Yoga Makes Sex Better! 5 Top Reasons to Practice and Teach.

Via Julian Walker
on Jul 12, 2011
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Why is yoga powerful, why do we practice, what should we teach?

As I prepare to teach the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind teacher training in Venice, Ca. and 5-day retreat to Esalen with my favorite friend and colleague Hala Khouri, I find myself asking the above questions.

The standard answer usually starts with – “Well, Patanjali says….” But I am not so sure Patanjali’s Sutras speak directly to the experience of modern American yogis. I mean, how many yogis do you know who are engaging in long hours of concentration meditation, seeking to dis-identify with the world, their bodies and minds and make contact with a transcendent God that exists outside of Nature?

So I want to share my 5 top reasons to practice and teach the powerful transformational discipline of yoga:

1) Yoga can be a beautiful way of getting comfortable in your own skin, coming home to your body, becoming more alive and aware, energized and open to life and love. Rather than seeking to go beyond the body, yoga is for most of us a way to reclaim an awareness of the body itself as sacred.

2) Yoga makes sex better! Yeah, you heard me – I said it… Yoga systematically makes us more aware of our sensations and trains us in the art of using breath to open into our experience rather contract away from it or attempt to clamp down and control it. This makes us more available to the dance of intimacy, plethora of sensations and waves of pleasure that can turn sex into a mind-blowing form of embodied spirituality – or just make it more satisfying and rich, which as far as I can tell is really the same thing..

3) Yoga gives us time and space to connect to our inner lives. Sensations, emotions, the accrued layers of stress and anxiety, questions we carry about our choices, actions, intentions, desires – all can be meditated upon as we use the ritual of breath and movement to focus the mind, connect to the heart, listen to the body and reflect upon how we really want to live our lives.

4) Yoga can be fantastic physical therapy. In both a healing and preventative way, yoga can be used to promote healthy flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Practiced with intelligence and taught with anatomical knowledge, yoga just works!

5) Yoga can be an integrative vehicle for self-healing. More and more information from science and psychology demonstrates the healing benefits of yoga and meditation. Somatic psychology research and new data from neuroscience show the importance of mindful present attention and body awareness in rebalancing the nervous system, processing through unresolved emotions in the brain and healing from trauma stored on the body. This is real transformation.

In addition to the deep human need to come together with community and engage in meaningful activity around a shared intention, to connect and experience together in safe spaces that allow us to open up and grow and heal and see ourselves reflected in our tribe, the above five reasons to practice and teach are central to what I feel makes yoga powerful – what do you think?

Oh wait, what’s that? You are wondering why the emphasis on sex in the title of this piece… Perhaps it is merely sensationalist?

Well,  if you think about it: healing traumas, keeping your body healthy, strong and flexible, being in touch with your inner life, and being comfortable in your own skin all make you more able to be present in your own body and connect with empathy, intuition, passion and playfulness with your partner’s body. Seeing as how our sexual nature is a core (and I would suggest innately spiritual) intimate aspect of who and what we are, all of this indeed makes sex better. In turn better sex is an expression of healthier relationships in a more integrated, open, authentic and ecstatic human life!

We also haven’t even touched upon the exquisite transformational possibilities of learning to work with what are traditionally thought of as Kundalini kriyas in the kinds of prolonged full-bodied sexual, emotional and deep physical release that make even a non-theist Buddhist cry out “Oh God!”

I’ll save that for my next article…

{A quick note for those thinking of taking the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind training: don’t worry, Patanjali will get his due, but alongside the beautiful tantric Radiance Sutras, training in Buddhist  meditation and tools from somatic psychology and brain research…}


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About Julian Walker

Julian Walker is the founder of http://www.yogateachergradschool.com/ where he supports new and established yoga teachers in living their dreams through business development. He is a writer who has been teaching yoga since 1994, and co-teaches the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind Yoga Teacher Training in LA with Hala Khouri.Julian's writing is featured in the book 21st Century Yoga available on Amazon.com. www.julianwalkeryoga.com

Comments

97 Responses to “Yoga Makes Sex Better! 5 Top Reasons to Practice and Teach.”

  1. kim stetz says:

    yes, as a teacher and practioner i couldn't agree more. however, easier said than done to be with that special someone. it's pretty much torture knowing these things and not having someone to share with. boo hoo hoo. worlds smallest fiddle playing for me. ; ) thanks for writing.

