Modern yoga is a modern invention? / 1: body yoga

The answer seems obvious and yet, the book of Singleton The body of yoga (Yoga Body) It has come to delve into a point, apparently, sensitive: antiquity and origin of contemporary yoga. Certainly the most appropriate content title would have been The yoga of the body. Writes Joaquin G. Weil

Subtitled The Origins of Modern Posture Practice, the origins of the modern posture practice, Yoga Body it alludes to the "body formed through the practice of yoga". That body of the title in Spanish does not return then, how at first you might think, to a "theoretical corpus" of yoga, but to the the body in modern yoga culture. In this ambiguous title in Spanish, as in the long preface the Spanish Edition, playing a sort of Neti-neti (this or that) of the academic with the recent history of yoga.

The academic has a weak flank, and is that it values more documented than the plausible. Removing that in academia is something akin to the journalistic field: as some journalists do not let that truth spoil them a good story, some scholars also like to certain facts to spoil them a good thesis.

Years ago when I read the book of Sjöman The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace, which, to a great extent, is based on the book of Singleton, I had the same feeling that now read this book the same: provide data that contradict its main thesis. Focus on the book The yoga body (editorial Kairos) or "Yoga body".

What exactly is the thesis of Mark Singleton in this book? Well, in the words of the author: "The modern practice of asana emerged from a dialectical relationship with physical culture and harmonic gymnastics: absorbed many of these teachings and, after claiming them as their own, sold them back to the public in the West as the purest expression of the culture" Indian Physics" (p. 313 of the Spanish Edition).

Harmonic gymnastics

Does any basis this thesis? It is clear that to unravel a phenomenon as complex as that you are trying, almost enough to be documented with bibliography, magazines, interviews and other sources, even we should not resort to the very same Akashic archives, so to speak.

The yoga body Singleton is with certainty a very interesting book which I think every teacher of yoga or committed practitioner should read, more by their thesis or postulates, in the amount of interesting facts that brings about the modern history of yoga. Although, as I said above, it is clear that Singleton, as it is logical and natural, select data and sorts them so that they reinforce his main thesis above.

To start with the origin of the so-called "harmonic gymnastics" described by the own Singleton, in his thesis speaks of "dialectical relationship", from which emerge the modern practice of asana. What does it mean "dialectical relationship" in everyday language applied to the case? Well that until the harmonic gymnastics influence in hatha yoga, voila, hata yoga had already influenced the gymnastics. Like this Mollie Gagot Stack, the main promoter or founder of the so called harmonic gymnastics, before developing your system "he learned some Asana and relaxation of a such Mr. Gopal techniques."

This reminds me of that academic joke)Small World: An Academic Romance, David Lodge, 1984) on the influence of the contemporary poet T. S. Elliot in the Elizabethan dramatist Shakespeare. In other words, when we speak of influence, as well as the similarity is required the temporal precedence.

And we see this in the book of Singleton on more than one occasion. For example, when speaks of the influence of Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen in modern yoga. Not Alexander Lowen, as Singleton acknowledges, to study yoga only Wilhem Reich was disciple of Freud, the basic theory of the unconscious can not be understood without the influence of Buddhism (see Lenoir, Buddhism in the West). Therefore, to claim that Wilhem Reich has an influence on contemporary yoga is clear that it entails a great "dialectical relationship", to put it in Terms of Singleton.

But not only that, but by sticking to this punctual case and not extending too much, Freud takes these ideas of Schopenhauer who in turn took them from Kraus. So consider that now contemporary Western theories influence yoga, would require careful consideration of those theories referred to in order to determine their exact affiliation, whether Eastern or Western. The ideas of the East, that is: yoga, Vedanta, Buddhism, etc. have been influencing the West for centuries. That's what I call "seed ideas".

