28 February 2012

Yoga and "Libidinous Surprise" or, "Could It Be Satan?"

Here is a brief, scandalous genealogy of Yoga in the west.
"The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. . . .

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including intercourse — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality.

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old eroticism for a new emphasis on health and fitness.

B. K. S. Iyengar, the author of “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha’s Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases. And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha."
How is that for a description of a practice being disciplined? Talk about docile bodies!

I came across the passage in this report from The New York Times in which we learn that many pooh-bahs of Yoga, present and past, are not only (as a quick skim of the plentiful adverts in any recent issue of Yoga Journal will document) pretty venal, but pretty horny. Both vices are predictable. After all, there are buckets of money at stake in the Yoga-industrial-complex*; hence, the more or less irresistible urge of Yoga celebs to be proprietary. It turns out as well that the erotics of the enterprise apparently have a physiological basis. As the title to The Times story announces: "no surprise."

That is not to say that there are no ethical issues involved in the situations The Times reports. But it is funny how those caught up in thoroughly sublimated varieties of Yoga can so readily work themselves into paroxysms of puritanical moralism. Unfortunately, this is something I've witnessed myself on multiple occasions. It brings to mind the strictures to which the church hierarchy expects devout Catholics to hew. And the shock we find expressed in the article - that a Yogi could be led astray by "partying and fun" - reminds me of nothing so much as Dana Carvey's Church Lady on the old SNL. In the picture I've lifted above she is taking a pose (asana) that I'm not familiar with. If I had to guess, I'd say this is the sort of asana practitioners might adopt as they seek to "think themselves into states of sexual ecstasy." Look everyone, no hands!
* Most recently, this urge to profit from enlightenment has created (pun intended) some strange bedfellows [link].

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Blogger Unknown said...

We actually incorporate those hand positions in a pose at my studio. The teacher tells to to imagine that we are delicately clutching two ripe pieces of fruit.

29 February, 2012 01:31  

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