Regarding “What Yoga Means to Rusty Wells.” ~ Yogi (Michael Boyle)

Via elephant journal
on Mar 11, 2011
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In Response to “What Yoga Means to Rusty Wells.”

Let me start by emphasizing that this article will be a response, not a rebuttal. I’ll present some rather different views…but in more of a “Yes, and…” kind of way.

I fondly recall arriving to San Francisco about eight years ago, a total mess. I stumbled upon Rusty’s classes…and immediately I gave him my sob story. I knew that I needed yoga, and I felt like I wanted lots of it. But, I was flat broke.

I had just moved off of a stint on an Indian reservation. I tried in earnest to save all the “rez” kids that were in harm’s way of abusive, drunk relatives by renting a large home for them to crash at and eat organic food. I was a 22 year old, ungrounded, hippy spiritual aspirant with the best of intentions. Needless to say, I am the one who crashed…and burned—quickly.

When I hightailed it to San Fran I ran into Rusty who, with the sweet heart that Joslyn Hamilton wrote about, encouraged me to come to his classes whenever I wanted—for free. So, Rusty…thanks for that. Really. I needed to be met with kindness in that vulnerable time and you were all that, and more.

I am also so pleased to see that Rusty is speaking of a kind of yoga where no one has any more “god” than anyone else and how yoga must make us not only more flexible, but also more conscientious, loving, caring human beings. I agree wholeheartedly. But, when he mentions the “woo-woo mystical atmosphere” many of us were attracted to, this is where we get into the “Yes, and…” part of the article.

Rusty humbly admits his faults, his lack of awareness of things like chakras, and catching himself hypocritically teaching a meditation technique that he himself does not experience. That, too, is awesome. I am right there with him. I am not writing what I am about to write as some enlightened yogi. I am still emotionally reactive to the point where my guru has kindly nicknamed me, “Johnny Drama” after the quasi-pathetic, but very endearing “Entourage” character. I, too, still consider my needs ahead of others and what Rusty wrote about not listening, finishing others sentences, etc. are words that I need to let sink more deeply into my experience. But, despite all these limitations —no, because of all these limitations—I practice yoga (of which asana is only a part) within the context of an Ultimate Standard.

I fear that because Rusty carries such a strong voice in the yoga community, and rightfully so, that his opinions which are right on in one sense may unwittingly limit the potential of seekers that wish to get a more complete fruit of yoga. He honestly and admirably admits that he just wants to be as “real as I am,” and that because he doesn’t personally know of the “reality” of “reincarnation or chakras” he should not talk about those types of things. I appreciate that he is not willing to be a hypocrite. But, as a spokesperson for a huge chunk of the modern beliefs about yoga Rusty Wells is, whether he likes it or not, an authoritative voice that must be called to question if necessary. His not knowing of these things does not alter the fact of their truth. Yoga IS an enlightenment science that promises results that are beyond our wildest imaginations.

Unfortunately, the texts of the yoga tradition have been watered down to analogy and psychological “equivalents” by a culture of skeptics limited by the supremacy of their rational intellects. But, this modern dumbing down of the regality of yoga doesn’t mean that it is not designed and ABLE to lead people to radical enlightenment. In fact, through yoga (or any other means of discovering one’s True Nature), it IS possible to be totally, 100% non-reactive; it is possible to be totally, 100% selfless; it is possible to be totally, 100% unconditionally content and 100% loving. But, if we do not practice with the view of this potential then it will never come to be. Granted, we must be patient and accepting of our shortcomings, but we must know that our True Nature is inherently open, spacious, kind, wise, content, at peace, radiant, all loving, and fully aware. And, if we desire to recognize our full human potential then we must practice with this prime directive towards the ultimate standard.

I am not claiming that Rusty Wells does not understand or believe in this ultimate possibility of yoga. He may indeed, and in fact I bet he does. But, I am interested in making sure that the reader knows that yoga has far greater possibilities than self-improvement, and physical and mental health. I am interested in letting people know that the channels (nadis) and chakras ARE real and that there are practices that can help you cultivate their power. I am interested in telling you that there are kriya yogas that can transform one’s entire experience of reality, that there are countless mantras whose sound-forms can liberate the entire spectrum of the universe’s infinite energies, that there are real “shaktipats” and gurus, and that the guru was, is and always will be THE essential ingredient to the realization of the highest fruits of yoga. It is simply not possible without transmission.

