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.

  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.

  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:

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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….

  14. yogijulian says:

    i do hear what you are saying thaddeus.

    i have no problem with feurstein's quote about an authentic self – and you might notice he makes no mention of other worlds, transmigrating souls etc…

    i think the ideas behind why we engage in transformational disciplines (and indeed on what an "authentic self" might be) have evolved over time – this was true in india with the various schools of thought from samkhya to advaita to tantra to buddhism and on and on, and it is true today.

    paying lipservice to one of those schools of thought chosen to be the authority on what yoga is, and then having it be in the background of an expression of a practice that has little to actually do with those seems odd to me.

    you say quite rightly that neither you nor i can claim to know what is really going on in each yogis practice – but my point is that patanjali is talking mostly about concentration meditation and some guidelines for how to live a mindful and ethical life. he also talks a lot about god. my sense is that for most yogis there is much more going on at the level of an enjoyable embodied experience of breath, awareness and community – and that imposing the dualistic ascetic religiosity of patanjali onto this makes very little sense – and for my money actually closes the door to a deeper, richer, more relevant inquiry into the nature of transformation.

    my sense is that americans became fascinated with yoga as part of a counter cultural movement towards discovering interior meaning and personal growth outside of the narrow strictures of judaeo-christian religion. certainly for me – i have never been looking for a new religion. i am not interested in having a religion at all – i am interested in a practice that allows me to live fully, love deeply, think clearly and connect to myself and others in meaningful ways. i care as much about being liberated from the material realm as i do about going to heaven when i die – which is to say not at all, because neither represent anything real to me.

    for me, and i think for many people, yoga and meditation have been so appealing because they require no religious faith – they are about working with your own body and mind.

    the context in which we work with our bodies and minds using some of the tools form yoga has evolved and transformed. personally i find the notion that i am doing these practices with faith in them liberating me from the material plane quaint, outdated and beside the point.

    the practices still do what they have always done – they deepen awareness, balance the nervous system, are great for the muscles and joints, give us space to cultivate compassion, mindfulness and insight, and activate some very powerful neuroendocrinal energies……. but do they manifest paranormal abilities? no. do they inevitably lead to an embrace of hindu metaphysics based on direct experence? i don't think so.

    for me the metaphysics and ascetic dogmas of some thinkers in the broad and rich tradition are actually distinct from the practices. my sense is that the practices actually transcend their religious and cultural context and as such are universal…. we can now use the universal language of science to make sense of what they actually do in terms of brain, body, nervous system etc – and can integrate more recent insights about psychology, trauma, sense of self etc that have come along way since patanjali and the buddha – brilliant as they were.

    everything evolves, human knowledge keeps deepening and for me one of the great obstacles toward a pragmatic, integrated and grounded spirituality is the romanticizing of any ancient tradition as if it had a monopoly on truth, was a doorway into the supernatural, and somehow contained secret knowledge that we have fallen from in our worldly ways….

    dualism is still dualism.

    ascetic ideas are still ascetic ideas.

    namig these clearly and asking ourselves what we actually think of them today is i think good practice too!

  15. 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?

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. yogijulian says:

    being skeptical of paranormal powers until there is a shred of evidence for them is in fact the opposite of dogma – and it is cheap and cynical rhetoric designed to give cover to unfounded beliefs to suggest otherwise!

    hahaha savior in a test tube – funny! 🙂

    perhaps i am not being clear: human beings all have the same basic anatomy. the practices work whatever your metaphysical persuasion; they do what they do at a level that is now understandable using science. science is a universal language in the sense that it gives us experimental data that is true or false regardless of who is looking, what their culture or religious beliefs may be…

    the real thing is human life and experience in the actual universe we live in – i accept no substitute in the form of literalized myth and transcendentalist fantasy.

  19. yogijulian says:

    using religious terms like"dogma," "fundamentalism" or "faith" to characterize valuing scientific method is a cheap piece of cynical rhetoric and has the added disadvantage of being incorrect.

    a shred of evidence would be any paranormal or supernatural claim ever having been demonstrable under conditions where it was not possible to cheat, and under which biases had been eliminated – we call that "science" but really it is just a way of ensuring we are not fooling ourselves or being fooled – it is actually the opposite of dogmatism.

  20. 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.