    • yogijulian says:

      hey kim – yeah i think this is a common complaint! we have to figure out how to get more men into yoga, and i think part of the key to this is emphasizing the REAL benefits not just paying lipservice to the pious woo-woo stuff that makes yoga seem to airy fairy for most dudes….

  2. yogijulian says:

    seeing as comments are thin here – i though tot repost the controversial dialog that this post triggered on my FB page:
    (you can see it here too: http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=… )

    James Portocarrero Oh the nonsense that we westerners have done in the name of yoga.. God please forgive us.. for wanting this sensual nonsense when we could have eternity.

    Julian Marc Walker classic. thanks!

    Julian Marc Walker i should have said yoga makes Group Sex better hahaha! that would be more "eastern":
    http://eehard.files.wordpr​ess.com/2009/03/khaj

    Melissa Williams DUH

    James Portocarrero Kama (materialistic living which includes sex) is one among the four paths suggested in Hinduism to merge with Brahman or to escape from rebirth (Moksha). Many scholars think these sculptures were meant to explain the ‘Kama’ aspect to people.

    A closer study of Hinduism will reveal that sex was never a taboo during the ancient period. Some believe they were meant for sex education and there is nothing unnatural for temples to have them. In fact, the sex sculptures are all seen outside the Hindu temple along with other sculptures depicting materialistic way of life.

    James Portocarrero The spiritualist has nothing to do with attraction to the mundane body.. In Vedic times the spiritual class of people only engaged in sex as an act of procreation, knowing full well that attraction to the sack of flesh and sinew that is the body is a spell of Maya, and only produces negative karmic reactions and continued death & rebirth in material planets.

    Julian Marc Walker thanks! the fact that 99.9% of american yogis are not hindu means i think it is good to ask ourselves what is actually going on in our own equally relevant and powerful experience, no?

    James Portocarrero It's not a matter of hindu or non hindu, it's a matter of truth or non-truth. The famous sage Adi Shankaracharya wrote in his Bhaja Govindam: "Upon seeing the full breasts and slim waist of a young woman, do not succumb to the spell of illusion. Just consider in your mind again and again that these are simply a transformation of flesh, fat, etc."

    Julian Marc Walker oooh lovely example of of anti-body dualistic religious thinking! thanks…. i am going in a quite different direction.

    James Portocarrero Dualistic in what way exactly?

    James Portocarrero Yes your direction is going straight downwards into the material world.

    Julian Marc Walker your depiction of the body as something disgusting, illusory and unspiritual and the true purpose of yoga being some kind of disembodied realization of eternity.

    James Portocarrero The dualistic thing is to enjoy sense gratification separate from the Non-Dual God, who has nothing to do with such animalistic matters of the flesh. The truth is that one who is enticed by sex is little higher then the animal.

    Julian Marc Walker thanks james you have given a wonderful and obviously well-researched example of fundamentalist yogic thought, please be on your way now.

    namaste.

    James Portocarrero It's to transcend the animalistic drives that keep us ensnared with this body. It's not that you become disembodied, but you engage your body one hundred percent in the real, and that real is everything that promotes engagement with the absolute truth, with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, devotional service.

    Melissa Williams James, I find that very offensive

    James Portocarrero I find what you all have said to be very offensive as well

  3. yogijulian says:

    James Portocarrero Julian, you think that you are not fundamentalist also but you are engaging in a type of fundamentalism which is no different then what I am engaging in. Instead of actually arguing points of quoting from Shastra you just say ohh you are being fundamentalist.. this is always what you types want to do when presented with the cold hard facts.

    James Portocarrero Sex is a process of animal life, not of spiritual life.

    James Portocarrero It's not possible in any way shape or form to practice real Yoga while being victim to your impulses for bodily gratification through sex. So whatever it is that your doing, is just advanced materialism.

    James Portocarrero blah blah blah

    James Portocarrero You are just a hippy

    James Portocarrero stop calling what your doing yoga

    Julian Marc Walker i am so glad you came along sir, because usually people criticize me for making a straw an out of adherents to classical yoga philosophy – your comments are just right on the money from this particular perspective, and illustrate perfectly the pressing need to move beyond such religious zeal and anti-humanist religiosity.

    again i offer my gratitude – but am not interested in engaging in any kind of debate with you on the matter.

    peace.

