In the since I’ve been a member, one reference keeps recurring - that the west has kidnapped and corrupted yoga (except some certain westerners who have converted), and instruction has suffered ‘blind leading the blind’ syndrome. And I can see where that comes from. To the majority of westerners (and I include Britain, Europe, Australia, continental cities like Singapore, Tokyo, and yes, even New Delhi, and westernized cultures globally) yoga is a nice form of exercise. The work out crowd gets into it, and others see yoga as a clean way to stay fit. A fitness industry arises. Then, curative aspects are explored and dosed out as a cure-all. So, to yogis seeking a deeper commitment to yoga, western paths seem cheap and revolting, not to mention that most instructors seem sincerely underqualified.
Now, I’m pitta-vata. I know this because of a couple of on-line questionaires a member suggested, but also because, at my age and and after much introspection, the answers of the questionaires were consistennt and true-ish. I thought about other people I know and found that the majority (if not all) were either pitta-vata or pitta-kapha, or pitta altogeter. In fact, based on the known cultural values we share, I would bet that western culture is based on a pitta value system. And, as the fuel to fire of the pitta, yoga makes a great tool for regaining balance, like running or aerobics. To the kapha-vatas (original inventors of yoga-type stuff - from any ancient culture you can name) this feels like a kidnapping.
But I think it’s two interpretations of the same thing. Asana is that part of yoga that works the physical to improve the body and mood. I have had some underqualified teachers, let me tell you. In Mexico, I was greeted at 7 a.m. by an unfit, bored worker who could not sit crosslegged. I was one of two - a lovely, spry 74 old german tourist being the other. Even then, we both had a good class because we knew what to do. I credit that to a young, white girl in Canada who has never been to India and a damn good teacher. I go on from there to my own interpretation of the other bits and arms, which depends on my heritage, environment and culture.
How do you westerners feel when faced with the question of competance as yogis?
And, to the kapha-vatas, what does the west need to do to gain acceptance into yoga?
[QUOTE=FlexPenguin;50963] How do you westerners feel when faced with the question of competance as yogis??[/QUOTE]
I have studied yoga in both India and the west, and my opinion is that the collective competence of western yoga teachers is not inferior or superior, just different. In general, Indian yogis are more knowledgeable of the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga, while western instructors have developed a whole nother scene on just asana alone. Many western instructors have gone above and beyond what Indian instructors ever cared to know about the anatomy of each asana. Whether that’s a bad thing is a separate question.
And my answer is yes, it could be bad. When you grew up as a child, hopefully each of your limbs grew proportionately and at the same rate. If only your head grew and the rest of your body did not develop, you would be pretty warped. Still, I feel there’s something about the introspective nature of asana practice that, unlike exercise, triggers the intuition to seek holistic development beyond the asana itself.
[QUOTE=FlexPenguin;50963] And, to the kapha-vatas, what does the west need to do to gain acceptance into yoga?[/QUOTE]
I wonder if European descendants tend to be more Pitta in nature. I’m super Vata, and I do see a lot of Pittas around me who like to sweat and feel the burn. It can be hard to find an asana class that’s not all sweaty and flow-y. As a Vata, all that motion aggravates me. I prefer doing fewer asanas and holding them longer. I get frustrated when I show up for a class called Vinyasa, and I end up being shouted at to do crunches while Tupac Shakur spews the N-word.
Funnily, last time I was in Mumbai, I went into a yoga studio to check out classes, and all they offered was Power Yoga! If the west kidnapped yoga, India is starting to reclaim the warped child.
I prefer to see it a bit differently. For me personally I see it rather as a balance that has happened between east and west. I think it is short-sighted of the East to think the West has corrupted yoga. I agree there might be instances where it is true in the West, but I have seen the same corruption of yoga in the East on my travels to India.
Yes, this is true, but I again I have been to yoga shalas in India where yoga is exploited for exactly the same reasons as in the West, i.e a fitness regime, therapeutic and curative solution and as a way to stay healthy with very unskilled and under-trained teachers at the helm. And I will not even refer to the large sums of money i was charged both in SA and in India (more so, they saw me coming) for yoga that over promised and under delivered!
I can only now speak for South Africa. Just as there are highly trained teachers in my country there are just as many unskilled and untrained teachers in my country, but i have experienced the same in india as well.
