Have you heard of Enlighten Up! A Skeptic’s Journey Into the World of Yoga?? Surely by now. We reviewed the yogamentary last year when it toured around popping up on select movie screens across the country. Did it skip your town? Not to worry! The US tour is pretty much over, but now everyone can watch it at home! Released last week, the DVD features 50 minutes of bonus material, plus, you know, the entire transformation-seeking world-traveling yoga adventure. Also last week, we held a contest to give away 2 copies of the DVD and asked everyone to submit their questions for filmmaker Kate Churchill and skeptic guinea pig Nick Rosen, because we got to interview them! It’s true. Many thanks to everyone for their thoughtful inquiries – we did our best to cover each of them and drag out the truth ask Kate and Nick in our politest manner.
We cut out all the yammering (ours), and it’s still a long one, but chock full of interesting bits and maybe some controversy! oooh. Did they prove yoga can transform anyone? Find out how Kate and crew got in to see BKS Iyengar, her thoughts on the late Sri K Pattabhi Jois, how Nick enjoys his celebriyogi status and how he thinks the “real yoga” debate is BS. Oh, and why they both think traveling to India to find enlightenment is superfluous.
(for the impatient, at time of interview, yes Nick is single. Kate is not)
INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER KATE CHURCHILL
YD got to catch up with filmmaker Kate Churchill while she’s wrapping up another project in Ireland.
First off we really enjoyed the film. We hear the US theatrical run has wrapped up, but what about enlightening other countries?
It’s running in Canada in theaters now. We’re in discussions right now with a couple different European distributors.
And the DVD? Australia is waiting very patiently, you know.
It’s in the US and will be available in Canada as well. We haven’t gotten distribution deal in Europe or UK. I would be misleading people if I said there was something in the pipeline. Good news is my current work will be done the week of Thanksgiving. The first couple weeks of December before everyone disappears for the holidays hopefully I’ll be able to get a bunch of international distribution organized. I’ll def tweet or post it.
Great! On to yoga. You were the experienced “practitioner” in making the film, while Nick was the newbie. Do you practice yoga now, and if so, what type? Has it evolved?
When I started making the film I’d been practicing for 7 years, so now I’m up to 12 years because it took 5 years to make the film. When I started the film, I was mainly focused on Ashtanga yoga. Now it’s a much more mixed up version of a number of different practices. There’s a teacher I really like in Boston named Aaron Cantor. He studied Ashtanga for a long time, he studied Iyengar, he’s done a lot of work with Shandor Remete (Shadow Yoga) and he just blends it all together in a very individual practice.
I think what happened is when I was first starting out making the film, I was really bound and determined to find one practice and one teacher. And through the course of this journey and the conversations I had along the way it really opened me up to the possibility that yoga is what ever you choose it to be and the practice you develop is one that should suit you the best.
En route to enlightenment we get that you’re looking for Nick to “transform”. What were your preconceptions and expectations of what “transformation” would be?
It’s funny because I had these really high expectations that given 6 months and the ability to go anywhere in the world that something quite radical would happen. If you’d asked me to define it at the start, my definition would’ve been very vague because it would’ve been that we were going to meet or discover some form of enlightenment. But the interesting thing about enlightenment is if you never define it then you never really know what you’re looking for, and then you can just keep looking, and in fact, may indeed miss something that right in front of you.
And so through this journey I had these expectations, I thought yoga would have a profound impact on him both physically but even more so spiritually. I expected him to, through the immersion and through meeting a teacher who really clicked for him, that it could have a profound impact on changing his life.
Did you indeed see a transformation?
There were two different phases. While I was making the film I was so wrapped up in this kind of odd and idealistic expectation that something radical would happen, like if Nick started levitating I’d be like oh there we go. It was ironic cause while I was making the film I really rarely was ever in the moment. I was always onto the next thing or my expectations were always telling me ‘oh we don’t have it yet’ and I missed a lot of great moments at time. It wasn’t until I started editing the film – and it took 3 years to edit, granted we had 500 hours of material – when I had to dissect it, the tension between Nick and myself, the pressure of my expectations on Nick, when I really had to examine that I started to see Nick making a number of changes that ranged from subtle to actually quite significant. In a way it was in the edit I was able to sit back and learn a lot from Nick that I was blind to in the moment.
This all transpired over 6 months. What do you think would’ve happened if you had more time?
I think more time would’ve allowed a number of things. We did this kind of wild investigation and engaged in this yogic debate with different teachers. but I also think there’s a huge significance to just settling down with one teacher and studying and we did do more of that than you get a sense of in the film.
More time would’ve worked if our journey was different. Two thirds through the way we both get really frustrated and discouraged with each other, and it’s at the point in the film that things start to shift. In away nick and I each start taking our own journey, separate from each other – I give up on trying to force him to fulfill my expectations and he gives up on his resistance to pressure, and perhaps allows himself to be more open. Had that journey continued whether we were together or apart it would’ve continued to be profound. That journey did continue for me for 3 years in the edit room.
You got some pretty awesome interviews with yoga’s VIPs in India. Particularly impressive was your time with BKS Iyengar. How did you pull that off?
We were really lucky that I knew Patricia Walden from Boston and she was really supportive of this film from the beginning. We weren’t able to confirm any interviews with anyone before we got there, so I and the film crew went halfway around the world with no certainty this would work out. It was very stressful. With Pattabhi Jois we literally had to show up on the doorstep of the shala and practiced for a few weeks before we could bring up the conversation. With Iyengar, because we had an introduction from Patricia Walden, we were able to make some progress, but upon arrival were told we wouldn’t be able to see him. I timed our arrival with Patricia Walden’s arrival in Pune and we were staying in the same hotel so I walked over to her room and said sorry to bother you this is what happened. She said, “oh just come over with me.” So we drove over together to his institute. We got there and she opened the door and there she was with her long legs stepping out of the car and Mr. Iyengar was up above us a couple stories in the practice room looking down through the open windows. He sees Patricia and starts waving and saying hello because they’re very close and invites us all in, and there you go! He ended up giving us a 3 hour interview.
Wow. Did you have trouble editing that down for the film?
We have a version that’s 80 minutes that we thought maybe down the road we can do a stand alone Iynegar piece. If the DVD does well enough then we can come out with a collector’s edition. He’s so prolific. The same with gurusharananonda. We also have an hour and half of material with him as well.
Was there anyone in particular you met with that surprised you or ended up not being as you expected?
I think that kinda happened all the time. We walked into Iyengar being ready for a really fierce guy, and certainly he’s intense, but he was really welcoming and lovely and enthusiastic and had a great sense of humor. So this happened to us along the trip; we would go in wondering, having heard what someone was like or having a sense of it based on whatever their shala was like or whoever was handling them.
