Greetings yogadorks! We’re super excited to announce that we will be interviewing Stefanie Syman, author of yoga tell-all The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, and we’ll be asking YOUR questions! So please submit any and all Qs below in the comments (or you can email at yogadork(at)gmail.com). Doesn’t matter if you’ve read the book yet or not, but you may want to listen to the NPR interview for a primer.
‘The Story of Yoga in America’ Author Interview on NPR
More with Stefanie Syman: Tantra: Not Just for Sex Fiends?
When I was first introduced to yoga 10 years ago (via gym), I thought it was simply a stretching class to balance the tight hamstrings of my running routine. Fast forward 10 years, and through the family based classes via Yoga Patch (KCMO), I have a desire to learn about yoga as a lifestyle.
With that said, I am deeply disappointed on the cost of deepening my understanding of yoga. It’s not just the classes (I understand there is rent, insurance, offspring to feed, utilities, etc), but it seems everywhere you turn the information is available only for purchase at what I would consider a full retail price.
According to your book, yoga has some very humble and grassroots beginnings in the US (a fact I did not know until I heard you on NPR). We are also a very profit-driven society here. Do you see the growth of the yoga industry as a conflict for the heart of yoga, or a necessary evil? Since teacher can not live on the non-monetary benefits of teaching yoga, how does one balance those needs in how Yoga has evolved in America today? Does the Americanization of Yoga make it more difficult to go back to a more humble practice?
You’ll have to forgive the vagueness of my questions, as it’s hard to pose my frustration with learning more about yoga in an economical manner (to fit my budget) in a succinct manner.
What’s a good way to learn the different variations of yoga? I have taken classes with a number of different teachers, and it’s frustrating for them all to say, well, this is hatha yoga, for example, when they’re doing very different poses or different variations of the same poses compared to other instructors. Is there a good website or book with illustrations that shows the differences between the variations?
I’m also interested in learning more about the theory of yoga to build my own at-home practice. I’ve had one instructor who’s great about explaining why certain poses come at different points in the practice (stretching, compression, balancing, counteracting other poses, and twisting), but I have a lot more questions than she’s able to answer between classes.
I looked at the index of the book the other day in the bookstore and wondered why there is no mention of Krishnamacharya’s son, Desikachar or my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, who studied with Krishnamacharya for over 30 years, longer than anyone else did. merely curious.
Why did you decide to write The Subtle Body?
What are the most important things you’d like the Yoga world to learn from The Subtle Body they don’t know already?
What are the biggest difficulties you had in writing the book, and how did you overcome them?
What is most surprising experience you had in writing The Subtle Body?
How did you come to choose the title?
What’s the most interesting question I should be asking that I haven’t thought of yet?
What advice do you have for students who are interested in learning more about the subtler aspects of yoga such as philosophy and meditation and integrating them with their asana practice? The studio where I practice encourages students who want to “deepen” their practice to enroll in teacher training. I do not have time to commit to teacher training, nor do I wish to shell out the money for teacher training. I am told, and I truly believe, that philosphy and meditation are traditionally more a part of yoga than the physical asana practice. If so, why are they so inaccessible to students? The studio where I practice sells copies of The Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras yet they are rarely and only vaguely referenced in classes. How do we advance in our practice if the primary part of yoga is absent from studio instruction?
Abbylou, I’ve wondered the same things!
Abbylou and jen. I’m on a mission to help people do exactly that–get into Yoga philosophy at whatever level they want to, at no cost except a couple of books (mine is free).
I have two great resources for you so far. One is my free eBook YogaDemystified.com. Here you will get a plain English introduction to the Yoga philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra. You will also find here my best recommendations for further study.
The other is Gita Talk at Elephant Journal. This is a self-paced guide to the Bhagavad Gita, and I’m personally available to answer questions and discuss anything you wish.
Please feel free to contact me on my website or on Facebook if I can help you in any way. This invitation goes to anyone else whose intereseted in Yoga philosophy as well. (Just to be clear, I’m not selling anything. I’m retired and this is how I like to try to be useful to others. I love the subject.)