This blog by a western practionar of yoga and fond lover of Mother India (Jack Blaylock) who aims to bring to light the vast difference between the debauched, heretic, and disrespectful Western “yoga” and real genuine Indian yoga.
The very aims of these two schools are completely in opposite directions. One celebrates the sensual, the other teaches ways to cease identifying with Maya. Many self-proclaimed yogis today post articles comparing Western Yoga to India Yoga and in most cases, these articles do more harm than good to understanding real yoga, because it gives the impression that the similarities are much more than they really are. That should not be surprising, many Indians under 30 nowadays don’t even believe in reincarnation, and are ignorant about their own great spiritual traditions. The author of this should read the Gita, “Autobiography of a Yogi”, “Raja Yoga” by Vivekananda, and of course Patanjali yoga sutras, etc, etc.
Let’s talk about the celebrated BKS Iyengar. He was a very successful businessman who gave his Western customers what they expected to find: stretching exercises mostly, with a little pranayama thrown in. Iyengar’s teacher, Krishnamacharya, seems very much to have been a liar (yes! Jack went there, TOUCHE) who fabricated a story about rediscovering an ancient document chock full of unknown postures. No one has ever seen that document, which they called the “Yoga Korunta”. On top of that, Patabi Joise (Krishnamacharya’s other famous disciple) intimated to some of his closest disciples this document never actually existed. There is some interesting evidence though, that Krishnamacarya’s so-called “ancient, lost asanas” were actually inspired by a textbook of British gymnastics that is still in the library of the palace of Mysore.
Try reading the great Yoga Texts: The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,
The Gerhana Samhita, and others. There are almost no postures in them. Stretching exercises were never a crucial part of Yoga and still are not, for the vast majority of Yogis of India even today. Most of them can’t even touch their toes, never could, and don’t particularly care to. 150 years ago, just like today, the vast majority of Yogis in India did not do many asanas (postures) at all, and many of them do absolutely none. Be brave, read the great Yogis of India’s works, teachings, commentaries, and see right through these two “yogi” businessmen of Iyengar and Joise and help the West stop capitalizing on the tradition of another culture by misrepresenting it. Krishnamacharya, Joise, and Iyengar made up the claim that mastering all those other asanas were necessary in order to sit in padmasana well for long periods of time. Clever marketing that. It made them millions. I have no problem with making big money teaching stretching exercises. But you cannot find their claims supported in ANY of the great Yoga texts.
If you wander around India and meet the Yogis who are not trying to make money off the Western spiritual seeker, you’ll find that they generally agree with all that has been written. If you don’t know where to start, I’ll post again, and suggest some places. I’ve spent many many months in India, on many different trips, doing exactly that.
Parting advice for the yoga practitioners across the globe, go and meet members of Shankara’s Order of Swamis. You know, the organization of Swamis with its 10 branches, with countless lineages, that has been around for many hundreds of years now. These monks are the real torch bearers of Yoga in India today. They’ll tell you if hearing all this from a Westerner doesn’t do it for you. I have yet to meet a Western Yoga teacher who even knows this organization exists…
Hari Om Tat Sat
Om Namah Shivay