored effects of yoga over the course of the year.

The study cited in this arti­cle actu­ally deals with the prac­tice of sudar­shan kriya, a sequence of breath­ing exer­cises cre­ated and pro­moted by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But he does not have a monop­oly on the ben­e­fits of yoga practice.

Please note that the arti­cle was orig­i­nally pub­lished in The Con­ver­sa­tion, Sep­tem­ber 14.

Yoga master BKS Iyengar leaves this life

It’s a sad day when we have to bid farewell to one of the cor­ner­stones of mod­ern yoga as prac­ticed around the world. BKS Iyen­gar died of kid­ney fail­ure on August 20 in Pune, India:

BKS Iyen­gar, who helped bring yoga to the West, has died
Iyen­gar had been ill for weeks, accord­ing to the Times of India, and had been suf­fer­ing from heart prob­lems. Admit­ted to the hos­pi­tal on August 12, Iyengar’s con­di­tion had wors­ened in recent days, and he was put on dialysis.

There will be an out­pour­ing of grief, grat­i­tude and remem­brances, as well as attempts to take stock of the state of yoga with the death of one of the three major Indian prop­a­ga­tors ( Pat­tabhi Jois died in 2009 and TKV Desikachar is in ill health) who took the man­tle from T. Krish­na­macharya. Iyen­gar left a legacy of lit­er­a­ture about hatha yoga, pranayama and other tech­niques, as well as a focus on the health-​​giving poten­tial from the practice.

I’ll prob­a­bly have more to say later.

On year after yoga teacher training

This MSNBC arti­cle comes one year after I started my sum­mer inten­sive yoga teacher train­ing at Thrive Yoga.

Yoga teach­ers: Over­stretched and under­paid
In many respects – the low pay, the gig-​​based nature of the job, and the unpaid over­time – yoga is lit­tle dif­fer­ent from other free­lance pro­fes­sions in the new, service-​​based Amer­i­can econ­omy. More than one per­son inter­viewed by msnbc com­pared teach­ing yoga to being a part-​​time adjunct pro­fes­sor, with all the job inse­cu­rity and irreg­u­lar pay that implies.

The arti­cles dri­ves homes the mes­sage that it’s tough to turn yoga teach­ing into a viable pro­fes­sion in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place. Obvi­ously, I decided that I did not want to pur­sue teach­ing even part time or as a fall­back option. I’ve made a cold­blooded deci­sion to work on a career track that builds on my accu­mu­lated expe­ri­ence and skills — and brings a salary and ben­e­fits. I am in awe of those who decided to fol­low their heart down the yogic path.

Yoga as medicine gets a bad review

Brian Palmer is Slate‘s chief explainer and tack­les the claims that yoga is med­i­cine for many med­ical conditions.

Slate Does ther­a­peu­tic yoga work? The best stud­ies say no, but they don’t get much press..
Doc­tors even­tu­ally real­ized — most of them, at least — that prayer didn’t fit well into a clin­i­cal trial. Yoga doesn’t, either. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do yoga. By all means, do yoga, pray, and eat lemons, if those things bring you con­tent­ment. Do yoga espe­cially if it’s your pre­ferred form of exer­cise — exer­cise is a health inter­ven­tion sup­ported by thou­sands of clin­i­cal tri­als. But rec­og­nize the “yoga as med­i­cine” craze for what it is: an indi­ca­tor of the zeit­geist, not a sci­en­tific discovery.

I’ve com­mented on the trend towards pre­scrib­ing yoga for all kinds of ills and flaws. Much of it goes back to the incep­tion of mod­ern yoga in India when its early advo­cates wanted to val­i­date yoga within a West­ern, med­ical­ized frame­work. In the States, the appli­ca­tion of yoga as a ther­a­peu­tic tool has also help it makes inroads into main­stream cul­ture. There’s been a lot of bad sci­ence done around yoga ther­apy, which has com­pounded the prob­lem. It’s hard to run stan­dard­ized, double-​​blind stud­ies on a mas­sive scale on a prac­tice that should be tai­lored to indi­vid­ual bodies.

But I also think that all this talk about yoga address­ing med­ical con­di­tions is wrong­headed. The prac­tice of yoga is aimed at well­ness, the holis­tic uti­liza­tion reg­u­la­tion and bal­anc­ing of bod­ily sys­temic func­tions (myofas­cial, neu­ro­log­i­cal, cir­cu­la­tory, lym­phatic, and oth­ers). You could focus a ses­sion exclu­sively on lower back pain, but the asanas and vinyasas would not affect just the lower back, but the whole body. The effects would be accu­mu­la­tive over time, not some­thing like a round of antibi­otics. In addi­tion, yoga addresses men­tal states that Western-​​style exer­cise ignores and have a huge impact on well-​​being.

This arti­cle is the lat­est wave of skep­ti­cism about yoga, mind­ful­ness and other things vaguely New Agish. You should also check out The Mind­ful­ness Racket: The evan­ge­lists of unplug­ging might just have another agenda by Evgeny Moro­zov, a senior edi­tor at The New Repub­lic. He’s actu­ally talk­ing about another trend, the rec­om­men­da­tion that peo­ple should unplug from their stress-​​inducing devices because West­ern soci­ety is too hyper-​​wired and needs to stop mul­ti­task­ing. The mind­ful­ness thing gets lumped in because unplug advo­cates fre­quently cite that mind state as the coun­ter­weight to multitasking.

Yoga Poses in Israel

Love the photos. Yoga Poses in Israel.
Their stu­dents, taught in single-​​sex classes, are encour­aged to come as they are, even in day clothes or long skirts, if nec­es­sary. The Kol­bergs say yoga helps peo­ple who spend long days in prayer and study and aren’t phys­i­cally active. But, Rachel says, “in our stu­dio, we will never have prac­tices that con­tra­dict our reli­gion, such as mantras and chanting.

I guess they are not going to have any “naked yoga” classes.

Prison inmates take to yoga

It’s not “news,” but it’s pub­lished in the New York Times:

New York Times – If the Sun Salu­ta­tion Has to Fit Into a Cell
The class was the fourth that Jim Free­man, a lawyer turned yogi and the founder of Con­vic­tion Yoga, has led at the Texas Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Justice’s Powledge Unit in East Texas. For the inmates, the weekly two-​​hour ses­sions offer a reprieve from their cells and the bore­dom of prison life, along with phys­i­cal and men­tal health ben­e­fits. And the Powledge chap­lain said cor­rec­tions offi­cers saw bet­ter behav­ior from inmates who took part in spir­i­tual pro­grams that gave them a chance to exercise.

Yoga and med­i­ta­tion are increas­ingly used in prison. Good for the inmates, and bravo to the teach­ers men­tors who take the lead in going into pris­ons. Now if we could only get the jus­tice sys­tem to work right so that we don’t have the high­est per­cent­age of impris­oned pop­u­la­tion in the world.