The influence of the body on the mind

The basic idea, which haunts The whole Book of Singleton, that the body, its exercise and its care influence the mind and its thoughts, It is precisely one of the main tenets of the mentioned Schopenhauer and his follower Nietzsche and from there in numerous authors and thinkers. Undoubtedly it is an idea of yogic and Buddhist origin, as we have already said. Although it was already present in the Greco-Latines: mens sana in corpore sanate. Nietzsche, of course, did not practice asanas, but involved long walks in the Alps while shaping his philosophical ideas. (I just came up with a yogic-nietzscheano aphorism: mens sana in corpore asana; at the moment it's a phrase that doesn't yield results on Google.)

Then, in the preface to the Spanish edition of the book already mentioned (p. 10), Singleton reformulates or refines his thesis by suggesting that hatha yoga thrived in an environment prone to physical culture (almost as it could not be otherwise).

To find out if Singleton's theses have any basis, the first thing would be to understand what hatha yoga really is, or the hard yoga, so to speak. We don't want to pretend that Swatmarama tell us about the psoas muscles, not much less the most controversial pyramidal muscles. It is clear that every era has its modes of expression and its worldview. The hatha yoga of that time was developed and expressed in a worldview or religious paradigm, y el de nuestra época se comprende desde una cosmovisión y paradigma científico o cientifista (médico y anatomista, en el caso concreto, como se ve desde los inicios de su recuperación en tiempos modernos con Yogengra and Kuvalayananda).

El hatha yoga evidentemente en sí mismo es una tradición rica y de diversas expresiones, si bien, en el espacio breve de un artículo quiero centrarme en el Hatha Yoga Pradipika o Luz sobre el Hatha Yoga. En I.4. refiere este conocimiento de las asanas a los antiguos yoguis Goraksha and Matsysendra. Y a continuación lo remite a un largo linaje que pasa por el mismo Buddha, hasta llegar al propio Shiva.

It keeps saying Swatmarama en I.10: “El haṭhayoga es un refugio para quienes padecen de los tres tipos de dolor”. Puede haber, y de hecho hay, diversas interpretaciones sobre qué son esos “tres tipos de dolor”. Lo qué sí está claro que uno de los dolores más evidente es el dolor causado por la enfermedad tanto física como mental. Por lo tanto, el hatha yoga está orientado en origen y en esencia a ganar salud física o corporal, entre otros aspectos.

También se dice en este libro a continuación: “Para todos los que se dedican al yoga, el hathayoga es la base que soporta su práctica”. En otras palabras, una vez más se supera la artificiosa distinción entre los así llamados “yoga físico y yoga mental”. Por otra parte, antes ha dicho I.2: “El yogui Swatmarama, después de saludar solemnemente a su maestro, establece desde el principio que el hathavidya (conocimiento del hatha) es solamente un medio para la realización del rayayoga (el yoga descrito por Patanjali).”

There is no yoga without body

En resumen, según Swatmarama: El hatha yoga es la base de la práctica del raya yoga. Y el raya yoga es el objetivo del hatha yoga. No tiene por tanto sentido, desde el punto de vista del hatha yoga, diferenciar un yoga físico o corporal de otro que no lo sea. No hay yoga sin cuerpo. Y esa es una de las razones por las que los espíritus viene a encarnarse en la Tierra: para poder practicar yoga.

En la siguiente entrega mostraré cómo algunos datos de Singleton contradicen precisamente las tesis de Singleton. El hatha yoga con objetivos parecidos a algunos contemporáneos (si bien bajo una diferente cosmovisión o paradigma) ya existía antes de la llegada de la gimnasia sueca, armónica, calistenia, etc. Y por otra parte, es cierto que gran parte del yoga contemporáneo es fisioculturista con algún aderezo de Patanjali. O sea, Singleton tiene razón en esto.

Joaquín G. Weil He is the author of the training manual in accordance with the official agenda of Spain Dominio de las Técnicas Específicas del Yoga:

Other articles on ,
By • 22 Apr, 2019 • Sección: Joaquín G. Weil