Like when we went in to see gurusharanananda we had no idea of anything about him, and in northern India we saw so many gurus and saints and babas we were joking about how we would see one or two a day. We saw so many people we didn’t really click with and it was very random and you would have an incredible experience, but it wouldn’t necessarily make any sense. When we walked in to see gurusharanananda we thought wow this guy has a really nice ashram, a lot of people are coming to visit him, it seems very well organized. That’s all we knew. We walked in and here is this man who was so eloquent and really lovely and welcoming, and we just engaged in an amazing conversation. So our trip was full of surprises that way.
Sri K Pattabhi Jois passed away earlier this year. How was your experience with Guruji?
We were based in Mysore for about a month. While we were there for the first couple weeks he was pretty sick so we didn’t have too much interaction with him. Going into our third week we got to sit down for an interview. It wasn’t a very long interview, it was probably about half an hour, 20minutes. It was interesting – there were parts that were really spot on and made a lot of sense and there were other parts where he would kinda go off on a tangent and it was a little hard to follow him. His English is not as strong as Iyengar. I think, too, he wasn’t feeling so well. The thing about Pattabhi Jois is he was just a really sweet man to be around. He didn’t really talk a lot, but he would have a smile and a twinkle in his eye. and you would just feel good. That was strong enough to get, more so than necessarily an elaborate description for debate or theory, from him. He was less inclined to engage in a verbal debate, but he was very active physically.
It was sad when he died, but what a rich life he lived and it’s incredible to think how many people got the opportunity to study with him. At the shala when he was still alive there could be 100-150 people there each morning studying. He had such a huge influence on so many people and had a very long rich life. He really left quite a mark.
A primary chunk of the film focuses on journeying east, and some might say the American teachers in the opening sequence came off looking a bit foolish. Why did you not interview more US teachers? And did you catch any flack from teachers in the film’s opening interviews?
Nick was based in NY so the teachers he went to go meet and study with initially were all NY based teachers that he or I had heard things about and we discussed. That’s how he ended up at Jivamukti, Dharma Mittra, the Bikram studio, Cyndi Lee, Alan Finger. Definitely some feathers were ruffled with the teachers in the opening, but the majority of the teachers were fine with it. Rodney Yee came out to a preview screening in Berkeley and loved it, thought it was really funny.
Nick and I interviewed those teachers [in the opening] at the Yoga Journal conference and asked them all the same exact questions. My point of that sequence was to try and make a collective voice about yoga, but the interesting thing is that when you make a collective voice about yoga there’s not a lot of concrete historical info, in fact there’s very little, so the fact that no one will give you the same answer for how old yoga is – you can get a range from 2,000 to about 40,000 years – doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re talking about, it means that yoga doesn’t have a strong history and everybody has their take on it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
The issue of their different products [DVDs, etc] is really just to say, look it’s become big business and everybody has a way to show you their practice. There’s nothing wrong with being a successful teacher where people enjoy your class so much that they want to buy your DVD. It’s kinda great. It’s funny if that seems really awkward or difficult or not what you’re about when meanwhile you’re selling these products.
There was one glaring omission in the teacher crew. Did you try to get an interview with Bikram Choudhury?
We really tried so many different ways to get an interview and it was really disappointing because both Nick and I really really wanted to. But his PR people were just impenetrable, which is odd, because he was the only person who said no to us.
There seems to be a debate on “real” yoga in the West, and there’s an emphasis in the film on traveling to India to seek its roots. Do you think this film could’ve been made a US-only version?
I don’t think you have to go anywhere. Norman Allen always says that. It’s really a matter of your intention and what you do with your practice and how you open your mind to it.
The irony was that we went to India thinking wow this is really the source, but when we go there the yoga that seemed really significant had nothing to do with our yoga. So it’s just a matter of what you want to study. It doesn’t really matter, you could do it in Idaho if you found the right teacher who suited you and if you found the right source of material.
I think ultimately through making this film, to me, enlightenment translates into becoming aware. There’s so many different ways to do that and it’s up to you to sort out how you do that.
Any plans for a sequel?
Not right now. In terms of storytelling the story was told.
INTERVIEW WITH “SKEPTIC” NICK ROSEN
We caught up with Nick to ask him the what’s how’s and why’s of making the film and his reflections now 5 years on. We caught him by surprise as he was tooling around Boulder in his car, but after the initial shock, and YD charm, we dove straight in.
You did lots of yoga on your 6-month journey. Are you still practicing? If not, what else occupies your time?
I practice yoga as much as I can, which is about once a month (laughs) It’s not as much as I can, I’m kinda kidding. I like yoga a lot. I guess I’m just not as disciplined about it as I should be or committed to it like a lot of people are who are really into it. There are all these things in my life that I know are really good for me that I should be doing more of, and yoga falls into that category along with things like eating better food, reading important literature, etc. It fluctuates. Sometimes I go once a week and sometimes I go months without doing it. I really like to run which I find really meditational, and I do my own sort of yoga stretches at home; after I run I do a set of sun salutations and some hip openers. I love climbing too and I do a lot of that out here in Boulder when I’m not working. Mostly I just work. (Sender Films)
So a lot of chairasana! You know “sort of yoga” is still yoga. Good for you.
I do go to studios and I find it’s amazing how many free classes you can cycle through. There’s this whole art of getting free classes. I find I enjoy yoga so much more when it’s free, I don’t know why.
OK. So why?
If I’m paying for it I always feel like I’m doing a cost benefit analysis, but if I don’t pay for it it’s just all gravy.
Did you take a yoga break after India?
Actually that’s when I kept doing a lot of yoga even after the filming stopped. As we all know yoga can be a little bit like crack cocaine – hard to kick – so I kept doing it quite a bit when I got back. It’s kinda sad, I think about how open and flexible my body was at the time. I’m in pretty good shape now that I live out in Boulder, maybe even in some ways better well-rounded shape, stronger in some ways, but as far as my yoga shape, I miss those days when I could just do a forward bend and press my chin up against my thighs. It was nice. But those days are long past.
It’s never too late!
Yeah it’s never too late. I don’t know what would cause me to get back into it. But I could for sure.
Boulder’s a pretty happenin‘ yoga town. Do you get recognized on the street?
Not nearly as much as I want to! It’s rather disappointing. Sometimes I have to be like hey do I look familiar? I’m the yoga guy! I’m just kidding about that. But I actually did just walk into lululemon the other day and I was like ‘I’m the yoga guy’ and they gave me some free shit. That was kinda the most shameless I’ve been about this whole thing.
But no, really I’m not a celebrity of any kind unfortunately. Or maybe fortunately.