    Julian Marc Walker you know what – you just keep going james – you are very, very helpful to my cause!

    tell us more about the problems with western, hippy, humanistic, sex-positive perversions of the true yoga, please!

    Julian Marc Walker gosh – i wonder if you actually read the article or are just flying off the handle because you saw the words "yoga" and "Sex" in the same sentence?! 🙂

    Marya Summers Thanks, Julian, for putting the voice of sanity and balance in yoga. Yes, we are spiritual beings…in physical bodies. To deny the beauty of the physical body and its sensations — both pleasurable and painful — seems like a denial of the gift of life. I'm not quite sure why people like to seize on ONE yoga text or perspective as THE authority on it. Maybe it's too scary to live without absolutism.

    Julian Marc Walker word.

  4. yogijulian says:

    John Allen Gibel Julian, the next step for you: http://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=qD35GbPQDC8
    😉

    Julian Marc Walker oh certainly not!

    Robin Barnette Great article Julian Love it!

    Arrash Irani James, that doesn't strike me as a very healthy or useful way to relate to your own body or the bodies of others.

    It is quite common to meet another person as an equal rather than a threatening object that stimulates "animalistic urges" which, according to your beliefs, are to be suppressed using a mental device that evokes the grotesque.

    You can acknowledge sexual attraction and still interact with that person without objectifying them or constraining your view of them into the role of a one-dimensional cartoon where their only valuable contribution is distorted, transactional sex. It's hot having good conversation with a girl you're attracted to. Oh and totally normal, healthy and awesome too. Give it a shot.

    There's a big, green field in the middle between your extremes.

    Julian Marc Walker the thing is i respect james because at least he is being consistent and truthful in following the actual religious injunctions of his tradition. in this way he is like other religious fundamentalists in that he actually allows us to see the teachings without them being candy coated or watered down…

    from the point of view of classical yoga everything he is saying is correct – and if you look at his page he appears to have the credentials to back this up!

    this makes my point for me about the need to not only think critically about yoga "scriptures" but also to keep creating a contemporary, humanistic, integrated, relevant philosophy for yoga today.
    y

    Leila Currah Nicely said, Arrash.

    Robin Barnette Wow!!! Julian you sure did strike a cord…. Come on James Really?? Did you even read the aticle?

    Leila Currah I don't respect James for that.

    Leila Currah ‎..although it is elucidating.

    Arrash Irani That's a big danger of philosophical/theological/​metaphysical thought. You can have an entirely self-consistent, sophisticated, systematic body of ideas which have no correspondence to reality whatsoever.

    Arrash Irani Or worse, they partially correspond and partially do not. I believe these are called "clusterfucks" in the Oxford dictionary, but I could be wrong here…

    Nathan Nambiar Good article and intense debate! I hope James finds happiness with his beliefs.

    Leila Currah Great article, Julian!

    Yoga has helped me immensely to get comfortable in my skin, has improved my posture, flexibility and strength, given me space to feel, helped me to become more self-aware.. and in so doing, made it possible for me to be more emotionally present, sensitive, and loving during sex. I think my husband appreciates this! 🙂

    Word to the wise: suppressing your sexuality often leads to perversion.

    Leila Currah Nice to have a few adults on board in this conversation.

  5. Denise says:

    I loved your article. I think James illustrates the hang ups we in the West have about sex. Yoga itself isn't sexual. Humans are. Perhaps the issue is the word sex. Maybe James wouldn't be experiencing a meltdown if you had said intimacy. Somehow the penis and vagina being brought into the conversation clouded your valid point for some people. Regardless, their issue, not yours.

  6. Denise says:

    I loved your article. I think James illustrates the hang ups we in the West have about sex. Yoga itself isn't sexual. Humans are. Perhaps the issue is the word sex. Maybe James wouldn't be experiencing a meltdown if you had said intimacy. Somehow the penis and vagina being brought into the conversation clouded your valid point for some people. Regardless, their issue, not yours.

    • yogijulian says:

      agreed – but those hang ups are present in the classical yogic texts james is referencing too!

