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The ‘regulation of yoga’ debate resurfaces, again!
There has been a resurfacing of the regulation debate, this time with the American ‘Yoga Alliance’ along with the issues raised by the New York science journalist William J Broad in his controversial book ‘The Science of Yoga’.
Two courageously-written and well-researched books on yoga
Broad and Mark Singleton (‘Yoga Body’) did, in my opinion, courageously write two well-researched books on their perceived view of yoga in an area that was desperately in need of serious review. As we are well aware, with the very best intentions and the highest integrity in the world, we do not always get everything right; to condemn a book on a few closely-disputed details is also a failure to comprehend its wider context. The success of both books can be measured by the emotional attacks made on their authors, especially by the established yoga ‘elite’ who revealed their many deficiences in the process of doing so.
It soon became clear from reading that neither authors, although constantly using the word yoga, were actually addressing yoga, but were instead reporting the birth and continuation of a keep fit culture.
The definition & actuality of yoga
However, the credibility of the whole debate pivots on the perceived definitions of both authors and their readership, compared with the actuality of yoga! For many years, although my views have remained pretty constant, my attempted stance has always been one of tolerance and conciliation – that was until I reached the grumpy old age of seventy. Attitudes since then have changed dramatically. There is no longer anything left to defend and even if there was, not much time left to defend it in!
So time is now quite evidently running out, and whether I shall once more returned to my almost solitary yoga practices or remain connected, partly at least, to the mundanely commercial ‘yoga’ market will, either way, see the cessation of my imposed self-restraints. Not that anyone is interested one way or another anyway.
A very successful ‘keep-fit’ culture exerting control
The recent upturning of these particular stones has really nothing to do with yoga at all and never has. It is entirely to do with a keep fit culture; and a very successful one at that, hence the squabbling and warfare in the pursuit of supreme control.
My few years spent with IYN (Independent Yoga Network) taught me a great deal, with almost enough material to write a book. It brought me into contact with many different people, and a very large number of ‘yoga teachers’. A belief held by many of these teachers, having been indoctrinated by their own teachers and institutions and who in their turn were likewise indoctrinated by theirs, was the highly dubious notion that if they contorted and sweated enough on a mat, they would eventually rise to a highly exalted state of ‘expanded consciousness’. This was part of the great scam of post sixties yoga! When such beliefs were challenged, a stock reply was often employed that through the continuing process of exercise, people would eventually progress to yoga ‘proper’; a somewhat strange admission with all kinds of ramifications! In the many years observing yoga this was a very rare transition indeed.
Introducing education and science as a ‘ruling criterion’ into yoga
We also have the return of the old chestnut of introducing education and science as a ‘ruling criterion’ into yoga which is both facile and naïve; yoga cannot be expressed and synthesised through these highly deficit systems. It is precisely because of them we need yoga and what it represents to free Mankind from the legacy of this intellectual mishmash.
We are aware that yoga, at least for those who operate it, is the practice of the individual, creating a continuous change of development within that individual. No institution or organisations can possibly keep pace with such changes, even for one being, least of all for a whole host. The whole concept of’ institutional yoga’ is a complete nonsense, despite what reasons are given to justify their foundations for existing; it was certainly not one of yoga.
In fact the whole process is on-going, so there is little space for fixed ideas (inertia) and no room for smug complacency. No matter what sources we may turn to there are no imperatives, nor absolutes, only guidelines that may assist the seeker in his or her unknowable quest. Hence the value, initially anyway, of a Guru. Or at least until we are ultimately able to finally merge with our own inner one, if only at first spasmodically!
Yoga can only be learnt through practise
Until we discover yoga is not learned from books or even from teachers, but through practice, it will become increasingly difficult to remain centred in the work. It is, however, useful to have access to an experienced yoga practitioner who is able to offer support and to share the advantages of their experiences.
For the neophyte, finding such a being can prove problematical. In general – and there are exceptions – it takes a considerable period of time, with constant dedication of practice before the ‘feel’ of yoga is achieved – even without the distraction of teaching it.
It is unlikely that such states of ‘feel’ and realisation can be achieved within the 200, and up to 1000 hours advertised by so many teacher training schools as the qualifying standard for becoming a yoga teacher. It may be possible to produce a physical training instructor within that time, but the dawning development of individual self-realisation of a yogi takes a little longer!
Guru Sattvananda (Keith ap Owen),
President of the Sunbury Yoga Society
26th January 2014
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