How has your yoga journey lingered and seeped into your everyday life now?
Sometimes I would squirm at the idea of these half-baked new-age nostrums I’d learn in yoga class, and despite my resistance they seep in. But they seep in because they’re good. They’re popular because they’re good. I don’t think they’re popular because they’re ancient, frankly. I don’t think it has anything to do with it. I think they’re effective ways for contemporary people who go through life.
There was a lot of great stuff and it was kinda shoey, ok so we’re stretching what does that have to do with compassion or non-attachment? But then I had this thing where I was like OK well because this is like this big experiment I have to keep my mind open and I’m not going to allow myself to resist these positive ideas. That would be a real shame. Just because I had a problem with the way they were delivered or with the qualifications of the person who was delivering them, would I allow myself to miss out on the lessons anyway? Compassion is good. Bringing balance and non-attachment into your life, those are important things to do. So despite my resistance they resonate to this day.
In India you became very emotional about your mom. Do you think it had to do with the yoga, or was it because you were so far from home? Did your yoga adventure change your relationship with your mom and/or other people in your life?
That whole experience did have an impact on my relationship. I think this was something that was going on in my life with or without yoga, in becoming a man and coming to terms with big things like the relationship to my mother and processes that I was working on anyway. It helped a lot that I had this forum to really intensely, and with a lot of intention, address those gaps in my life. Going to the mat everyday as we all know is a very effective way of intentionally bringing it up.
I don’t think there’s anything magical about the yoga, but it’s meditational and you bring intention to it. I might not have had such an effective year of progress in dealing with all my own shit if it wasn’t for that. It certainly was sort of true that the pressures of the film – Kate being angry with me, being out in India far from home – I started to miss my mom a lot. It wasn’t just her though, it was a lot of things and it sort of precipitated and I felt pretty lonely and isolated at that point. I thought nobody likes me and I’m destroying this movie and what am I doing out here? It was helpful for me to think about the people who really do love you.
What’s cool about all this yoga in the way Kate was proposing it – kind of a transformational self-help tool – it was great that it brought up these issues that you should be addressing and you can’t hide from anymore. Five years later I can still go to that. I can still stop myself in the moment where I’m not living up to my ideals, and take a deep breath and, you know, remember to be nice to my mom. (laughs)
Oh you should always be nice!
Oh I know but it’s not always that easy! No she’s a wonderful person and it’s important to remember to tell her that. She obviously loves the movie because it’s a big demonstration of that, in the end.
You were 29 when you embarked on your yoga journey. Did that have any affect on your decision to take it on?
I think that’s why Kate chose me. I took it on because she proposed it and I was like how could I not? It was a transitional stage in my life a little bit – I wasn’t sure where I was going next or why. I don’t know to this day how much causality that project or that year had on my current past. it probably had some practical impact. I stepped out of my life, I was working as a journalist in the field of international relations, I had gone to grad school and was firmly entrenched in this world of NY. I stepped out of that and when I came back to it I didn’t really settle in again. When my friend said hey come out to Boulder and do this company with me I was ready for that and it was partly because of the yoga thing that I had developed an interest in film making.
Was there any person or experience that resonated more deeply than others?
Meeting with BKS Iyengar was fascinating. That guy is really an individual and kind of nuts, and really just fun and interesting. He’s a character. He actually shed some interesting light. Through this whole thing I was really fascinated with the idea of yoga’s historical roots and we were learning some really eyeopening things about that. And he puts the icing on the cake because he was the link between yoga in India and the western world, you know Light on Yoga, which is this hugely influential book.
Gurusharanananda – we call him Baba Claus with his big beard – he was edifying because he told us don’t worry about it. I was freaking out, Kate was freaking out, this felt like a total failure of an experiment and he just told us the experiment was the problem. You are yourself. It was a very simple thing, like Shakespeare’s “to thine self be true.” It took the pressure off. I started to think about it a lot as a kind of self-analysis, and it didn’t conform to a specific spiritual tradition which was constantly a block because Kate kept bringing me to these people who kept insisting that the big deal was god. And that’s not what I believe, that’s not my universe.
What do you say to those who argue their yoga is more “real” than others?
It drives me nuts! When people try to say that their one yoga is more legitimate than another because it has so-called historical lineage or a better pedigree. That is BS. If you look at the history of yoga it is not about that. The ancient yoga is nothing like what we practice; postures were irrelevant. Postural yoga is a very modern phenomenon. The history’s like 100 years old.
Yoga’s anything you want it to be and that’s very freeing. The worst is people saying we’re destroying yoga in America because it’s not spiritual enough. Tell that to BKS Iyengar when he was 25 years old developing this on his own and wasn’t spiritual. I just think that’s sanctimonious hypocrisy and often is a marketing tool more than anything.
Do you think there could be a US-only version of Enlighten Up? After your journey did you feel it was necessary to travel all the way to India?
It was very enlightening to go to India and to see the big yoga shala’s in India were filled with Westerners. This was all new for them like it was for us and you ask people about yoga, like the taxi driver in Bombay, and he says “ah yes, mind control.” There’s not big postural yoga tradition in India. It’s way bigger in the West and some of the classes we went to they were inspired by Madonna. And what is the big state sponsored official Indian yoga? It’s yoga competitions, with gold medals and stuff like that, who can do the best headstand. I had to go [to India] to fully appreciate just how much you didn’t have to go (laughs). I still recommend that people go and practice yoga in India because it’s a great way to travel, but don’t expect that you’re finding something more authentic or better for you in any way. But some people are into that and I think that’s great too. If you want to go and stay in Mysore and practice with Sharath and do ayurvedic medicine and live the whole thing, it’s great. But to me it’s not necessarily more authentic than going to Core Power Yoga. It’s just different. It’s perfectly legitimate either way.
So what about Bikram and the competitions?
I think that would be horrifying. It does not sound fun or interesting, a yoga competition. If you’re not into it don’t do it, but don’t criticize Bikram for importing what really is going on in India. I actually admire Bikram in a lot of ways because he’s no bullshit and he’s not trying to be a spiritual leader. The word yoga is confusing because it’s so many different things.
So did you have transformation or what?
Sure! Well what is transformation? I’m still the same person but did something change? Yes. I’m still totally humbled and unaware of how much. Some days I feel like I’m a kind of a relatively enlightened individual and other times I’m like oh my god I have no clue. It’s just like life. Yoga can be a great vehicle for transformation for people and I met a lot of people through that whole process like who were addicted to drugs or really depressed and yoga created this really intense energetic regular thing to devote themselves to that brought them a lot of stability. That sounds a little more like transformation than what I went through which is like calling my mom more often. but that is big for me, modest but it’s big and if that’s transformation then I’ll take it.