  7. tanya lee markul says:

    Very nice and I couldn't agree more! Mindfulness and awareness improves everything! Thank you, Julian!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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  8. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  9. yogijulian says:

    fair question thaddeus! thanks…

    my point is this: close to 10% of the american population practices yoga. most of these yogis are being taught yoga by teachers who have been taught patanjali as the authority on what yoga is and why we practice.

    however: 1) the actual experience that these yogis are having has very little to do with patanjlai's central dualism http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/patanjalis… and a somewhat ascetic concentration meditation based quest to attain to a dualistic vision of god. the experience most yogis are having in the american yoga experiment has more to do with body awareness, community experience, psychological healing, and what amounts to a more tantra-esque embrace of life.

    2) there are also multiple texts and perspectives within yoga itself, of which the patanjali sutra is but one voice. i am not saying patanjali is useless, nor i am i refuting the problems you diagnose in our modern world – or that patanjali has a prescription for those problems.

    what i am doing is making a distinction between anti-body, anti-sex, monastic, ascetic, dualistic, authoritarian yogic ideology and what is actually going on in the yoga explosion happening across america. for me there is a kind of split personality that many yoga teachers are pushed into wherein the foundational metaphysics of patanjali are learned by rote as the "philosophy" of yoga – but the experience of practicing asana in 21st century america has in fact very little to do with this set of ideas.

    we are not hindus. we are not ascetics. we are not practicing long hours of concentration meditation. we are still practicing yoga.

    yoga is i think a living tradition. what i have always loved about yoga and meditation is that they have an almost scientific ability to engage us in an inquiry that keeps evolving.

    like it or not yoga is evolving too in it's east/west integration – and this is a good thing, and we have plenty of fascinating, juicy, rich philosophy and psychology around us that integrates tantric ideas, buddhist ideas, somatic psychology, neuroscience, physical therapy and so on…

    besides this whole purist stance on what is "really yoga" is baseless through and through – it is like americans who are against immigration! as if they didnt come here from europe… i remember a time 15 years ago when the debate in the yoga community was whether or not vinyasa flow classes (which probably make up 95% of what current american yogis participate in) were "really yoga" – and even a yoga journal letters section drama in which pattabhi jois wrote a letter censuring teachers like bryan kest for teaching power yoga….. i guess we moved on from that one!

    patanjali borrowed from samkhya and the buddha – and may indeed have been several different authors. one of the reasons there is not as much mention of asana as we might expect is that some scholars think that formulation of asana as we know it happened much later and was heavily influenced by danish gymnastics. tantra scholar stuart sovatsky says that yoga was much more organic and ecstatic/shamanic before the british colonization, after which the indians formalized the practice on wood floors with distinct positions to make it seem ore like european ballet….

    so who gets to say what is "really yoga?" is it sivananda, ashtanga, iyengar, vinyasa flow, restorative, classical, tantric, do we go back to the shamanic roots, it is not 'really yoga" unless we are eating the fly agaric mushroom widely thought to be the some of the vedas, is it not "really yoga" unless we engage in the intense practices of the fakirs driving spikes into our flesh, is not "really yoga" unless we cover ourselves in ashes form the funeral pyre, is it not "really yoga" unless we agree with patanjali that god and nature are separate, and with john above that sex is animalistic and distracts us from our spiritual purity?

    it's all in a state of flux and i for one think that the integration that is ALREADY happening between east and west, ancient and modern, spiritual and psychological, philosophy and science is a GREAT thing…. i am also happy to leave the religiosity, anti-human transcendentalism and dogmatic metaphysics behind.

  10. yogijulian says:

    question: if we do not agree with certain religious perspectives form certain yogic texts are we to say that we are not practicing yoga unless we give them lipservice?

    • Russ says:

      When transmitting it to others, I would just say, "this is the tradition", rather than either reinterpreting it for them (and watering down or misrepresenting the tradition) or pretending it is a belief I subscribe to (Hypocrisy, not saya).
      I'm an atheist, a materialist, and practice ashtanga yoga, but I don't feel that there needs to be a conflict; yoga works whether you believe in it or not 🙂

      • Russ says:

        *satya not saya

        • yogijulian says:

          what about the idea that it is a living tradition – that the "tradition" has it's roots in certain metaphysical beliefs and cultural constructs, but is a self-evolving process that transcends culture and religion and is becoming something new as it shapes us and we shape it…?

          what if we teach the roots of the tradition as well as a critique of it and encourage real philosophical inquiry – along with an investigation of what we are doing now and why?