  21. Thaddeus1 says:

    I would be interested to know in what sense the application of these terms regarding your adherence to, and belief in, science are a mischaracterization. Here are the definitions of the terms that you label "religious"…

    Dogma: something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet b : a code of such tenets c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds
    Fundamentalism: Strict maintenance of ancient or fundamental doctrines of any religion or ideology
    Faith: confidence or trust in a person or thing

    So while typically one finds these terms utilized regarding religion it's obvious that their meanings extend beyond the religious realms. And quite to the contrary there is nothing "cheap" about my choice to use them. My education in philosophy has run me well over fifty thousand dollars and I can't say that your position is much different than that which I encountered on a daily basis while in the American university system regarding the power, promise and ignorance of science. However, I must wonder what makes you so willing to accept one system over another? And if you honestly believe that science operates independent of biases, then I fear you sadly, and perhaps purposefully, fooling yourself. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

    And so, if you are unwilling, or unable, to examine the degree to which your championing of science, and the processes of knowledge construction which constitute it, are no different in essence than the critiques you proffer against those you disparagingly label "fundamentalists and antiquated," then there really is no where else for us to go.

  22. 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.

  23. yogijulian says:

    oh gosh – i have to argue with this postmodern viewpoint almost every day. so tiresome!

    this is simple. science is based in evidence. religion is based on faith – which is belief without evidence.

    science changes it's views based on observation and experimentation.

    religion denies observation so that belief can be preserved.

    the ways in which the words dogma, faith and fundamentalism apply to religion are inapplicable to science for the very reason that science is open to new evidence and it's tenets are based on a method that uses experimentation and checking data with others, as well as mechanisms for reducing bias.

    science changes over time because new discoveries force it to – scientists cannot hold onto old beliefs when they are shown to be false and they must accept new data if it is shown to be true.

    scientific method is the single most spectacularly successful endeavor in human history in terms of discovering what is actually the case.

    are there other ways of knowing, other domains of truth? OF COURSE. poetic metaphor, mythic symbolism, contemplative introspection, creative self-expression…. BUT the moment any of those approaches makes claims that are in the domain of science those claims are examinable and must stand or fall on the terms of the scientific method if they want to be taken seriously.

    religion is what we used before science to fill in the gaps of our understanding – god did it, they are possessed by demons, the position of the stars made the earthquake happen because poseidon was angry with us, we have to sacrifice a virgin or an animal to the sun god so as to keep the cycles of the earth turning, the hunt and the harvest plentiful .

    with the movement away from superstition, magical thinking and mythic literalism, we have opened up the universe to be explored as it actually is – and guess what? no unicorns, no disembodied spirits, no demons or angels, no mind/body dualism that would allow for transmigration of souls, no god sitting up on a cloud, hiding in the center of each atom or pulling the strings of earthly events.

    now i know you have a pile of books about how science is merely another perspective, a biased belief system that shapes the world to its own agenda – but as far as i can tell (and i have heard this from so many spiritually minded overeducated people who have succumbed to extreme relativism and think that everything from postmodernism to quantum physics provide a loophole for improbable supernaturalism) it is simply bunk.

  24. yogijulian says:

    gosh darn if some spiritual folk don't hate on science and reason! hooooiey! it's the devil y'all – science done took away our toys and reason done made us grow up and get real….. and we HATE it! hmph – we want to live in a world of plastic magic, because we have forgotten how to see the real stuff: nature, art love, consciousness, existence itself!

    don't tell me unicorns aren't real! what's "reality" anyways?!?!

    it's a mystery and there is no way of knowing if unicorns do or don't exist or if the whole universe began as a unicorn fart – ya big meanie!

    you can basically riff on the above argument for days and come up with ANY and ALL of the new age postmodern nonsense i contend with daily…

    poseidon save me!!!!! 🙂 😉 🙂

    we cling to superstition and supernaturalism like they will save us from the world – not realizing that our salvation is in the world we are seeking to saved from – in our mortality, in our emotions, in our relationships, in our capacity to think and imagine and then check our thoughts and imaginings with experimentation and careful inquiry into whether or not they are true and beautiful and good…

    vague spiritual folks of the world let go – you have nothing to lose but your spacey-ness! 🙂 nothing to fear from thinking clearly and embracing reality – only a whole universe of real, powerful, complex, beautiful existence.

    sorry – we still die at the end though, and bad things still happen to good people, and people with mental illness are not really enlightened and LSD + ancient prophecy + raw food are not a way to open any secret portal to never, never land.

    neither quantum physics nor postmodernism provide a loophole in reality through which to drive the truck of magical thinking or romanticizing ancient beliefs.

    get over it.

    reality's quite nice – jump in! 🙂

    but no! we MUST believe ludicrous things – otherwise how could we be spiritual!? 😉

  25. 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 🙂

  26. Russ says:

    *satya not saya

  27. 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?