Some of our readers want to know. Are you single?
Yes, I am.
Final thoughts and reflections?
I was so fortunate to be involved in it. I think Kate would admit that the experiment was a disaster, but the film being very honest was a success.
Enlighten Up! DVD now on sale at Amazon
Official Movie Site and official movie twitter @enlightenupthefilm
Earlier…Why You Should ‘Enlighten Up!’ The YogaDork Review
Giveaway! Send Us Your Questions, Win a Copy of Enlighten Up! DVD
So Nick Rosen: mama’s boy and yoga class sponger! I liked him better in the documentary. I do like Kate better now, however. She seems to have recognized her silly aspirations of making “Shallow Hal” Rosen levitate or just become a slightly better person.
interesting. and no I have not see the movie….but…
“Postural yoga is a very modern phenomenon. The history’s like 100 years old.”
actually no. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is more than 100 years old and postures are in it. like. 😉
“Yoga’s anything you want it to be and that’s very freeing.”
really? then I guess I CAN swing from a chandelier wearing only my chakra panties and call it Swinging Yoga (TM)! yay!
“The worst is people saying we’re destroying yoga in America because it’s not spiritual enough. Tell that to BKS Iyengar when he was 25 years old developing this on his own and wasn’t spiritual. ”
really? sorry, but I find it hard to believe that not one ounce of spirituality of some sort was not imparted from Krishnamarcharya to BKS! really.
I am even more excited to see this now, I really like Nick’s point of view on Bikram – tough subject
It’s precisely because of our vague knowledge of Yoga’s beginnings that I agree with Nick’s view that “Yoga’s anything you want it to be and that’s very freeing.”
I saw Enlighten Up! and was very moved by the film’s honesty and by Nick’s subtle transformation .
Yoga, it seems to me, has that ability to be an individual, free-spirited, physical, emotional and spiritual journey. It can also be a structured route under the guidance of a Guru/Teacher.
Why should anyone dictate which is the right way to practice? Each person’s spiritual learning and path is the personal right and freedom that is theirs to celebrate and cherish. Let’s leave it at that.
Like, what Linda said. Yoga only 100 years old. Ahem. Cough.
I’d like to see how Nick would feel if he was trying to make a living as a yoga teacher and had people floating around with his “gravy” attitude.
If I get offered a free class, I consider it a blessing. Not the way it should be. Maybe it was that way once, but in a world where money keeps the wheels turning, it is rude to think that way.
Okay a couple people think I’m crazy so I gotta respond.
1) postural yoga is 100 years old
2) Iyengar did not practice philosophy before 1960. just asana.
Okay, #1 is kinda flippant. but what I meant is, postural yoga only became prevalent in India in the 20th century. I refer you to Joseph Alter’s book “Yoga in Modern India”. Before that, it was pretty obscure. And yes, the Hathayogapradipika is about 500 years old, and does describe some postures. But it recommends them as giving “steadiness, health and lightness of body” — kind of like doing jumping jacks before the big game. And that’s only the first 10% of the book, which then goes on to talk about a whole lot of other more important stuff, like pranayama, meditation and becoming one with the Atman. But again this was not exactly a best selling book, to my understanding. I would say Iyengar had way more influence on how we practice yoga today.
Which brings me to my second crazy theory: well that one I got from the man himself. Iyengar told us that, on camera, that he received philosophical teachings in 1960, not before. He had already been practicing asana for decades. (I hope Kate put it in the DVD extras!) If I recall it was a bunch of Londoners who told him about the yoga sutras and all that. Six years later, He put it all together in ‘Light on Yoga.’ And boom: modern yoga is born.
My overall point is, the use of postures as a philosophical/spiritual tool and end in itself — the way we practice it now — is pretty darn new.
And finally: I do sometimes pay for yoga. But I imagine Core Power is perfectly happy to have me come to their free classes. Why else would they offer them EVERY WEEK?
thanks yogadork, this has been fun. thanks everyone!
Re: #1. That’s all well and good *if* you assume the only person to ever know anything about yoga is Iyengar. And if you assume he is the only person to have brought yoga to the west.
Neither of these assumptions are true. Iyengar is one yoga master only. But let’s talk of Sivananda (who was never seen practicing asana much himself, but was insistent that his disciples practice it), of Paramahansa Yogananda, Abhinavagupta or Milarepa?
All of them were practicing a form of asana of some description. All have been around much longer than 100 years.
The problem with the history of yoga is two-fold:
1) Much of it was handed down via oral tradition for a long time. This is the way history was treated in many cultures. So, while you could say yoga (asana) was not in its current form until relatively recent times, asana has been practiced for a much longer time than 100 years. Whether or not it was practiced ‘widely’, that doesn’t change the fact that asana is much older than that!
Re: the purpose of yoga. This is true: the original (and for some people these days still) intent of yoga is to prepare the body and mind for meditation, leading to enlightenment. But I wouldn’t buy into the “jumping jacks” concept. Asana is a little more significant than that!
2) Saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions and being as specific as we are in the west with our thinking, is not common in Indian/Asain culture. So, for example, even having Iyengar say on camera he didn’t hear about the yoga sutras until a bunch of Londoners told him… well, in some ways that could be true. To his thinking. And maybe that is true. But then again, maybe its not.
Wow. I’m impressed!
These are terrific interviews and the the ensuing discussion is great, too.
Thanks for doing this.
Guess Nick would be the “Freeloader” yoga student type 🙂
As suspected there are a few bones of contention here!
All the better for interesting and stimulating conversation. All comments are welcome of course, this is obviously not a clear cut discussion.
And just a quick shout out to both Nick and Kate for being so gracious and candid in the interviews. Nick thanks for chiming in here, very much appreciated. (and yes that footage of Iyengar is in the bonus material)
In Nick’s defense on “free yoga”, there are so many free yoga classes these days why not take advantage of them? (lulu is guilty of that). Better than no yoga at all right? we all end up giving back in our own way.
What a fantastic interview. I cannot wait to see the movie (finally showing here in Halifax Canada) next friday.
What I think is interesting is that yoga’s history doesn’t quite have that much relevance for today… as in whether it was 100 years old (asana) or whether it was thousands of years old does not negate it’s impact. I will not change the way I practice or view yoga to accomodate a random ‘age’. History is tricky and always difficult to track- written from cultural and language bias/barriers.
It does not make yoga ‘more’ or ‘less’ legitimate… at least in my perspective.
And I LOVE free classes- because I am broke. I’m sorry, but 16$ for one class a week or 130$ for unlimited a month isn’t in my budget. I show up for all free classes I can find because I recognize that I have so much to learn, and my daily home practice doesn’t cut it. Why was their flak about free classes?