  11. kelly says:

    Julian Walker says “its all a state of flux” but what he seems to mean is “I don’t want to define yoga because it poops on my business; putting a name to what I do puts me in the same category as people I accuse of being cult leaders.” He pushes American Yoga.
    American yoga is paying someone to tell you what to do so you get more fit and healthy, and the stuff for sale that support the enterprise- it is cash not devotion not Love, certainly not the yoga of patanjali or the other sages of old, it is conquest and reappropriation, Truth “finally done right”. Ascetics are despised, because they violate the comforting ideals of family and control, now pushed by antitheists and p$ychologists with their “new” death-sex-body religion. “Real” yoga, real freedom is always available to the sincere; those who recognize the center, who contain the flux, see many.

    • yogijulian says:

      no so kelly! 🙂

      i dislike asceticism because it is anti humanist, dualistic and an expression of religiosity that seeks to find the sacred somewhere other than out humanity.

      i dislike asceticism in the judaeo-christian-islamic traditions as much as i do in the hindu-buddhist. i am an equal opportunity humanist!

      if i wanted an other-worldy, body hating, sexuality denying, emotion repressing, moralistic religion i could have just stayed home and been a catholic….

      • kelly says:

        “not so” yet you agree, pinning “human” as some ideal- with only sex there is no love,with only body, no bliss. Any way it can the sex-body-death cult says stay at home, bear constraints and and serve what hates, remain without freedom in the wasteland of rotting flesh, ban energy from reaching out to the limitless energy. Your other comments say this- you are not after freedom but a smooth ride, the colonialist “finally Truth done right”.
        Not all ascetics are dualists, yet bound by the family, its constraints, this is always dualism and one without center, which is the problem- the sun and the moon spin, but around what?

        • yogijulian says:

          yes embracing our humanity is an ideal for me – finding the sacred in our human experience.

          hmmm if you read the article you will see i am actually emphasizing intimacy, openness and indeed love as part of great sex.

          wow "wasteland of rotting flesh?" – intense! what are you referring to?

          "smooth ride?" absolutely not – real transformational work can be very messy, uncomfortable and painful.

          colonialist – gosh i dont think so – plus the other side of that coin is cultural appropriation and that just doesn't feel authentic to me.

      • yogijulian says:

        oh i am quite happy defining yoga, and for whatever it is worth i have waayy taken the road less travelled here – building a community very slowly of people interested in the kind of inquiry i find compelling and useful…… i would be much further along in business and career had i chosen a more conventional route 20 years ago!

  12. Kelly says:

    Seeking the human being or being human, is not yoga, yoga is for Being. You can call it humanist yoga, but that is being human, admitting the need to lead the cult. It isn’t seeking human that the body-death-sex cult teaches, that is something easily accomplished- kill your brother, that is human nature, jelousy is the human experience. Instead the stay-bound teaches orgasm over the reflecting pool, roller-coaster thrills and pill-to-prosper, not center, your toe touches your ear a vanity exercise, limits on everything especially intimacy (the Beloved is not Love, but a bag), no sound but “finally, Truth done like I like it”, and the base teaching- “there is no enlightenment, if there was I’d be enlightened already,” so Julian Walker must say it is inauthentic to learn the steps of the Dance, to insist that It means exactly what Julian Walker say It does.
    Love is available, Energy has meaning outside meaning, but the life of the materialist is bound to no meaning, to have no center, no expression.

    • yogijulian says:

      you go! a fine turn of poetic prose…. your hatred for the body and sex quite evident, your need to make me the villain as well.

      have a nice evening.

      • kelly says:

        I do not limit Love to the body, I do not say stay in your body, I do not hate the body, the body is a tool, a bag of puss and of brilliance, but a bag. Sex can be a tool too, but I do not say only body only sex which is no bliss no love, I do not say this is the limit because I say it is. Julian Walker claims to be the victim, to be vilified, yet does not mind vilifying, showing again the base teaching of the death-sex-body cult- the ego not as a tool, but as the end, the unexceedable limit, a happenstance center where there is no meaning, only “finally, Truth as I like it”

    • dan says:

      "orgasm over the reflecting pool" lol

  13. Carol Horton says:

    I find this discussion interesting, informative, and even important – but I also find the tone disturbingly snarky. Maybe the deeper practice here is learning how to discuss our differences with respect. I would like to think that all schools or yoga could at least agree on the value of that.

    • yogijulian says:

      fair enough carol – point taken!

