Tag Archives: reading

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.

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 Journal just screwed me royal

Cover art for Yoga Journal
September 2010

I’ve been a subscriber to Yoga Journal since I started my practice, about 10 years ago. I’ve read all their issues, cover to cover, except for the past year when things have gotten a bit hectic. But I’ve kept stacking the issues on my desk for future reading. The back issues fill up a bookcase shelf in my study.

More importantly, I’ve cited the magazine hundreds of times, to their pose listing, features, cover stories and other articles. I’ve even defended the magazine’s reliance on advertising to survive in a competitive marketplace. I saw it as a necessary barometer of yoga’s influence in American mainstream culture.

Today, the new editors of Joga Yournal released their “beta” edition of their website, designed to be more graphically optimized and ad-friendly.  I found this message after trying to load a JY link:

File Not Found
The page you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

Please try the following:

  • Check your spelling
  • Return to the home page
  • Click the Back button

Talk about playing dumb. They know why I got a 404 error.

Continue reading Yoga Journal just screwed me royal

Featured treatment of macho yoga

I don’t have much time right now to critique this article from the NYTimes Magazine about Diamond Dallas Page and his macho version of yoga:

The Rise of Beefcake Yoga
Together, Page and Aaron developed a hybrid of Ashtanga, a popular “power” yoga, and Iyengar, a more therapeutic form. Page added some strength-building moves for key muscles groups — the quads, the core — and also built in traditional calisthenics, including push-ups. He incorporated something he calls “dynamic resistance,” which calls for engaging all of the body’s muscles and then moving against that tension. And he tried to avoid all that namaste stuff. “That’s the first thing that makes people go, ‘That’s too froufrou,’ ” he says. “There’s certain yoga terminology that I don’t use. I want to make people laugh.”

The American mixing bowl or melting pot or whatever else you want to label it is introducing new influences into yoga practice. More are on the way. Whatever floats your boat seems to be the rule.

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.

Growth potential in an unlikely group

An alternative online publication, CounterPunch, gives a new spin to the momentum building around yoga in mainstream North American culture by pointing out that the greatest potential for growth and benefit lies in the age group above 50 years old because of yoga’s ability to address many of the health issues confronting that group.

CounterPunch Are Seniors the Vanguard of American Yoga?
“Francina seems to take delight in defying conventional wisdom by insisting that older practitioners are often more flexible than students in their 20s and usually more patient and consistent in their practice of the poses.  She insists, in fact, that seniors, not shy away from demanding and vigorous practice for fear of getting injured, and should embrace yoga’s “advanced” inversion poses — the headstand and shoulder stand, among them – because these poses, in addition to their spiritual majesty, have unique anti-aging benefits, including their ability to “detoxify” the internal organs and to improve blood circulation to the brain – a key challenge as gravity and age naturally take hold.”

Continue reading Growth potential in an unlikely group

An anniversary, illness, injury and spiritual practice

September 5 was my 39th wedding anniversary so Teresa put a air ticket in my hand and we headed off to Boca Raton, Florida, to spend a week together. I owed it to Teresa because I had been isolated (in mind and body, at least) for a month doing my yoga teacher training at Thrive Yoga. Now Teresa got her chance to get my exclusive attention.

Photo: couple sitting on the beach with waves in background
Our 39th anniversary found us in the Boca Raton beach, enjoying the Florida surf and sun.

Of course, there were other complications. The week before, I came down with acute bronchitis, which kept me pretty debilitated and hoarse for most of a week. I had to give up yoga classes. Even when I was in Florida, my breathing was wheezing whenever I did anything too strenuous. I had to be careful doing my restorative practice in the evening because I felt the phlegm bubbling in my chest when I was laying down, and it would frequently provoke coughing. Luckily, I was still able to walk around so that was our main activity in Boca Raton.  There were lots of jellyfish just off the shore, which discouraged us from spending a lot of time in the water. On our last day, the winds and tides seemed to clear waters of the jellyfish so we could spend more time swimming. Continue reading An anniversary, illness, injury and spiritual practice

Book learning

Last night I was trying to catch up on my required reading for yoga teacher training, and some thing in Mark Stephens’s Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques:

But yoga is not a practice of attainment: it is an unending process of self discovery and self-transformation.

So the first intention is to become a self-discoverer and self-transformer, and then to become a facilitator and guide as a teacher. Although the Stephens book is supposed to be about yoga teaching, it actually is an insightful reference about a whole spectrum of yoga-related matters, including the underlying philosophy, history and practice.

Taking the plunge into yoga teacher training

Photo: hands are placed on the back of a supline yogini
Sometimes another person can help dissipate the stress that seeps into the back

Today, I started my second week of yoga teacher training (YTT) at Thrive Yoga. It’s a small group, five women and me, and we worked through the weekend. We get a half day off on Wednesday, and then we’re free on weekends.

With the loss of my day job at the OAS in April, a window of opportunity (motive, time, energy and money) opened up to take the July intensive course at Thrive. A month-long, 200-hour intensive allows me to drill down in the physical, mental and spiritual realms of my yoga practice. Other YTT formats stretch out over six-nine months (meeting one weekend a month) and would be hard for me to sustain because I can’t see that far into the future. In addition, I believe that it’s essential to feel safe and empowered within the sanctuary of a home studio, like Thrive Yoga, with teachers, mentors and fellow students that support a transformative process.

When I was considering the decision to take YTT, I listed the pros and cons in parallel columns on a legal pad (some of the considerations went into a previous blog entry). At the end of the exercise, I could not determine which way the balance leaned, but I knew that I wanted to take the YTT. It’s not a “career” move or “what’s expected of me” or  therapy for a physical injury. I look at the July intensive as a yoga immersion experience. I don’t necessarily plan to become an active yoga instructor, but I do want to fine-tune my “inner teacher” by diving into the experience and letting yoga work its magic. If I don’t take the training now, when would I be able to take it?
Continue reading Taking the plunge into yoga teacher training

Mindfulness as an instrument to hone attention

We could all stand to pay attention with more regularity, but that requires you to actually notice when you’re wired. Now at least one university class is making students more aware of their mental habits.

The Chronicle of Higher Education You’re Distracted. This Professor Can Help: “The e-mail drill was one of numerous mind-training exercises in a unique class designed to raise students’ awareness about how they use their digital tools. Colleges have experimented with short-term social-media blackouts in the past. But Ms. Hill’s course, ‘Information and Contemplation,’ goes way further. Participants scrutinize their use of technology: how much time they spend with it, how it affects their emotions, how it fragments their attention. They watch videos of themselves multitasking and write guidelines for improving their habits. They also practice meditation—during class—to sharpen their attention.”

And as an added bonus, here’s a recent New York Times article, In Mindfulness, a Method to Sharpen Focus and Open Minds along the same lines. Both articles have some useful links to other resources.

There’s another article, Why Mindfulness and Meditation Are Good for Business out of the Wharton School of Business, which is an extended interview with Katherine Klein, vice-dean of Wharton’s Social Impact Initiative. There is also an audio file for download.

I also came across this More than Sound: art and science of the mind, which brings together a lot of like-minded people and products (audios, books, podcasts). It’s worth some time to explore the full span of resources.