I wish I could support local studios, but realistically I just can’t. If there were more ‘by donation’ then I’d feel better about giving what I can 5-10$ a class and let those higher SES peeps support the studio… trust me if I were higher SES I would spend the moolah easily.
Great interviews. This film was a little hard to watch because of the mounting pressures being placed on Nick for a “transformation” without the clear communication of exactly what kind of transformation was being sought.
For me truths come out of the yoga mat and I gain some clarity in my actions and thoughts, it is a tool to use in my relationships. All I wanted to know is that Nick was able to be a little more honest in how he dealt with his mother and father. I am glad this was touched on in this interview, that is what I was looking for from him.
My understanding is that postural yoga had all but disappeared in India in the 19th century, and then was revived from obscurity in the 20th century when very modern and western concepts like physical education and health/fitness were becoming big in colonial India. Then it caught on in the west, where it has since been way more popular than in India.
And it’s true that some of the men teaching this asana in the 20th century claimed a long, unbroken tradition of their gurus and their guru’s gurus. But isn’t there some evidence that these stories of learning yoga from a guru in a cave up in the himalayas are somewhat apocryphal? Even Krishnamacharya’s story involves him getting the ashtanga series from his deceased guru in a dream (I highly recommend Elizabeth Kadetsky’s book “First There is a Mountain” for an analysis of Krishnamacharya’s lineage). So there is concrete evidence that asana is at least 500 years old, but I think the important question is whether it was a real tradition, an unbroken lineage, and whether it really had a real specific spiritual/philosophical function, the way we conceive it today. Or maybe those aren’t important questions. Because the way we treat it today — in all its crazy iterations — seems to work great for us!
Nick/EcoYogini – re: free classes. Let me just say if free classes are offered then great. But the way I read what Nick was saying in the interview was that he would only go to yoga if it was free. The reason studios can offer free classes is because they have paying students. Or places like Lulu, offering them a part of their business model. I too, think free classes are great. Especially if you can’t afford to pay. But I pay for my yoga wherever I can to support teachers. Especially since I’ll be one myself sometime soon! 🙂
Nick – Please don’t get me wrong – I’m glad you’ve joined in the conversation here. And I’m just seeking clarifications 😀
Interestingly, you’ve contradicted yourself. Is yoga 100 or 500 years old? You’ve now said its both.
I’m curious to understand how deeply you’ve studied the history of yoga, given the two books you’ve recommended thus far are both written by a westerner, and are an “analysis” of other texts instead of translations of original texts. I don’t read Sanskrit (yet) but I do make an effort to read the translations. Not that I think those are the only books on yoga worth reading. But its important to form one’s own opinions, rather than simply accepting the opinions of authors who may be very academic, rather than practical in their approach to yoga (not that I know anything about the authors you’ve mentioned).
Then, you’ve brought up the concept of unbroken linneages, as though that is somehow connected and important here. Yes, as part of the oral traditions, there have been tales of unbroken linneages told. Whether they are true or not is impossible to say. But that actually has nothing to do with whether or not asana has been practiced for 100, 500 or 1,000 years.
There’s this idea out there, as you’ve mentioned, that they somehow equate with a “real tradition”. That it makes a tradition “more authentic”. But that sounds very romantic rather than realistic, doesn’t it? I don’t think they are the important questions, not at all.
And in fact, I couldn’t care less how old yoga “really” is. Except that there’s evidence its been around way longer than 100 years. But I am not an academic. And like Ecoyogini said, it doesn’t change the impact it has on my life.
That said, as a soon to be yoga teacher, and someone who’s been studying yogic philosophy (including some of the history) for around eight years now, I do care what people say about yoga and its history. There’s a lot of mis-information around, and we don’t need to add to that!
hot interview and hot discussion! thanks, YD and kate and nick!
(and good to know that nick is single…)
Always interesting to hear people’s unscripted words. So this interview is adding to my perspective on Kate, Nick, and the film, which I reviewed somewhat critically here: http://yogaspy.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/at-the-movies-enlighten-up/.
While I still think the premise of the movie was a sure recipe for “no enlightenment,” I am grateful that Kate scored the invaluable interviews with BKS Iyengar (and in such a fortuitous way!) and with Pattabhi Jois. Showing the panoply of yoga out there reveals much about its diversity, which Nick and others have already emphasized. What is yoga? Many things. And very different things to different people.
That said, I disagree that yoga is “anything.” If anything is yoga, then nothing is yoga. There must be standards, don’t you agree? Do you consider Diamond Dallas Page a legit yogi?
As for Nick’s answer about fame and recognition in Boulder (“Not nearly as much as I want to! It’s rather disappointing. Sometimes i [sic] have to be like hey do I look familiar? I’m the yoga guy! I’m just kidding about that.”): I don’t believe that he’s just kidding. But, no offense, Nick! We all love ya!
I’d just like to say my favorite part of the film was NORMAN ALLEN. And also your little mini-piece on him in the Extras of the DVD. God, what an incredibly down-to-earth yogi that guy is. I’ve got to experience one of his classes.
As I understand it, the tradition of asana AS WE PRACTICE IT TODAY — as a set of postures and movements we undertake to achieve health and for some a sense of spiritual/medititative calm, as an end in itself — and by tradition I mean a basically unchanging continuation of practice with the same means and ends, is about 100 years old. There was a book or two traced back to 500 years ago, but the way it was practiced and why it was practiced was very different back then. so how relevant is that?
You’re right that there is a lot of misinformation out there. But in my experience that misinformation tends to promulgate the notion that what we practice in yoga class is part of an unbroken tradition that goes back 5 thousand years. That what we are doing in class makes sense because that is what people have been doing for millennia. I don’t think it’s true.
Finally, yes, when I am after objective facts about yoga, I go to “authors who may be very academic”. I find them more reliable than people who are practitioners themselves and perhaps protective of or not very objective about the practice and its roots. On that note, I will offer unsolicited a short reading list on the roots of yoga:
“The Sinister Yogi”
by David White (UCLA)
“Yoga in Modern India”
Joseph Alter (U. Pittsburg)
“The History of Modern Yoga”
by Elizabeth de Michelis (Oxford?)
“First There is a Mountain”
by Elizabeth Kadetsky (great journalist and practitioner)
by Gita Mehta (a dark, funny Indian perspective about the follies of western indulgence in Hindu traditions)
And I totally agree that it doesn’t matter how old yoga is. Why does something have to be old to be great?
yes, Norman is THE MAN!
“Krishnamacharya’s story involves him getting the ashtanga series from his deceased guru in a dream (I highly recommend Elizabeth Kadetsky’s book “First There is a Mountain” for an analysis of Krishnamacharya’s lineage).”
