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21 June: International day of Yoga

Krishnamacharya
21 June: International Day of Yoga

Belated wishes for the International day of yoga: this blog was in the making since a while; yet, I needed to wait till all that yoga as asana energy had dissipated and now, the mind has emptied enough to absorb my not so sweet message. 
Question. Did we notice that the world just got over the sadness of the spate of suicides to dive into yoga day hype to look for its answers?
Humanity has historically repeated its pattern: after the world war was over, we sought for more peaceful movements and the flower power 60s and yoga came up- means that we are looking to yoga for answers. Yoga meant India, especially in the sixties and the Beatles are good proof of it. Unfortunately. Indian systems are made to seek and require western validation to be buyable into.
Current scenario: Today, India sells yoga under the yoga alliance certification in factories churning out a standard mould of yoga teacher as is demanded by the customers coming in from across the world. This, in itself is a shameful slap in the face of India's generous tradition, for the newbie yoga-asana culture lacks all originality. There is no integrity nor responsibility for the content being taught. The Indian tradition of yoga is unrecognisable anymore- it has been twisted into an acro-gym-asana culture focusing on capitalising on the physical aspect only.
When our elected prime minister Narendra Modi declared 21st June as International day of Yoga, he had the world acknowledge India's gift of the tradition of yoga as it has always been offered to the world. 175 countries graciously accepted the call of International yoga day and its message of promoting physical and mental health to usher in peaceful coexistence across the globe. The international day of yoga has inadvertently promoted the yoga faddists to have mass gatherings of yoga asana on display and championships which could well belong in akhadas(traditional Indian system of wrestling which could be akin to gyms: the brawn factor is used in akhadas). Today, these yoga akhada factories come out trotting their yoga mats and gear to make huge physical displays of asana in public places. 

Yoga is a tradition of India. For millennia, this land has been the spiritual answer many have come seeking to. Yoga is a system that has been woven into the tradition of the land and cannot be separate in itself. It is now not only been isolated and had its identity torn away from its motherland, but also within, it has been broken down to only exist at the asana level. Yoga is now on offer on the menu as per demand, most of which is Asana, anatomy, and physiological manipulation known as alignments and adjustments. This is then taken a step lower to perversion of the asana as beer, nude, acro yoga: whatever works to get in the moolah in the name of yoga. Even the acrobats at the cirque du soleil have more yoga in them during their work in the circus parade than the pseudo yogis doing acro yoga on the beaches of Ganga which, since centuries are used as meditation areas and are now polluted with twisted figures on top of each other. Why live a half dive in between neither yogi nor acrobat? By itself, this might have been a good joke but the sad fact is that the joke is on the ones practising perverted deviations of yoga. Asana uses physiology to address the psychological and when the mind is vitiated, problems arise. These need an esoteric redress that the western system is yet unable to comprehend. Mental health will be affected and this becomes a cycle feeding the capitalist yoga sellers with advanced curriculums of mindfulness practices which are again taught with mindless heed to precautions that should have been offered in the first place. Enter phase two of further corruption: Tantra as sexual nirvana, instant meditation, yoga Nidra as remedy for insomnia(‼)..you name it, we sell it. The commercialisation of yoga is formulated: exotic land from the Far East, the esoteric sell despite delivery being the scientific anatomy lessons that strip yoga to bare bones and musculature. The yoga alliance factory product students are in a good position to understand the void that isolation of asana as yoga has created. Some have even ended up psychologically impaired due to the partial knowledge been imparted because they were so busy learning how to teach a class that they forgot to ask to be taught the how of self practice: a perquisite of yoga. A yoga teacher is incomplete when s/he cannot apply their knowledge in everyday life when they go back to their reality. The 200 hour yoga alliance TTC holiday in the Himalayas or anywhere exotic enough was such a dream that it needs recapture, and so they return to do further 300 500 yoga alliance hours and end up with more musculoskeletal and deeper alignments than actual solutions to the problem. There are a few good examples of foreigners that have done a great job of their undertaking of Vedic studies. In these, I see shining examples of David Frawley(Ayurveda) and Robert Svoboda(Tantra) who immersed themselves and took up their knowledge of an alien eastern system in its entirety. Sadly, a lot of foreigners are simply taking the bits and pieces of yoga as suited to need. The fragmented story is incomplete.