  28. 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.

  29. […] By committing to that change at any cost, we can begin to move off our mats integrated and into our relationships in a connected, loving way. I know that I will fail regularly but am determined to appreciate each step, no matter which […]

  30. 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”

  31. yogijulian says:

    fair enough carol – point taken!

  32. 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?

  33. yogijulian says:

    you misunderstand my position.

    there are many forms of knowledge, several kinds of truth.

    spiritual practices give us access to our inner world – but the moment we make claims that are in the empirical domain based on spirituality those claims must be subjected to scientific method or else we are just protecting a fantasy.

    there are many types of experiential truth – those of music, emotion, art, and even meditative experience that stand on their own without scientific evaluation, but there is a line and it is self-evident.

    i can say beethoven's music fills me with a sense of love and meaning. great.

    but if i say that beethoven's music has the power to cure cancer – well that is an empirical claim and if i am serious about it, then i should be absolutely down with it being put to the test to see if it is actually true.

    i can say that in meditation i was filled with peace. but if i claim that meditation can cure bipolar disorder why let's put that to the test – could be big news.

    and if i say meditation gives me the ability to levitate i had better not insist that it is only in a dark room by myself! 🙂

    you fall a bit predictably here into the" burden of proof" fallacy – no-one needs to "disprove" any extraordinary claim like disembodied spirits – these claims need to be proven in order to be accepted by reasonable people.

    you are also performing the standard misrepresentation of science. it is actually a virtue that science changes over time – that the truths of science are indeed provisional. there is of course a method of demonstrating new knowledge that overturns or forces a revision of what was previously held as true. the progression from newton to einstein to quantum physics to string theory is not a devastating blow against empirical truth, but a demonstration of the difference between religion and science. further, these revolutions in physics have expanded upon existing knowledge more than refuted it. gravity still applies even though einstein refined our understanding of it curving the fabric of space. the laws of classical physics still apply, even though at the quantum level there is some anomalous and wild behavior….

    with a method as open to change based on evidence, if there was any for anything supernatural it would actually require science to revise a lot of things….. the simple fact is there isn't so it hasn't – if it ever does it will be the biggest news in the history of news and i will eat my hat!

    the other standard fallacies that are probably on the tip of your tongue basically fall into the "argument from ignorance" and "god of the gaps" positions….. basically science doesn't know everything, you can't explain such and such an anecdotal phenomenon, here fore my supernatural explanation MUST be the truth.

    hopefully we can avoid going down that path… have a good night my friend. 🙂

  34. 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.

  35. yogijulian says:

    i am so sorry that your philosophy education led you down this blind creationist alley thaddeus.

    this argument is nonsensical, but one i encounter a lot in true believers.

    it mischaracterizes science and insists on a kind of extremist skepticism that foregoes the pragmatic common sense nature of knowledge.

    you once again perpetuate the burden of proof fallacy, just in a slightly more complex soft shoe shuffle.

    i don't have to prove the non-existence of anything. on one level this is of course impossible and a meaningless endeavor. i cannot prove that you are not an alien from the pleidies, nor can i prove that there is no such thing as a leprachaun.

    on another level there is no need to prove all the things that do not exist. i no more have to prove the non-existence of god or ghosts or disembodied souls than i have to prove the non-existence of talking grasshoppers, conscious rocks, a great bear spirit or minotaurs.

    in order to say something does not exist, all that is required is that there be no evidence for its existence. this is simple and pragmatic and we all live our lives based on this kind of common sense every day in every area except for the oddly compartmentalized space reserved by some people for religious ideas and beliefs.

    as for "anything you can't see, feel or touch" oh my – there are many things we have evidence for that can't be seen, felt or touched – but we do have extensions of the senses in the form of instruments like microscopes etc… then there are things like the higgs-boson that a whole set of physics equations require in order to be consistent, but which we have yet to observe….

    the tired old argument that science is limited and so therefore the humble thing is to stay open to certain ideas (like the possibility of a god) is again a version of the argument from ignorance mashed up with the god of the gaps idea.

    these are all fallacies and used only by people who want to believe unreasonable things and have found a way to make philosophical reasoning appear to justify this desire. it does not.

  36. 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.

