The Reclamation of the Yogini

“The identification of the human woman with the Universal Goddess is most explicit in tantric theology- yet the very existence of female masters, lineage holders and tantric adepts, although referred to repeatedly by tantric texts, is still doubted by some… Here there is no quarter given to feminist spiritual yearnings, or for women mystics to…

To Speak or Not to Speak: Patanjali and the Yoga of Truth

    “To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results will be become subservient.” Book Two, Portion on Practice #36, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Recently I’ve found myself in one of those awkward situations in which I’m unsure of the wisdom of telling the truth – of saying to a certain individual – the…

Can History Save Yoga?

Yoga scholars Dr. Mark Singleton and Dr. Jim Mallinson are on a mission. Their Kickstarter project Roots of Yoga: A Sourcebook from the Indian Traditions plans to trace the earliest expressions of yoga from several thousand years ago all the way up to the 19th century. They need funding to scour untranslated yoga texts from…

Sex And The “Bleaching” of Yoga History

There is no denying that William Broad’s tactic of tweaking the lowest common denominator in search of publicity hit the mark once again. His latest NYT article “Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here” caused an uproar when he asked in the face of yoga mogul John Friend’s dizzying fall from grace — why yoga produces so many philanderers?

Chiding the yoga community for seldom mentioning that the discipline began as a sex cult, he goads,“ this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal…so why does the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?”

Which quite frankly, is what I’ve wondered myself. Because who cares about Friend or any other guru’s moral failings, they’re human after all. I don’t understand why Friend’s sexual trysts are seen as an assault on the holy edifice of yoga. Why do we let Broad get under our skin?

While I get why influential yoga bloggers such as YogaDork and Roseanne Harvey rushed in to trounce Broad’s claims linking yoga with philandering as “simplistic and irresponsible” and “idiotic’ – what I don’t understand is the growing undercurrent of hysteria being exhibited around the topic of yoga and sex.

Asana: Sacred or Secular Practise?

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about yoga. Not because of the recent hullabaloo over the sexual peccadilloes of a certain yoga mogul or the continuing controversy over whether yoga will main us (as put forth by media coverage of William Broad’s book The Science of Yoga). No, my crisis of faith has to do with a real falsehood being perpetuated in the yoga world, one that truly calls its integrity into question.

You see, while I was once fond of pronouncing to new students that yoga is NOT gymnastics, but an ancient practice uniting mind, body and spirit, I can do so no longer. I’ve discovered that the alphabet of postures I’ve spent years learning -and so diligently teaching – have almost nothing to do with any yogic tradition.

According to Mark Singleton’s book Yoga Body: The Origins of Postural Practise the lexicon of asanas I hold as sacrosanct have a decidedly more secular origin – gymnastics routines of the early 20th century!Singleton not only flayed my sacred cow, he left me in need of a new opening gambit. And he left me questioning – why despite the mounds of historical evidence to the contrary, do we (the yoga community) persist in teaching postural practise as part of a venerable and ancient tradition?