to the Editor:
very much for publishing an article on Yoga (Mind/Body/Spirit,
Lammas 2002). It was quite refreshing. I'd like to take
the opportunity, however, to clarify a few points that the author
omitted or misrepresented.
Yoga is not
a simple regimen of stretching even though it does indeed involve
some postures that require stretching. This characterization
is an oversimplification that belies the history and tradition
of this ancient Hindu spiritual practice. Traditional yoga requires
discipline, coordination, balance, stamina, and mindfulness.
It can make you sweat in buckets (if you do Ashtanga). Yoga
teaches the practitioner to coordinate breath (ujjayi pranayama)
and the holding of postures (asanas) for certain lengths of
time in a static manner (not necessarily a stretch depending
on your flexibility). Moreover, recent articles in Yoga Journal
have described tests done on athletes and yoga practitioners
that show similar levels of cardiovascular fitness so it can
be used to raise overall fitness.
More importantly, Yoga is a spiritual discipline regardless
of how much people both within and outside the South Asian context
ignore that aspect or change it to suit their needs. If you
read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, this becomes quite apparent...the
very first verse says this is a discipline that seeks to harness
the mind (Verse 1.2: yoga citta vritti nirodhah). It is a physical
meditation that seeks to quiet the mind and bring on samadhi
(enlightenment/union of shiva and shakti energy). Therefore,
those who do yoga without the meditative focus will only attain
a partial benefit.
I appreciate the thoughtful comments about the benefits and
all these are true, yet, the writer doesn't touch on the real
purpose and benefit of yoga which is the body-mind union. Moreover,
in terms of resources, beginning practitioners should understand
that all postural yoga is Hatha Yoga -- there are a number of
postures that can be found in the Yoga sutras. The different
schools emerged later and are a reflection of the commercialization
of yoga that has occurred to some extent and also to the desire
of teachers to put their imprimatur on their own interpretive
misconception is that Kundalini Yoga is a distinct stream that
can be separated out of the other yogic schools. In some sense,
all yoga (Bhakti/Devotional, Jnana/Intellectual, Hatha/Physical)
are kundalini yoga (Yoga of raising Shakti energy).
want to start in earnest, they should go to a reputable teacher
(try out a few and see who you get on with -- I would start
with Iyengar style to get a solid base and then move to more
vigorous schools like Ashtanga) and if you buy tapes beware
of the fact that the asanas are almost never held for any length
of time and many of them teach you less than nothing about breathing.
If you are interested in stretching your muscles, these are
good tapes but not ideal for a seriously aspiring yogini. I
encourage people to try the Flow Series by Tracy Rich and Ganga
White (Earth, Water and Fire) which is in the
Vinyasa/Ashtanga school. Also one can use the tapes to get the
postures down and then do them without following the tapes'
And as for mudras, this an even more subtle science that is
beyond the scope of this response.
so appreciated having Kila's cultural perspective brought to
us through her response to Turtledragon's Yoga article that
we asked her to join our tribe.
will be sharing her thoughts and experiences on a variety of
topics regularly in her "Conceiving the Goddess: Thealogy
for a New Millenium" feature, beginning with this issue.