I’ll ask Krishnamacharya’s son about that when I see him in Chennai in January! 😉
I do know, however, that from what I learned at the school in Chennai, K DID physically study with a guru, he did not just dream stuff up!
isn’t the book more about Iyengar and the Pune school? from Amazon: “Iyengar himself is portrayed as a tyrant who berates other teachers for defiling yoga’s purity, even though he has done more to break its traditions and promote its Westernization than his rival instructors.”
Yes, I recall he talked of learning postures form his guru in a cave in the himalayas somewhere, a kind of oral recitation of the yoga korunta, a lost book that had all the postures. But that he then got the ashtanga series in some kind of dream from an ancient guru? I can’t remember exactly. I think I got this from the book by Desikachar that he wrote about his father’s yoga. Point being, there are at least some “magical” forms of transmission of popular asana tradition, and we have little evidence of where it really came from. An ashtanga student named Sjoman wrote a book positing the possibility that some of the postures even came from british military exercises. not sure about that.
Elizabeth’s book is mostly about Iyengar, but she talks about ashtanga a lot. check it out, it’s a really nuanced, balanced and heartfelt memoir.
Wow, you’re doing very well to come across as arrogant. There are people commenting here (Lynda, Bob, probably others, etc) who have done a great deal more study AND practice AND reading than you probably have. Nice for you that you feel you can reccommend a reading list to people. But it’d be nice for those of us who are practitioners if you actually did a few more years solid practice before you felt you could talk so authoritatively about yoga.
In my experience, purely academic authors often miss the point of yoga. I would never rely solely on them to understand the history of yoga. Nor would I feel I could spout off what I do know to others based on a six month jaunt around India, sporadic yoga practice and reading the odd academic treatise.
Ouch! I was throwing some ideas out there. And you come back with epithets. I don’t know much about yoga, but is that yogic? In my final act of arrogance, i will link to a Huffington Post article I wrote that sums up my thoughts on the subject:
For what it is worth, I apologize to Nick for my off-the-cuff #1 comment (and name calling: “Shallow Hal” was uncalled for) and I appreciate that he does pay for some yoga classes. I’m impressed that Nick has also done some reading on yoga. It looks like the “transformation” is continuing!
I don’t think we should blame Nick for a few inaccurate remarks–he has become something of a celebrity and people are firing him lots of questions which he is answering pretty admirably given his relatively short experience.
Now can we get back to Jon Gosselin?
damn. i can’t resist. Matt, I take no offense. But what was inaccurate about my remarks?
I was going to kind of stay out of this argument, but since my name was invoked above, I need to speak out in support of Nick.
I respectfully disagree with my good friend Svasti and I defend Nick’s standing to make all the observations he has made. I also agree with Nick that commentators on Yoga are at least as informative as the Yoga texts themselves, and if they’re good, it doesn’t matter where they were born. I suggest that his critics stick to debating the facts and positions rather than debating Nick.
Finally I’ll quote from a comment I just wrote on the Elephant Journal article about this article:
“This whole discussion is like using the word “fruit” and describing a banana. Then someone comes along and says, that’s not what a fruit is, it’s really an apple, etc.
The only true answer to this meaningless and false conundrum is that the word Yoga is a very general term correctly used to describe a very wide variety of things. THIS IS LINGUISTIC REALITY NOT A PHILOSOPHICAL POSITION. The word Yoga is used 28 different ways in the Bhagavad Gita alone. It was already a very general term back then. ”
I was only referring to the time discrepancy regarding the beginning of postural yoga, but I hadn’t read all of your comments further in the thread where I think you do a good job of qualifying your position: that yoga as it is practiced today (foam props, Yoga Swing anyone?) is quite different than the practice we would find in older sources like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. I would agree with that.
Personally, I see yoga–and maybe you do too–as wide body of developing practices. While I think it is important to recognize tradition, I’m not sorry to see yoga evolve and branch out to meet different needs.
As such, I see any discrepancies regarding yoga’s postural origins as unimportant except to true historians of the subject. Ancient origin claims make pretty good marketing fodder, but aren’t important for a person’s self development.
So I see more agreement than disagreement and I appreciate your patience and willingness to come under fire here. As I said before, you have answered questions admirably. I would add that you seem pretty darn “yogic” to me!
Dang, I just posted and Bob said it so much better. What Bob said! Thanks, Bob!
@Nick – Interesting response. People are human, not “yogic”. So asking if my response to your flippantness is “yogic” is odd. I mean, people have human responses. I’m not perfect. And yeah, your attitude here kinda annoys me.
My issue is this – you’re being interviewed about your experience and in interviews, you’re saying things like “asana is only 100 years old” as though its a fact and without qualification. Some people might read your interview and believe that. And that is mis-information.
Then you changed your mind and said, oh wait, yoga is 500 years old. And instead of answering questions, or even showing the tiniest bit of humility, you spout a reading list at us.
No one here is a guru or has all the answers. My wish is to continue my path of learning always, and I wish the same for everyone else.
For example, travel. I can read a bunch of travel books written by authorative sources. I can watch movies, research online, talk to others who’ve been to a particular country. I can also then go and visit it for a short period of time. But thereafter, I wouldn’t imagine I’m in a position to speak on behalf of that country. Or tell other people what that country is like, except in my own experience.
@Bob – I have no issue with academic texts on yoga, but I do have an issue with them being the only source of someone’s knowledge on yoga. Sure, yoga has many meanings. But yoga is if anything, meant to be practical and not theoretical.
Well, gee, Svasti. I was going to stop there, but your last comment is so provocative (in a good way I mean!), I can’t resist a response.
Do you know the specific authors Nick cites enough to dismiss them as pure academics? Nick labels at least one of them to be “a great practitioner”. I would assume you would know the authors well before you dismiss all their work. These sounded like very interesting and relevant books to me.
I’m afraid I even disagree with your travel metaphor. I’ll give you a personal anecdote. Before I lived in Spain for a year I read Jame’s Michner’s “Iberia”, which is his very detailed and evocative travelogue of Spain.
When I got back from Spain I realized that many of my most vivid and most accurate impressions of Spain, even for events I actually witnessed directly, like the Semana Santa in Seville, came from “Iberia” and not from my personal experience. I spent a year living among the gypsies playing flamenco guitar. But I learned a lot more about Spain in general from reading Michner, because my own experience was very narrow in comparison. The same is true even about flamenco in general, because I was only experiencing one of many styles in the small town I was living in.
So I wouldn’t necessarily rate direct experience with one aspect of Yoga, even on an Ashram in India, as more definitive than an excellent book about Yoga in general. About all you can say is that the Ashram person knows more about that particular type of Yoga and that particular Ashram, and maybe not even that, depending on how good they are as assimilating and conveying information.
