Research into yoga

Research into yoga

Research into Yoga schools

The research into yoga approach I took was to visit a variety of Yoga schools on the sub continent in 1993-1996 with a relativistic compare and contrast methodology. The basis for the research was my interest in new age movements as well as my previous experience as a member in the 1980’s with just one yoga school.

Research into yoga, Hatha

It was in 1996 that whilst travel through India I took up residence in Pune near the then named Bombay. There were two contrasting yoga movements of interest covering Hatha yoga (gallery of yoga poses) and the east of existentialism aspirations. I choose to study hatha yoga with a well known Iyengar yoga (wiki) teacher. The other movement was Osho ( Official site) ((headquarters).

Research into yoga resorts

Osho international meditation resort is a not the standard hatha yoga or ashram experience but it had links to my previous 80’s yoga phase. Firstly the meditations had a theory of being “bodiless” (official Osho site) but also in touch with the senses. This had a great appeal for it gave a new interpretation on a bodilessness based on the classic approach of withdrawing from the senses. Secondly, there is a creative arts sense to the program. It has a contemporary world politics approach (Osho was a professor of philosophy) within the meditation techniques (official Osho site) developed on the lectures.

Yoga resorts come in all kinds of flavours. The Brahma Kumaris has arguably the austere version of a resort which is set at mount Abu and given the title “forest of honey”. This is not your typical resort but it does fit a western imaginary. The white clad dress, and building, communal gatherings and the expectation of some form of transcendence experience away from the iron cage of modernity. The Brahma Kumaris has more of a focus on prescriptive set of ontological claims that are based on binary logical true/false statements. This sense of belief is the basis for the cultivation of an imagined community through representational visions of a golden age (yoga school).

A focus on Hatha yoga.

The city of Pune also was home to Iyengar yoga (official site). The teacher (Rashnu) was both an Osho Sanysin and a long time student of Iyengar yoga. I took up a two month intensive yoga training which resulted in a series of photographs (biographical page) in a studio with yoga props. The initial experience gave an insight into the popular conception of yoga and how it is generally practised internationally. Though the long term has proved an invaluable aid to health and well being with my favourite yogic postures being the inversion and back bend. Iyengar style is a vast contrast to what I had experienced with both the BKs raja yoga and Osho meditation by token of its focus on classic yogic poses.

The yoga of Ramana Maharshi

This encounter with the institution of ashram gave some sense of authentic South Indian Saint (wiki). Ramana Maharshi had no millenarian (wiki) missionary advocacy agenda, nor the visionary political community approach. However in 2005 when I did my research trip the area surround the sacred Arunachala (wiki) the locale gave a sense its South India’s version of Rishikesh (wiki). There were a plethora of Ashrams, pilgrims and Westerns, and many with the aim of attaining a rareafied state of consciousness (analysis blog)

Auroville and Aurobindo

The take home message from Sri Aurobindo is be natural.

AS NATURE HAS EVOLVED BEYOND MATTER AND MANIFESTED LIFE so to life has manifested mind. She (nature) must evolve beyond mind towards a supramental truth consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo: the Supramental Manifestation upon Earth

This place is a high point of the new age spiritual movement due to its focus on pragmatic utilitarian approaches that overlap with the nation state projects of official governmental organisations. Its a place where there seemed anecdotally at least the most people who visit are the educated Indians who come to admire the projects international presence as well as integrating technologies of traditional Indian land based communities with an eye on emerging technologies.

Yoga devotion for international tastes.

The devotional yoga from the international perspective has at its core the cult of personality. The traditional Hindu approach is devotion varies from the austere devotion to a divinity within the pantheon to a human figure as guru or even ones dharma as in duty to a life project. There was one particular yoga school situated in South India that typified the personality factor within an international context. The leader had a radiant presence and devotees from all round the world sat for hours so be next to their Amma. The emphasis is to develop compassion for the people whom are within a devotees personal surroundings and respond to human suffering through empathy. Its a theory with a simple premise though with many interpretations and outcomes, given its a kind of yoga with the social structure, rather than a transcendental approach of personal liberation.

Peripheral yoga schools

artwork by I. Giardina
I stayed with various groups in 1993 Kumbh Mela at Ujjain

These are yoga schools more obscure to the Western imaginary of what Yoga constitutes though not so from native Indians who frequent religious festival such as the Kumbh Mela. This was for me the closest I got to experiencing what I imagined the classic Yoga of ancient India. These Baba’s are quite solitary and by nature are not interested to give lessons, but they seemed aright with me sitting around by the sacred fire and were happy to share their offerings of illumination.