I can also add that there are many teachers who focus just on the physical aspects of yoga, namely asana and there are many seekers for whom that is what they need. But I also know in my own city and in other bigger cities in South Africa that there are highly spiritual teachers who share the full spectrum of YOGA with their yogis. Again in India I have been very priveleged to have met highly spiritual yogis from whom I have learned a lot. I think it is for the seeker to decide what he/she wants and to find the teacher/practice that will suit his/her needs and expectations.
I am Kapha-pitta and so is most of my white and black compatriots. In SA the whites is a mixture of German, Dutch and French blood, which gives most of us large and stocky frames. My black compatriots have been blessed by the most amazing pair of hips in this world and as a teacher I have very soon realised in my teaching that I cannot teach yoga asana the same to these people as I was taught by my own teacher who is a Vata-pitta and by many Indians in India. Culturally I have an interesting mix in my classes, it is not just white and black culture, but within the black community there is strong ethnic differences and I have to account for that as well in my teachings.
In terms of what I talk about, both whites and blacks in my country can be very conservative. Therefor i have a foundation class which they attend for the first year, during this time I slowly expand their view until they are comfortable with yoga philosophy, but i always bring it back for them to their own religion, which is Christian in most cases.
Most people initially come to my yoga teachings for the folowing reasons:
[li]Want to add flexibility[/li][li]Want to strengthen certain problematic muscles groups[/li][li]Want to cure some ache or pain[/li][li]Want to loose weight[/li][/ul]However, they soon discover that yoga has another side to it and that is the spiritual side and most people are so captivated by what they experience spiritually that their yoga start to take on a different meaning for them over time and then it becomes a spiritual practice for them.
My own teacher use to tell us when she visited Swami Sivananda for the first time just before his death in 1962, that one morning Swamiji chased all the Indian yogis out and told them to go and play soccer outside and he kept all the western yogis in the ashram for meditation. As my teacher explained Swamiji told them later that the western mind and body is always busy (pitta) and needs the silence and stillness of meditation as part of its yoga discipline and vice versa for the eastern mind and body. I think Swamiji in his wisdom knew then already what you suggest here.
I am all smiles, last year i attended a class in Cape Town while on holiday and the teacher was clearly on planet XTC. It was a horrible class and an expereince I never want again, I walked out halfway through the class. However, i have met other teachers again who has moved me so profoundly and who has impacted my spiritual life with such force that i cannot imagine my life today without their spiritual impetus in my life. The same goes for my travels and studies in India. In Haridwar I did yoga with a teacher that was clearly more intrested in where his next dope is going to come from than in the yoga itself. But then again I had the privelege of doing yoga with a great, kind and very spiritual man in Varkala in 2009.
For me there are aspects/teachers in both the east and west that are “good” and “bad” although I view them all as just appropriate, again you’ll find the teacher/practice that is approrpiate for you. I think you’ll find it anywhere. My beloved teacher Sri Durga used to say you will attract to you that which you are inwardly focussed on. I think there are both sides in the east and the west and they cater for the wide variety of people who are seeking in some way or the other and what you find, both east and west, is just appropriate for you at that very moment.
I was blessed with a teacher who strongly felt that we should adapt, adjust and accommodate (in the words of Swami Sivananda) and create YOGA suited for those who come to you. I still hold onto this teaching of hers and feel there is much value in it.
I think competence comes into the picture once you have determined what you want from your teacher and your own yoga practice. If you want only a physical regime then the competence of that teacher will be different to say that of a therapeutic approach.
Do the west need acceptance? Acceptance of whom? And who will determine that? Personally i think the West has come a long way and there are well establsihed linages in the west already. I view myself very much from the Sivananda linage and i still have close connections to the Divine Life Society, both in SA and in India. My own teacher used to say that linage is the only credibility one can have and as such she was very particular about that. I think linage would be an important parameter to establish competence. This is just for me and it might be different for somebody else.
[QUOTE=FlexPenguin;50963]In the since I’ve been a member, one reference keeps recurring - that the west has kidnapped and corrupted yoga (except some certain westerners who have converted), and instruction has suffered ‘blind leading the blind’ syndrome. [/QUOTE]
Sorry the intolerance and discrimination with blind leading the blind snipe and the white Canadian girl comment got me riled up so I reserve the right to counter.
And what is this perseveration with the ‘West’? Is there still a West? What of Australia?
I thought we agreed that the group asana yoga that thrives in the ‘west’ came from European…wasn’t it exactly Danish gymnastics akin to the 5BX program.
That the system that is being taught and modified in the ‘west’ is really based upon a system freely brought here for that exact purpose, and only what 70 or so years old?
5500 years ago someone carved a man sitting cross legged.