Sorry we disagree, my good friend.
What lovely additions to the conversation you’ve made, Bob! I was a little disappointed by the reception Nick’s received here–some comments struck me as being unnecessarily aggressive and critical.
Svasti, as for your frustration with the sense that Nick is spreading misinformation, I think you’re not giving much credit to other yogis or those who take an interest in yoga. If anyone’s genuinely curious about the topic, why would they take the words of a sporadic practitioner as gospel? Furthermore, if there’s a definitive answer as to how old yoga and/or asanas are, I’d love to know it, but I haven’t yet been exposed to or come across any evidence that made me feel confident about an answer. As Bob pointed out, the word “yoga” appears in ancient texts like the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita but in those contexts it seems entirely divorced from asana, so I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable asserting that the sun salutation dates back to those times.
Even the many wonderful teachers I’ve had over the years present different information about history (and alignment, and sequencing, and….)! Encountering contradictory bits of information is an excellent invitation to do more research for myself. And I don’t think Nick is embarking on some campaign to denigrate or dismiss yoga; he actually seems far more aware of theory and history than most of the accomplished people I practice with.
Yes, Bob, it’s true that the word yoga can mean very different things, and it’s a very old word. But all we are really debating here is asana practice, which is probably what pops into a typical westerner’s head when you say yoga. I guess a big question is “why does it matter?” and the answer will be different for different people. When I embarked on asana practice, I can remember going to jivamukti classes where the pre-asana discussions of god and spirituality and ethical behavior were INTENSE. And there were Ganesh statues and other Hindu iconography everywhere. It felt a bit like religion. But then the class was this ass-kicking aerobic workout focused very much on fitness. So in this and other classes I was always a little confused as to how the physical and spiritual sides were connected. Once I learned the connection was a pretty modern construct, and I didn’t have to worry that there was some strict coherence that I wasn’t quite getting, it was liberating. I could just stop worrying and enjoy it. Scholarly, fact-finding endeavors may not really help you in your spiritual journey. They did for me, but that’s just me. I think most people don’t care. Yoga just works. And that’s why we do it.
One thing I forgot to mention: Norman Allen’s yoga class is free! He charges you if you don’t show up.
I agree, Nick. In my experience, people don’t clarify what they mean when they use the word “Yoga”, and then start disputing what Yoga is.
Understanding and accepting that the word is legitimately used for many different things forces people to be more specific right up-front, like you were when you wrote, “Oh I just meant asana yoga as practiced today.” Then the conversation can make sense.
And yes, being able to translate reading and study directly into spiritual experience is just one of many approaches to spirituality, and it’s all dependent on the personal makeup of each individual.
One of the more startling aspects of the big three ancient texts (Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Sutra) is that they explicitly anticipate modern psychology’s personality types, and outline a different Yoga for each one! It really is quite astounding. I wrote about this in my eBook:
“Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks”
Thanks for helping to generate this very interesting discussion with your interview. For those who aren’t aware, this discussion was picked up and extended by Elephant Journal ( “How Old is Yoga” http://bit.ly/5tyWFw ).
And thanks for being such a good sport and taking the time to stay so involved. It’s been great to get to know you in this way.
Sorry Bob, you missed the point of my analogy. Have to say, I’m sick of people here saying how mean I am. I’m NOT mean or aggressive. I’m simply Australian. We are a forthright people, for the most part. I certainly am. And I’m not particularly tolerant of b/s.
Gotta ask, what century are we living in? Personally I thought it was the one where women were allowed to have strong personalities and opinions and not be told to shut up. And where men didn’t need to get their buddies to stand up for them against the mean old outspoken woman.
Thought I’d said all I had to say on this topic. Because I’m really not interested in being in such a lengthy debate. But hey, seems Linda-Sama agrees with me, or at least with most of what I’ve got to say anyways…
So stay tuned. My reply to all of the above and to Waylon’s post on Elephant Journal will appear on Linda’s blog soon. Once I’ve waded through all the things I want to say vs the things that are worthwhile making a point about.
Sorry if I offended you in any way, Svasti. I’m doing my honest best to just have a respecful debate on the issues. And it never occurred to me that you were being mean and aggressive.
(If you knew my wife Jane you wouldn’t question my comfort with strong women. Even more so my first wife, who was a criminal prosecutor, which was a perfect fit for her personality. Perhaps that’s why I come across too strong sometimes without realizing it!)
Hey Svasti, being Australian or female isn’t an excuse for behaving like a spoilt child. Stop being so butt-hurt and throwing around insults because somebody doesn’t agree with you.
And, all together: Ommmmmmmmm. 🙂
Maybe that’ll get deleted, but really – Nick has behaved like a gent in the face of some typical Internet Bad Manners.
Hey anonymous commenter, you call me a spoilt child and yet feel free to throw insults at me without even revealing your name? Internet Bad Manners, eh?
Pot. Kettle. Black.
For the record, I’m not “butt-hurt” at all, whatever that means. In fact, I’m not feeling hurt or angry at all. Time to go chant a few oms yourself, I’m thinking!
Enlighten Up, the movie was very interesting. I really enjoyed interviews with some of gurus, especially, Guru Saran Ananda, Pattabhi Jois, Iyengar and Dharma Mitra.
According to Patanjali “Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness”. Basically, to find yourself, one needs to still the noise in the head, peel away the layers of Delusion.
Its a common problem to get confused as to what Yoga is and what its not. Asana is not Yoga, just a small part of it.
Asana is just preparing you for the more interesting mind stuff that come later in your practice, if you persist. Happiness is inside not outside; enlightenment is a state of mind, as the Zen Koan goes “before enlightenment chop wood carry water, after enlightenment chop wood carry water.”
Yoga sutra of Patanjali is considered to be at least 2500 years. Yoga philosophy is probably much older and probably pre dates writing. Iyengar although a great Yoga Master, didn’t invent Yoga.
NIck, you had an amazing journey for whatever reason, you were chosen for a life changing journey. As Guru Saran Ananda stated, there are many ways to reach a destination, in time you will find your own path to happiness. Breath!!! Open up, Accept. Good Luck!!!
Good points Ajit!
The lovely Linda-Sama invited me to write a guest post over at her blog, in reply to both this post and the one on Elephant Journal. It’s a two-parter and part one is up now: I don’t know how old yoga is and neither do you — part 1
I am joining the discussion quite late, my apologies for that. However, I wanted to comment on Nick’s book suggestions: all of those books are indisputably necessary for anyone who is interested in the origins of this practice. They contextualize the rather physically-dominated asana practice and also consider the roots of a discourse that has been purposely molded as a reaction to – and in part because of – British colonialism. They also consider the emotional investment of practitioners in maintaining the authority and authenticity of the practice – an investment which is heavily apparent in this conversation. I hope everyone has a chance to read those books.