  37. dan says:

    The burden of proof is on the one making the assertion. If we're born a “blank slate” (though we aren't) then the burden is on anyone, so too the theist. But in a room of theists, the burden is on the non-theist, assuming they want to prove their view, so too the anti-theist. Fallacies critique the presentation of the argument, not the central claim; the pointing out them is the most overused rhetorical device of modern atheism. While seemingly offered as a kindness, outside a classroom they almost always come off as patronizing and I-told-you-so-neener-neener, said not to educate or improve the argument but “for the win,” and certainly not for peace. Appeals to common sense and emotions are a fallacies, existence is a fallacy because it can embody contradictions.

  38. dan says:

    Making an appeal to get educated- there's a fallacy for that! Snark aside, thanks for the education, I just had a long conversation just yesterday and about Latour, fun stuff.

  39. tanya lee markul says:

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

  40. dan says:

    "orgasm over the reflecting pool" lol

  41. […] Yoga Makes Sex Better! 5 Top Reasons to Practice and Teach. […]

  42. yogijulian says:

    oh get over yourself. you have made a pet out of supernaturalism and demon out of science because it calls your pet imaginary. what's worse you have used a graduate level education to try and justify this superstition with with pretentious arguments – at some level i think even you know this is bullshit.

    again with the rhetoric that makes science and reason into some kind of religious dogma! nonsense.

    the whole point is that no-one has to bow down to any authoritarian pronouncements in science – the experimental data does all the work….. all of us take this basic sanity fro granted when driving down the street or pouring scalding water into a cup – but start talking about spirituality and suddenly there is this ivory tower nonsensical postmodern abstraction that hew and haws about the nature of reality and what constitutes truth.

  43. yogijulian says:

    there is absolutely no reason that a profound and substantive spirituality cannot exist side by side with an intelligent interpretation of poetic metaphor and mythic symbol and a basic honesty about what science shows us about the universe.

    deny science and misinterpret metaphor and indeed there appears to be a contradiction and a conflict – this is only necessary if you insist on asserting the existence of some literal spirit world, mind/body dualism, life after death, ghosts, demons, angels, afterlives and an ultimate eternal, parental god…….. having the integrity, courage and existential honesty to let go of such outdated nonsense while still trusting that there is a valuable and real spirituality possible is the next step in terms of a real integration.

    failing that, spirituality remains superstitious, pre-rational, anti-science and interprets the claims of the mentally ill as a kind of higher knowledge, creating a set of psychological defenses for people who can't accept reality.

    failing that, spirituality remains nonsensical hokum in the eyes of sane, educated, non-delusional people who nonetheless could benefit from the true gifts of interior spiritual experience and becoming fluent in a healthy metaphorical language…

    let's not perpetuate the split with pseudoscience, idealization of pre-scientific cultures, new age magical thinking, extreme postmodern relativism, fancy fallacious reasoning, and pretentious philosophical posturing!

  44. yogijulian says:

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

  45. 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?

  46. dan says:

    You should read the authors Thaddeus1 has suggested, or at least their wikipedia entries. It is precisely because the experimental data is always limited and often flawed by our expectations that they're critiques push actual science (the boring kind, not the potpourri we enjoy in the popular press) forward.
    "get over it" lol

  47. dan says:

    What does science show us about the universe? Who here is denying science? Given the tangents and emotional outbursts taken in your replies, I have to wonder. That you think because something meets a standard of "nonsensical hokum" (apparently sensible hokum exists?) it is incorrect, I would encourage you to research the history of tectonic plates as science. Similarly, you might be interested to know that while discovering contradictions (like teaching the Vijnana Bhairava given what you say here) is at the heart of reason, ridicule is entirely subjective.

  48. 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.

  49. yogijulian says:

    no offesne guys – i just observe that on any given today it is very easy to find on FB or EJ any number of people who will try and make ludicrous intellectual (and often quite educated) arguments for one or all of the following:

    1) science being merely one perspective.

    2) mental illness actually being a glimpse of the spirit world.

    3) quantum physics meaning magical thinking is real.

    4) pseudoscience claims being at the growing edge of human knowledge.

    i just get tired of this after a while, and am championing a contemporary spirituality that has moved beyond such odd tap dancing to try and make supernaturalism plausible.

    sorry if that is not where you are coming from…..

    all the best
    ~j

  50. ella says:

    I love love love the new blog for Danski fitness wear. Check it out here: http://danskinblog.com/ great insight & information.

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