    • yogijulian says:

      at a certain point i start to bite back when being attacked by fundamentalists with ad hominems, accusations of not teaching "real yoga" and vitriolic statements about the disgusting unspiritual nature of the body and sexuality.

      out of curiosity – did you find the article itself snarky?

      • Carol Horton says:

        Not at all – I think that it's great, because it is super-clear and accessible but also makes lots of really important points and raises even more for discussion. But some of the commentators were beyond snarky, and yes, I admit that I feel that sometimes your impatience and frustration seems to boil over in response.

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  15. dan says:

    Strange to me that one so critical of Patanjali, ascetics and the non-rational would teach him, seemingly reluctantly, alongside the Vijnana Bhaiaravi, seemingly enthusiastically… I guess with the right translation anything becomes palatable.

    • yogijulian says:

      are you familiar with lorin roche's translation? it is sublime…

      • dan says:

        As he combines a translation and commentary into a poem, it's better called an interpretation and not a translation. What I read at his site I find it a bit cheesy and derivitive, but it is fun and I can see people finding it useful.
        I do find it quite curious that one so supposedly devoted to science apperantly takes such a glowing view of this devotional text, which asks the devotee to focus on some very iffy things (non-space, "the glow of an invisible sun") and dive into them unreservedly, without a list of caveats so long as to make the techniques pointless novelties. Are kundalini and cakras a metaphor in Walker's yoga, or an as yet undetectable facet in a scientific world?

        • yogijulian says:

          my sense is that kundalini and chakras are three things:

          1) a metaphorical way of talking about a powerful experiential process that transcends names and beliefs and is innate to the human body.

          2) an experiential/imaginal way of talking about the nervous and endocrine systems and how the mind lives in the body.

          3) a way of conceptualizing stages of personal development.

          as for the radiance sutras – let me be clear, i have no problem with experiential instructions that guide one into powerful meditative and ecstatic states. this is my daily bread and butter…. i only emphasize science because it is so decried in our community and because claims that in fact are empirical should always be subject to empirical evaluation.

          the correct interpretation of spiritual poetry as referring in metaphorical ways to experiential openings need not ever cross over into empirical claims – and in fact fits perfectly well with our current understanding of anatomy, physiology, neuroscience and psychology.

          the distinction i would make is between metaphorical descriptions of interior contemplative experience vs literal claims about exterior other worlds or beings… my definition of spiritual practice is that it is "the gradual process of becoming more fluent in the language of the inner life." i use a lot of mystic poetry to that end – and rather like my hero joseph campbell does with mythology, i see this material as best interpreted metaphorically, psychologically and as referring to an internal journey.

          sure roche is interpreting – for me the key distinction and contrast i will make with patanjali is that of a classical dualism between god and nature vs a more contemporary non-dual embrace of the natural world and the sense as the dwelling place of the sacred.

          for me what roche has done offers an experiential vocabulary that heightens awareness in the midst of practice and invites one into a sense of the sacred that is immediate, authentic and self-embracing.

  16. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  19. harikirtana says:

    The fundamentalist tone of Mr. Portocarrero’s comments notwithstanding, I’m going to suggest the term ‘traditionalist’ as a more apropos moniker for those of us who defer to yoga scripture such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as an authoritative treatise on what yoga is and why one should practice it.

    So, speaking from a traditionalist point of view, although we may achieve short-term sensual gains from a humanist approach to yoga, I think something very valuable is lost if we discard Patanjali’s thesis as irrelevant to “the experience of modern American yogis”. On the contrary, I find the theistic orientation of the Yoga Sutras and other related texts, such as the Bhagavad-gita, to be very relevant to contemporary life in general and contemporary yoga in particular.

    Patanjali is proposing a solution to a problem, suffering, the ultimate form of which is death and its corollaries: pain, loss, and the prospect of non-existence. Humanist and traditional approaches to the problem of death are rooted in their respective assumptions about the nature of life. These respective positions are mutually exclusive world-views. Hence what appears to be life denying from a humanist perspective is life affirming from a traditionalist perspective and vice versa.

    Mutually exclusive world-views defy reconciliation and instead call on us to engage our power of critical thinking to ascertain which view makes the most sense to us. Personally, I find that the traditional premises of karma, samsara, and consciousness as a precedent to rather than a product of matter constitute a more sound and complete philosophy than humanism. Making the argument in favor of my position is obviously far beyond the scope of this comment, but the internal logic of traditional yoga illuminates coherent grounds for following a path of reasonable renunciation, for endeavoring to control rather than indulge the senses while constructively engaging with the world. When we dismiss the methods Patanjlai proposes, particularly those presented at the commencement of chapter two, without considering his underlying premises for recommending them, we risk loosing the benefit of Patanjali’s insight into the nature of the human condition and the rewards of the intersecting paths of grace and action that his treatise offers.