3rd century BC a collective works barely mentioning asanas in two sutras.
FLAME ON! The Human Torch (Jonathan Lowell Spencer “Johnny” Storm)
Yogamark - the problem with feeling a need to flame usually originates with a hurried reading of a post wherein we only see things that “set us off” and miss the original point to a large degree. I show this example from the OP:
To the majority of westerners (and I include Britain, Europe, Australia, continental cities like Singapore, Tokyo, and yes, even New Delhi, and westernized cultures globally)
Maybe go back and read it with a calmer mind. You may have the same opinion, or maybe you’ll see it in a slightly different light.
This is just part of Yoga’s evolution. Anything that migrates changes… it’s just natural. Yoga, religion, cooking, martial arts, darwin’s finches… everything. In the west the pace is frantic and we do a lot of sitting in cars, lounges, and chairs. Yoga is a good way to loosen up our hips, and settle the mind. If that’s what we as westerners get out of yoga, then that’s fine. We don’t need to start eating dahl, and wearing 13th century clothing, worshiping cows, and talk about how the mind and universe and god is all the one thing, and within us etc, in order to get benefits from yoga. Everything evolves, and yoga is no exception.
The hallmark of Western culture - more interpretations, keener investigations and disciplined approach - should make Yoga richer as a treatise. Yoga, like many scriptures, is a knowledge-base meant for the whole humanity. Being knowledge, however, only in the hands of individuals it gets translated into an applied science. Individuals differ and so we see different styles and approaches emerging. It is evolution, not corruption. The pitfall here is for any one individual to consider oneself as the sole proprietor or the only authentic vendor.
In India, people grow up with holistic ideas, and find it strange that Yoga is not considered a spiritual path, but regarded as a health tool. While Indians are naturally endowed to accept esoteric and mundane ideas in a single basket, very often that becomes a blind acceptance. We Indians easily carry the weight of complex ideas and practices like yama-niyama stand integrated in our lives. But many times, this ease itself cheats us when it extinguishes any urge to question and validate what we talk about.
Indians and the whole world stands to benefit from the Western inquisitive mind, provided sane Westerners save Yoga from its populist trendy adaptations and present it as a wholesome life-science as it is intended to be.
I wanted to wait to reply to this to see what perspectives might be lent.
For me there are several facets to your post.
The first is that yoga will likely continue long after our current society has passed. And while “yoga in the west” may be a factor, in the bigger picture it will not be much of a factor. This in much the same way our day’s troubles seem enormous, our stresses overwhelming and yet their lifespan is less than the flicker of a flame.
The second part is that yoga will grow. In fact by its very design it should serve humanity right where humanity is. The question however is whom should do the holding, are they doing that holding, and in what way or ways is that holding being accomplished. While it is certainly possible a chap named Darryl living in New Jersey may reinvent asana as we know it and do so in a profound way, it isn’t particularly likely. I prefer the wheel not be reinvented, especially when said re-invention does not hold yoga “well” and clearly is contrived for the ego or financial benefit of one or a few with no regard for dhamra.
Lastly, I think it is important to note that in our society we vote behaviorally. That is to say we support things with our dollar and we reject things by withholding it. In that sense (which we may loosely call capitalism) we are approving the yoga that is being offered. When we buy certain periodicals we approve their ads. When we by props we support that company’s corporate policies. When we settle for classes from a teacher with 22-hours of training we say that is “okay”. Ergo the responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of “we the people”. The role of pop culture, the media, et al is marginal, at best and again only does that which generates revenue.
Personally I don’t conceptualize a yoga practice as competent other than it’s particular effects for me in my living and the planet at-large. The practice I do is not for others to recognize, be they westerners or Hindus. I simply am very sound and comfortable with my practice and it is for me. As such, I don’t really care what my neighbor, domestic or international, thinks about my practice. The only eye watching me is my own.
After re-reading your post and some of the replies, this is what stands out to me. Yoga has taken hold in the west as a path to health. And not necessarily just physical fitness either. It seems to me that it may be part of a trend toward holistic health. If that were really the case, and the trend continues in that direction, that actually would be a major change in our culture. How much more of a commitment do you you want? On the other side of the coin though, where yoga is being treated just as a women’s exercise program, that seems cheap and degrading even to me.
[QUOTE=InnerAthlete;52213]The practice I do is not for others to recognize, be they westerners or Hindus. I simply am very sound and comfortable with my practice and it is for me. As such, I don’t really care what my neighbor, domestic or international, thinks about my practice. The only eye watching me is my own.[/QUOTE]
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