Historically, the west has colonised the world and continues in more or less the same spirit. Avocado, quinoa, turmeric, marijuana, coconuts, cocoa, palm oil..what else will capitalising colonists discover to gainfully exploit. The lands that are plundered are left bereft and unable to afford their own produce. The originality is lost and then rehashed in a western mould to be sold back to the natives at exorbitant prices. Turmeric is currently the hot new from India with essential capsules of its extract promoted as better than the original from grandmas kitchen. I'm waiting and watching what happens with the turmeric story and will keep my quiet for I do know that an excess of curcuma will have a side effect. This will probably go the marijuana way. To Indians, marijuana is a blessed drink used occasionally as offering to Shiva. It was taken up recreationally and habitually by westerners, got banned and after creating specific strains to intensify the outcome is now reitntroduced termed as medical marijuana. Observe the pattern. First, it's a great thing, then it's a narcotic/bad for you so it's banned and then, it's rehashed as medical marijuana and sold in different strains with extra potency not only to the westerners but also to those for whom it was native. Do you know that India banned marijuana a few decades ago in its effort to ape the United States Pharma model that pressurized this move, while the united states itself now recently legalized it as medical purpose and notched up the potency?
Ditto yoga. To colonise a tradition is terrible; to pervert it beyond recognition and make parody of a cultural system that has been intact for millenia is akin to blasphemy. Urban Indian folk are now learning yoga only because the westerners endorse it: much like eating at the McDonalds and KFC (at above average indian affordable prices) is catering to the wannabe cool westernized Indian that is so far removed from their ways thanks to education in the whitewashing western system given by the colonizing british. These will come to the more expensive yoga alliance hourly yoga factories over the cheaper true Indian institutions and colleges that have been established: because it offers shoulder space with foreigners, it is easier without real study effort, looks cool to be holding a certificate within a month or less of holiday and is globally accepted as the norm. This yoga alliance norm that is so much lower than the education standard any no frill traditional Indian government recognized college would have offered. 
What is it about the western mind that creates capitalist excessive indulgence behaviours? What is it about the Indian mind that is allowing this sell out without the conscience of giving the true story in entirety? Do the buyers not need/want to know it? Or is it too much time and effort to explain it to them? It is us Indians that have lost integrity to sell culture in a contorted way because that caters to popular demand and brings in dollar flashing crowds that rush in for the sale of asana and even fall for the gimmickisation of the esoteric. Yoga teachers are mass manufactured and going out with zero responsibility towards the aggravation that they are creating in minds and society overall. A true yogacharya will take ownership for the full effects of the practice and teach each student to come into his own as a yogi that need to find her/his self instead of having to return to the teacher for every time that an obstacle crops up. The traditional teachers were called yogacharcyas: Yoga + Aachaaryati(conduct) = one who must show yoga in their conduct. Yoga was only imparted to those that displayed the necessary grounds in their character and only after much practice were in position to pass on the knowledge with accountability. Today, there is no such measure in place. Teachers, in an effort to market themselves further, give out advanced practices like Khechari and yoga Nidra as if it is to be common knowledge. These were kept secret and sacred for good reasons. The sheer irresponsibility is appalling. I cannot blame a foreigner because they know no better but lay the blame squarely on the conscience of my fellow country-men and women too who are just as culpable in the homicide of yoga. Yoga factories are rife with sexual abuse in the guise of 'spiritual love' that is neither addressed nor spoken of and the presence of female teachers that quietly endorse or look away because it is going to affect their job/business makes it inexcusable. The sell is on Yoga while the product results in bhoga(physical gratification). The general attitude is this: Make hay while the sun shines..this is going to implode soon enough and I wanna make big bucks before the s..t hits the ceiling to splatter all over. Yoga will get the bad reputation and India will have to bear the tar stamped over her tradition or even be banned in its land of origin.

