On becoming a yoga agnostic

Photo: Michael moves into full wheel pose, with aid from friend and Desirée
Urdhva Dhanurasana or wheel pose

I have changed the tag line to this blog. It used to be “breath, energy, life, spirit = self-discovery through yoga,” dating from my innocent introduction  to pranayama and other yogic arts. Now it is “A yoga agnostic explores life, breath, spirit and beyond, one asana at a time.”

In the midst of my personal traumas and upheaval over the past eight months, I have undergone a quiet shift in my yoga practice and my beliefs: I have become a yoga agnostic. How do I define that status? I no longer pledge allegiance to a lineage, yoga system, teacher, guru, historical narrative or ideology. I simply believe in the empirical evidence that manifests itself every time I roll out the mat or shift into meditation. It can be really

A lot of freedom comes once I cut the emotional binds that lock me to a “5000-year-old tradition”  or a business model based on the American obsession with bodily perfection. I don’t have to cling to yoga as a cure for migraines,  back pain or leprosy (or whatever condition you wan to slot in there). I don’t have to doubt myself when I am not able to cure myself. I just know that it’s part of my daily hygiene. I don’t have to make a pilgrimage to Pune or Mysore in India to acquire true knowledge. I don’t have to read sacred texts or learn Sanskrit.

This change has been brewing for a long time, perhaps, when I injured my knee and realized that yoga does not protect me magically from injury or disease. Or when I read Mark Singleton’s Yoga Body, in which he challenged misconceptions about the origins and evolution of modern yoga, and realized that a lot of myth-making occurred when yoga was reincarnated in modern India and then was transported to the United States. Or when I hear old-school yogis complaining about the commercialization of yoga in the States.

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