    • yogijulian says:

      what if one is a yogi and meditator but not a theist or dualist?

    • yogijulian says:

      what if one is a yogi and meditator but not a theist or dualist?

      • yogijulian says:

        what if yoga has myriad benefits with regard to anatomy, awareness, healing trauma, and transforming the brain and this is enough without claims of eternal life and hindu cosmology?

      • harikirtana says:

        Traditionally speaking, atheistic non-dualist yogis merge into Brahman, which the theists see as the glowing effulgence of the Supreme Person, Bhagavan. Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan are qualitatively one and the same. The same substance is realized as impersonal Brahman by the students of the Upanishads, as localized Paramatma by the yogis, and as Bhagavan by the devotees. Less advanced students of either of the above schools sometimes argue in favor of their own respective realization, but those who are perfect seers of the Absolute Truth know well that the above three features of the one Absolute Truth are different perspective views seen from different angles of vision.

        • yogijulian says:

          what about those informed by neuroscience, somatic psychology and buddhism who find hindu metaphysics unconvincing?

  20. harikirtana says:

    "Whatever state of being one remembers when they quit their body, that state they will attain without fail." – Bhagavad-gita 8.6

    • yogijulian says:

      i am about as impressed by that quote as i would be by a quote from the bible about not being able to attain eternal life except trough salvation in jesus.

      religious claims about spiritual practice as a way of ensuring certain rewards after death are all equally meaningless to me.

      • harikirtana says:

        The quote only says that we go where our hearts and minds take us. It doesn't make any assurances about anything other than that when you leave your body, you go somewhere. Just because a book makes a statement is not enough reason to accept it; it either resonates with you or it doesn't.

        Pithy references to Yoga scripture aside, one thing that traditional yoga philosophy has going for it is inclusivity. Yes, it’s literal and it recognizes natural hierarchies as opposed to contrived equalities, and yes there are restrictions and observances that require some austerity on the part of the practitioner, but there’s no more of a denial of the material benefits of yoga than there is a requirement that yogis live in caves. Neuroscience and somatic psychology are, again, founded on paradigms that are contradictory to the causative assumptions of classical yoga, but if your objectives are material benefits like healing trauma and expanded awareness then that’s fine. I think that such empirical approaches to yoga offer short-term fixes rather than long-term cures (assuming samsara as opposed to a singular lifetime), but everything, including material science, can be used constructively in the cause of yoga.

        The thing I respect about your position is that you’re not trying to have it both ways; many modern yogis don’t notice the disconnect between classical yoga philosophy and the dominant paradigms of modern empirical culture, don’t think about how karma and the big bang don’t really fit neatly together to form a consistent world-view. Where I respectfully disagree with you is on the need for the creation of “a contemporary, humanistic, integrated, relevant philosophy for yoga today.” I think there’s still plenty of relevance to be found in classical yoga philosophy and plenty of ways to integrate it into contemporary life. What’s lacking is comprehensive understanding and appropriate application. It’s for this reason, along with a few others, that I agree with you: modern yogis should apply a higher degree of critical thinking about traditional yoga scripture than is currently the norm, though it appears we anticipate different outcomes for such applied intelligence.

        Thank you for stirring up such a nice discussion and inspiring my small contribution to it.

        • yogijulian says:

          what if i do not buy hindu metaphysics based on mind/body dualism anymore than any other religious notion of being able to "leave the body?"

          ummm i think what you are referring to as "material benefits" are the only benefits we can really talk about… are you saying a single human life span is short term?

          i appreciate your respect and really nuanced, well-informed and kindly expressed position too.

          i am saying that mythic literalism, mind-body dualism and any traditional religious worldview is not particularly relevant today or integrate-able with what every other discipline tells us about reality at this point. i think this means that in today's world, all traditional religious worldviews have to create irrational, psychologically defended, faith-based compartmentalized beliefs that by definition cannot be reconciled with reality and keep spirituality delusional.

          i appreciate your intellectual curiosity and honesty.

          thanks!

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