December 24, 2012

Will the Real Yoga Please Stand Up? ~ Mel Johnson

I took my first yoga class because I wanted to improve my market strategy on how to get laid.

I heard that guys thought yoga chicks were sexy because they were flexible. Sweet. So began the market research. Then I got distracted by how effing cool yoga is. It was easy for me to get distracted back then, too. I was diagnosed with adult ADHD. The cool part about my new yoga distraction was that Adderall became increasingly unnecessary. And yoga’s roots were utterly fascinating to me! I didn’t realize yoga had a history that pre-dated that Jesus guy. Wow. What a small world I lived in. The only other philosophers I knew of besides that Jesus guy were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. There was a whole continent filled with a rich philosophical history I’d never heard of! Now, over twelve years later, I find myself in a grad program investigating the boons and burdens of puruṣa in meditation.

Yoga sex swing.

Somewhere along the line my passion for getting laid morphed into a pursuit of Indian philosophical mind-sex. Even better.

In the twelve+ years I’ve studied yoga I’ve read and heard my fair share of arguments about the“real” yoga. The critics span the globe. Practitioners in the West argue for the superiority of various yoga disciplines—aṣṭāṅga, haṭha, kuṇḍalinī, Śivānanda, vinyāsa—all of which fall under the De Michelis category of “Modern Postural Yoga” or the Singleton category of “transnational Anglophone yoga.” Koreans weigh in with Dahn. Some Indians claim all this postural stuff is crap and that yoga is meditation.

Well, guess what? It’s all yoga. And here’s my defense for why it’s all yoga:

“The Vyasa Bhasya in its opening lines literally comments: ‘Yoga is concentration’ has to do with the etymology of the word ‘yoga’… both Vyasa and Vacaspatimisra are pointing out that yoga in this context of Patanjala Yoga does not mean ‘yuj’ in the sense of ‘yoke’ or ‘join’, but rather ‘yuj’ in the sense of samadhi or concentration. Put another way, the term ‘yoga’ in the tradition of the YS and its principal commentaries is seldom used in the sense of ‘yoke’, ‘join’ or ‘union’ as it is sometimes claimed in popular accounts of yoga. The term refers, rather, to concentration and is most easily understood in the YS and its commentaries simply as ‘disciplined meditation’ in regard to the various states of awareness.”

~ Gerald James Larson

Yoga “simply as ‘disciplined meditation’” is practiced and has been practiced by various religions and secular schools for centuries. Sikhs, Brahmins, Buddhists, ascetics, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc., all practice “disciplined meditation” in various forms. All these chicks in tight pants and wild print lotus tops count, too. They’re concentrating. Just like that wacky diaper clad sādhuI saw staring at the sun on the bank of the Ganges. Sometimes “disciplined meditation” has a different name, but I’m with Larson. Yoga by any other name is still yoga. And the coolest part is that anyone can practice it. Anywhere. In many forms. Regardless of your beliefs.

It’s funny to me that yoga used to be about getting laid. And there’s plenty of research out there that proves I’m not the first to use yoga to get laid. Pretty sure I’m not the last, either. I had it wrong, but eventually I figured it out. Yoga involves discipline. The meditative part came by accident. But it came nonetheless. And so did the ethical system. And the need for sex attention dimished. All because I paid attention to yoga.

Mel Johnson: As a student of some fabulously—and sometimes brutally—honest girlfriends, world travel, my awesome adviser, various yogis and yoginis, yogic philosophy runs through my veins and lungs. I am a graduate teaching assistant at George Mason University, teacher of critical thinking and writing, yoga entrepreneur, paddleboarder, hiker, Buddhaphile, oenophile and smartass.


Editor: Malin Bergman

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