Guide Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)

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When you receive the information, if you think any of it is wrong or out of date, you can ask us to change or delete it for you. Erik Davis. Edited by Marina Benjamin. I started practising yoga 12 years ago at a newly opened studio in San Francisco called the Yoga Tree. One day, I was coming out of a back bend — ustrasana , or camel pose, to be exact — when my bodymind abruptly and briefly fluttered into a tingling otherworld of uncanny and dizzying bliss.

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You might want to watch that. I paused. It was like, uh … have you ever had a big balloon of nitrous oxide? At the time I was struck by the fluid ease with which my teacher switched from Western physiology to Eastern esotericism. It spoke to how we postmoderns have grown comfortable shifting between different, even contradictory world views. But it also said something about the contemporary world of postural yoga, and how it has come to bridge and occasionally tunnel between the sacred and the secular.


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For some, asana is unquestionably prayer; for others, it just beats the gym. As I write, a public school district in California is being sued by Christian parents and a conservative legal watchdog group for teaching yoga to children aged six to 11 as part of their physical education programme in elementary school.

They complained about the ostracism of children who opted out of the programme — a situation one fool compared to Nazi Germany.


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Jois would have been particularly struck by the location of the battle. Encinitas, a small beach community north of San Diego, was the inaugural American home of Ashtanga in the mids. Though there is little overt discussion of Hindu philosophy in typical Ashtanga studios, the form itself engenders and radiates an unmistakable quality of spiritual discipline and meditative focus. Ashtangis practise most mornings in nearly silent rooms, progressing through the sequence of asanas at an individual pace, while often developing a quality of sober devotion that, while not always easy to distinguish from Type-A obsession, attests to the psychological as well as physically transformative effects of the regimen.

Jones and the Jois family have also established a handful of slick Jois Yoga shalas , or studios, around the US — including a new location in Encinitas that some old hands see as a slap in the face to the old-school Ashtanga studio that had been in town since the s. But the programme stuck in the craw of some parents and in October a small number of them — evangelical Christians, backed by the conservative National Center for Law and Policy NCLP — came before the school board.

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The school board, puzzled by this religious interpretation of stretching exercises, and no doubt enjoying the bounty of external funding, refused to cave in. In Encinitas, the tables are turned: now the Biblical conservatives are thumping on the very same secular cornerstone they are more usually trying to slip around. As the journalist Katherine Stewart pointed out in a sharp post on Religion Dispatches , the head attorney at NCLP acting for the Sedlocks — Dean Broyles — is affiliated with a powerful right-wing legal organisation called the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Stewart, who has written a book about the use of public schools to advance a fundamentalist Christian agenda, noted that all of the schools in the Encinitas district already host Good News Clubs, which gives you a taste of how much religion — Christian religion that is, or at least Christian moralising — already exists in or around public schooling.

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The Encinitas case is a different kettle of loaves and fishes. Rather than combating secularism, activist Christians are now indirectly taking on another religion, a religion that, they argue, is disguised as secular physical culture, and is, in their terms at least, false. This battle is not just taking place in the courtroom: it is a war of the religious imagination. I n January, National Public Radio covered the controversy. Its report featured Mary Eady, an Encinitas parent, convinced that Hindu religious goals were being inculcated alongside the stretching moves.

Most parents and readers would barely register this innocuous story-book sentiment. Moreover, Eady suggested that behind the program lurked a shadowy, hedge-fund-backed foundation whose founders believe in the spiritual benefits of Ashtanga yoga. In the face of such overripe suspicions, the school board, along with representatives from the K P Jois Foundation, have insisted that the yoga program is a purely athletic regimen shorn of religious elements.

The majority of press reactions and op-eds adopt a similar line, scoffing at evangelical worries about touching your toes. In a superficially secular society like the US, officially beholden to science, these reactions make sense. Most casual yoga practitioners would be taken aback by the accusation that participation in mindful stretching routines makes them acolytes of an exotic faith.

Ironically, the judge in the case turned out to be one such practitioner. American asana practice has been oscillating between the ashram and the gym, sometimes clothed in exotic veils and other times in low-cut spandex. For countless practitioners, modern yoga is purely this-worldly, at most lending a holistic sheen to the consumer quest for a better butt. But yoga can be, and quite often is, something more. On this point, the conservatives running the NCLP might be ready to agree. Staying on tip toe, heels not touching the ground, the buttocks rest on the heels. Similar to Gomukhasana but sitting on the heel.

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Mandukasana Virasana. With knees apart from each other. An inverted Mandukasana. Virasana with the hands on the knees. One leg in Mandukasana , the other bent on the floor with heel touching the perineum. Lying on the stomach, legs apart. Similar to Dhanurasana but with legs crossed.

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Yogasana Padmasana. With hands on the knees. On the other hand, Sjoman op. So we have at least two gaps in the tradition before we get to the modern period. By Rajesh on Jun 23, I found it interesting. By SteveGW on Jul 28, Name required. E-mail will not be published required. Also found in in 10 th C Vimanarcanakalpa, Padmasamhita, and Ahirbudhnyasamhita Kurmasana Right ankle left of anus and v. Kukkutasana Padmasana , then hands through thighs and raise on palms Pascimatanasana Sit with legs out, grasp toes, head to thighs Sivasamhita at par.

Matsyendrasana [Right foot on left thigh, sole up. Virasana Left foot on right thigh and v. Matsyasana Right foot to root of left thigh, right hand behind back to grasp toe and v. Savasana Lie on ground like a corpse Siddhasana Left heel to perineum, right above member, chin to chest Padmasana Right foot on left thigh, right hand behind back to grasp toe and v. Simhasana Left heel to right of perineum and v. You did a good job! By Rajesh on Jun 23, Thanks. Theme by Bob. Right ankle left of anus and v. Sit with legs out, grasp toes, head to thighs. Sit with hands under thighs, body straight.

Dattatreyayogasastra, Vivekamartanda, Vasisthasamhita, Yogayajnavalkya, and Sivasamhita.


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  • Right ankle to left side and v. Left foot on right thigh and v. Lie on ground like a corpse.