I am also interested in telling you all of this with the searing awareness of all the new-age bullshit that is out there. 99.9% of what Americans are exposed to of the yoga I speak of is charlatan, delusional, god-complex narcissism. None has a worse name than the travesty the new-age has done to “tantra,” but that does not mean the yoga tradition does not come from totally enlightened Mahasiddha Tantrik Yogins—or that it is totally dead today. It is alive, well and breathing, albeit rare. It is even possible to find it in white gurus who grew up on the streets of New Jersey and disciples reared on the street-hockey concrete of suburban Boston.

There is a way of yoga that is so much more than getting a bit healthier and even a lot happier and more “well adjusted.” Those are absolutely awesome perks and even fine motivations to practice. Should the world be filled with more people with hearts and intentions like Rusty Wells we’d all be better off. But, let us please not accept that there is a personalized ceiling to the possibilities of yoga, which are truly beyond mental comprehension and limitation. And, let us not mistake that I am claiming that Rusty holds people to such limitations. I simply read this article, felt its is warm sentiment and powerful impact, and wanted to make sure the readers of this fine publication are aware of the view that this deeper “kundalini” yoga is being practiced by grounded, down-to-earth, realistic ladies and gentlemen all across the world.

Yogi (Michael Boyle) is co-founder of Energy of Mind: A Sauhu Therapy, which offers counseling through the lens of yoga, ayurveda, meditation, etc. all within the context of psychological insight and understanding. Yogi is a graduate of Trika Institute’s, seven year, “Tantrik Yoga Studies Program” as well as JFK’s masters psychology program. He is a student to Dharmanidhi Sarasvati (Adi Yoga, Trika Instutitute)to whom he credits for anything worthwhile that he has to share with clients and readers.  Yogi works with clients online, in Bangkok, and at his home, the rural yoga and meditation retreat center in Northeast Thailand, Kailash Akhara.


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6 Responses to “Regarding “What Yoga Means to Rusty Wells.” ~ Yogi (Michael Boyle)”

  1. Hi, Michael. Thanks for this very sensitively written alternate point of view.

    I hope it will generate the robust discussion it deserves!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

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

  3. This is really lovely and thank you for sharing. As someone who is personally allergic to "the woo woo," I didn't find a shred of it in what you wrote above. This is down to earth and sweet and makes sense to me.

  4. Joe Sparks says:

    Hi Yogi, I am with you. In Yoga and any pursuit we need to set a goal of total function for everyone. We need to reject any any cultural standards of norm and assume that we have the capacity to flower and flourish far beyond any presently observable models out there.We need ro assume that the outstanding abilities which show up in some humans are latent in everyone, but inhibited by distress. We need to set the goal of complete flowering of humans, not simply adjusting to a particular environment, dogma, or society. We are all in this together. The sooner we figure it out the better.

  5. Hilary Lindsay says:


    You remind yoga students to look deeper if they are not finding yoga transcendent. That's good. There are many paths to self knowledge and peace. Yoga offers so much. I'm not sure I agree with you entirely but I appreciate that you want to urge people who might be looking for transformation some places to start. There are teachers out there who have good information. You remind folks to seek them out.

  6. andrea palazzi says:

    (posted yesterday in facebook)

    ‎"He honestly and admirably admits that he just wants to be as “real as I am,” and that because he doesn’t personally know of the “reality” of “reincarnation or chakras” he should not talk about those types of things. But, as a spokesperson for a huge chunk of the modern beliefs about yoga Rusty Wells is, whether he likes it or not, an authoritative voice that must be called to question if necessary."

    when i hear such things, i almost fear that the one mind has surrendered to the one ring. this is exactly the politics of media, invading minds with opinions an emotions, not sticking to experience. not having practiced something doesnt makes that something more real if the non-practioner is a great person. i wouldnt like jackson pollock or john cage or captain beefheart for designing the capsule of my next space mission. sometimes the best or only answer is just silence. for sure, i often learned more from my masters' silence than from their words.


    "the potential of seekers that wish to get a more complete fruit of yoga"

    imho, if someone 'seeks', 'searches for' anything, if somehone hopes 'to get' anything– s/he is lightyears from yoga — from any flavor of yoga. to me, limiting oneself to the 'reality' quoted above seems way closest to yoga. no matter what blossoms — it, whatever, will be reality.

    anyway, everyone is his/her own tao, so for him/her that views might work, who knows.

    shanti, a.


    The spiritual path is hijacked the moment the ideology of self-disdain becomes the prevailing doctrine. Our practice is transformed into another valiant attempt to whip ourselves into shape.
    — Ben Riggs

    Form Does not Differ From the Void
    — Heart Sutra