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Valar Qringaomis

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Secret History of Yoga

BBC Radio 4 - The Secret History of Yoga

"The celebrated champion of the Hindu Renaissance, Swami Vivekananda, who was invited to talk at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, is usually credited with introducing Yoga to the West. But it turns out, he wasn't keen on physical postures either...

I visited the Lonavala Yoga Institute to meet [India's] leading expert on traditional Indian yoga poses.

'Nowadays when I travel all over the world, I find different funny names of the yogas. I don't know why they want to use yoga like you know, dog yoga, wine yoga, nude yoga, beach yoga. Sorry to say but there is no any mention of all such yogas in the ancient manuscripts'

Dr Manmath Gharote has dedicated his life to tracking down ancient yoga manuscripts to understand what they tell us about the practice of yoga in the past...

'Integration of personality is the prime aim of yoga. There are 5 aspects of personality. Physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. 5 different aspects of personality should work harmoniously with each other. Flexibility of the spine, flexibility of the joints, flexibility of the muscles, is the pre-requisite, important aspect of that. But it is not the ultimate aspect. So yoga says although you practise asana through the body, it is for the mind. As when you're capable to stable the mind, then you can achieve complete eradication of the suffering, and then you go for the attending eternal peace...

Surya Namaskar, salute to the sun, a dynamic sequence of 12 backward and forward bends...
'Most of the people, they think Surya Namaskar as yoga. But you will never find any reference about Surya Namaskar as yoga. Because what *something* says asanas has 2 characteristics: *something* stability, *something* comfort. In Surya Namaskar, there is no *something* stability. It is a dynamic, and when dynamic exercises are there, it is not yoga'...

That most iconic of yoga poses: the downward dog...

'Does that feature in any of your older texts?'

'Not until this 18th century text mentions a posture called Gaja so actually that's the elephant pose, but that corresponds to the downward dog of today'

All these years I thought I was imitating a dog and actually it was an elephant...

In the early 20th century... spurred on by the eugenics movement, there was a burgeoning worldwide interest in what became known as physical culture.

'Gymnastics, bodybuilding, running, jumping. Anything that will make the body fit, fast, strong, healthy'...

'Indians could build their bodies, become strong in the service of national emancipation'...

'To prove their fitness for self rule meant Indians demonstrating that their physical prowess was the equal of their colonial masters'...

Using X-rays and other then novel tools of medical science, this sort of experimentation helped to distance yoga from its unsavory association with those grizzled street corner yogis.

'What we're seeing a process of modernisation. And in that process aspects which aren't prior to this time part of the yoga system start to be incorporated'"
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