Thanks, Rachel. No problem joining in late. Most people are subscribed to the comments, so we received your comment right in our e-mail. Your ideas and book recommendations are most appreciated. Could you tell us about yourself, since there is no link for us to follow on your name?
I’ve got something to say! First, I loved this documentary for being so honest. I have been practicing for 20 years but had a bad experience with a Cyndi Lee follower who was my teacher trainer, the documentary perfectly captured her self-conscious, competitive style. I almost gave up on yoga(as practiced in NYC) as my spiritual practice. Second, Nick and the filmmaker are spiritual and evolved enough to be honest, to be real. We forget that we can have confusion, dislike, warts and all and still be (see Pema Chodron). He has been consistently honest while still being respectful whereas the link by which I found this article “N.R.: mama’s boy and yoga sponger” name calls to a level that is not spiritual at all, if these commenters are teachers, I hope I never attend their class, but I can sense that energy and will usually walk out. I applaud Nick, not just because he is cute:) -just being honest-and Kate for making a frank film where “enlightenment” is not offered at the end. Kate was honest with herself, so was/is Nick. When someone stops seeking, and they have the answers, not the questions, that is when they should be feared.
It’s good to see that some people are still finding and enjoying this blog. I hope you took the time to read through all the comments, too. This was one of the best discussions ever on the Yoga blogosphere, and I agree with all your thoughts (except I don’t respond to his cuteness!)
Could you tell me where to find that article you refer?
Thanks for writing.
I’m sorry that you found this article via a link by that title. I think I’m to blame for a jocose, unthoughtful and off-the-cuff comment I made at the beginning of this comment thread. For what it is worth, I’ve already made an unsolicited apology to Nick for that comment (see thread).
I’m curious, however, where you found that link if it was other than from this blog. I’d hate to think my unthoughtful comments were being picked up elsewhere.
Thank you both! I googled Nick Rosen Yoga to see where things had picked up in the subject’s journey since I only saw the DVD yesterday. I related to his quest and I am on the same path and wanting to leave my job and NYC, I wondered if he was still in Colorado or had become a yoga teacher, what not, and found the NR: mama’s boy and yoga sponger comment and this article-that’s why I wrote NR, I didn’t want this to be picked up by a google search, now it may. And Matt, I saw no apology for that, just “Shallow Hal.” He has taken many name calls, Svasti too (whose amazing blog I just read, but let’s not ever cycle abuse) and never bowed down to that realm. On a good note, I think I decided to do my second yoga teacher training in India! I left the first because it didn’t click with me (OM), I thought my teacher was, as the one yogi said “dirty katie”, but others liked her. She wasn’t for me. My sister has been begging me to join her training in India but I was so put off by the “yogis” I’d met in that circle (I have a different spiritual practice), but after watching the film I realized. I just have to find a right teacher for me ( a non-offensive one, or several!) and all humans are just messengers of the message of G-d, the messengers can be off. I think there is still good to be found on the mat, and the messengers can of course be flawed. Me too. We are all flawed but let’s be conscious when we stray to the animal realm. It is a hard issue because as I wrote before we have warts and all and negativity, but I like the way Nick has handled it-with objectivity-and no name calling. A second good, I found this blog, which I bookmarked and like a lot. Last: I would love a list of these gurus and where to find them, especially the one who told Nick to “go fuck yourself”, he seemed amazing:)
Glad you signed up for notifications so we can communicate this way.Thanks for all your additional thoughts.
If you are interested in more of the Yoga blogosphere (I don’t know how many of these you are aware of already, so I’ll just throw them all out) I recommend Yoga Journal Community, Elephant Journal, and the blogs listed on this YogaDork site and the bottom of my website.
Plus Twitter is very good for short communication under the tag #yogadork. Facebook is excellent for collecting and communicating with Yoga contacts, but there aren’t many group discussions there.
My apology appeared above as comment #24:
“For what it is worth, I apologize to Nick for my off-the-cuff #1 comment (and name calling: “Shallow Hal” was uncalled for) . . .”
I don’t know where else you might be reading this, but let me serve as a warning to others that if you comment unskillfully in the blogosphere, your comments can be picked up and repeated (via syndication technology such as RSS) like digital bad karma!
Again, apologies to any and all that were offended by this.
Thank you Matt and Bob:) I need to remain anonymous for now, but this blog is a great resource! I will google the gurus and where to find them (I knew most of them) and I am working on my own blog in the meantime. I’d like it to resemble this one. Anyone know which template, how to get started, is it wordpress? You can e-mail me for now. Blessings and namaste! A
welcome oh mysterious commenting one! so glad you found YD 🙂 and that you’re on the way to finding your yoga path.
this theme is actually Thesis and it’s great to work with, I can attest.
please come back and visit often…the #yogadork community is an awesome bunch, and fresh perspectives & conversation are always welcome… even off-the-cuff, heat of the moment remarks 😉
Thanks Bob for being the ever gracious gentleman you are and introducing the cyber sangha! You rock.
@yogadork on twitter
I have read the post and was surprised to see this particular quote about B.K.S. Iyengar combining yoga poses and hindu practices. All I can say is that my grandmother’s grandfather was a yoga practitioner and he used to do asanas, pranayama and meditation which he learnt from his guru. I do not know the details about his practice but it certainly points to a tradition more than 100 years old. Oh, and yes, he passed away in the late 40’s.
When people say ‘yoga is only a hundred years old’ what they seem to be saying is that the physical exercises, as we know them today, most commonly associated with yoga in the west – not necessarily the philosophy, of course – are of that age. As they – in good portion – come from Krishnamacharya.
And the whole line of reasoning that “you can’t know they’re not thousands of years old” is true, but unprovable. So kind of rendered moot if you’re trying to discuss ‘the true’ yoga or the verifiable history.
What there is textual evidence for is that many common postures today were recorded as early as the mid 1800’s – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sritattvanidhi – [so 200 years] – and, in fact, Krishnamacharya cited this work in his first book. However there is also textual evidence he incorporated maneuvers from British gymnastics texts into his yoga as well. Yoga is ever changing and syncrestic, but Krishnamacharya influences arguably the majority of asana practices today through his students. And Krishnamcahrya’s yoga asansas appears to be a mix of older hatha traditions, exercises from the Sritattvanidhi, exercises from Indian wrestling and from gymnastics practiced by the colonists.
A good text on this is “The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace” by S.J. Sjoman. Yoga Journal did a good writeup on it here – http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/466?print=1