India is at a crucial point today: her tradition is being pillaged and colonised. Indians have it upon their conscience to reclaim their tradition as this might be the last generation to know yoga as it truly was. The future generations might never know what yoga truly means or what its purpose is. The stalwarts of traditional yoga, institutions like Kaivalyadhama are too much of an effort because they mean real study and mean that you need to make an effort. The yoga alliance pop-yoga is easier to learn and then spout asana classes in their flagrant deviations. The few true yoga colleges and universities in India are too much of an effort because don't cater for the holiday in Himalaya, Indian yoga tour bull because they require quality students willing to put in study. So the frivolous folk look at the yoga factories churning out yoga alliance teacher moulds without much effort and the holiday angle gets taken care of as well. 

The culture of yoga is the answer to global peace. The culture has been made into cults used to serve the means of a leader and cater to specific segments of society in their ways. This is why we see all the new fangled forms of yoga asana and the cults that follow them, the ones that don't, are outsiders. The very purpose of yoga is thus defeated: the unifying of one with one's soul and seeing divinity in each as a part of the same universal divinity gets reduced instead. The divide is created. We then see the 'others' in the same manner that animals are seen as separate souls which are lower on the ladder and permission is made to kill them for human enjoyment. A happy individual makes a happy society. I do know that yoga was made to help address humanity through higher evolving. It means working through the rough: temper, frustration and many more included...so by all means, go ahead: vent and then know the emptiness after the venting. Yogis are known to have cursed a few and also made amends for it. The story of the great sage Vishvamitra is a classic example: a king that forsook all and pursues his ambition to be accorded the title equivalent to greater sage Vashisth. His eventual surpassing of temper and the ego are stories of actual real emotion displaying and conquering yogis. Compare to the today's ecstasy-pill-popped, fake-grin-pasted-over, everything-is-perfect expression of the current yoga studio teacher who has in actuality and probability a full fledged tumultuous battle raging under the yogamat. I'm definitely not buying the flaky soft saccharine sweet coated perfect yoga figure. What is wrong with us? Why have we (ab)used yoga to escape an addressing of our emotions? Yoga asana practice was created to help surface whatever karmic (emotion) is stored within the body(physical, causal and subtle) and create the drawing board to work it through so as to cleanse the karmas and progress on to liberate the soul. Making yoga only asana has made it perverse and feeds the commercial capitalism than the pure simple purpose of moksha .

Is it that India has lost her tradition? Yoga had been given out to the world in its original form by gurus like Swami Vivekananda, Yogananda, Aurobindo, Swami Sivananda and his many disciples. Their teachings encompassed the yoga sutras, the Upanishad, the Bhagvad Gita, and extended to understanding of samkhya and vedanta which yoga is the twin philosophy for: samkhya is the framework of all Indian philosophy and yoga is the path to vedanta. The sthula(gross body) is samkhya, yoga the karana(causal) and vedanta is the sukhshma(subtle) sarira. The sister science of Ayurveda is also important as is astronomy/astrology. This traditional integration of all the aspects of yoga is the answer to the problems that we have created by jumping around like monkeys in asanas: the monkey mind is the root of all isssues and it will only find its answers when it is enlightened by the human chitta(discerning mind) with  comprehensive knowledge.

I know that this might be a huge asking, but yoga is a lifetime of study because it brings about a study of the self. If the payoff weren't so great, I'd not ask for it. My own experience of yoga: had begun as asana for flexibility reasons. I was extremely lucky to have true teachers (who I mostly resented at the time of having to learn Sanskrit verses and philosophy stuff that was beyond my comprehension; much in the same manner that I resented my mother when she taught me life skills as housework and I now am very indebted to those very teachers and mother who literally smacked me to self knowledge and sustainability).

Do come to India for yoga studies but please understand that this land has a lot more original yoga to offer. If you aren't looking for it, but simply want the fancy stamp of India, by all means, come in on a holiday or retreat, not a frilly yoga study tour to fool your self. 

 

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Guest - Sandy Sooknanan on Saturday, 23 June 2018 14:58

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