Click this link to go to a page that clearly delineates the various styles of yoga.
Seriously. Click the link.
Click this link to go to a page that clearly delineates the various styles of yoga.
Seriously. Click the link.
Ha ha, now the same New York Times writer so focused on how yoga is injuring and killing people has written a new article in which he says that yoga fans the sexual flames, with its roots in Tantric sex cults!!!
William J. Broad writes:
Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?
How does he get away with saying that yoga produces “so many” philanderers? I don’t see any data. It’s certainly not as if the majority of philanderers are yogis. A handful of anecdotal examples does not prove his case.
Um, I believe fundamental and evangelical churches have produced way more philanderers per capita than yoga has. Not to mention the U.S. government — from the presidency on down! But I guess those are old headlines. And I don’t have any data either. Does anyone have data on philandering?
And…doesn’t philandering usually end up creating uproars that leave people shocked and distraught no matter what field they occur in?
William J. Broad is riding the Anusara/John Friend scandal to capitalize on the popularity of yoga and sell more of his books. If the New York Times called him “practitioner of make-a-buck sensational journalism whose claim to scientific credibility is undermined every time he confuses causation with correlation” instead of “senior science writer,” well, that would seem to be more accurate.
I cannot wait to read what the awesome Leslie Kaminoff has to say about this article! I will post it here when he puts up another video. Leslie has been a great counterpoint to William J. Broad, with way more credibility in the yoga world, and a voice of reason, common sense, and insight among the recent uproars about yoga. Leslie, write a book! See my recent post of his video about his yoga teacher Desikachar, son of the founder of modern yoga.
My take on it? Yoga improves health, and being healthy means being alive, vibrant, and responsive. That can certainly translate to sexy! Who isn’t attracted to people with those qualities?
And, a lot of activities improve health and libido, not just yoga. Running, biking, swimming, playing basketball, dancing zumba, and many, many more.
I also believe that yoga does more than just improve health — the asanas unblock meridians, allowing life-force energy (chi, prana) to flow more freely throughout the body.
Ask anyone who’s had regular acupuncture for years if it’s improved their health, energy levels, and life force/vibrancy/libido, and they will tell you it has made a big difference. Same deal, no yoga.
And, over time and without needles, yoga does the same thing. And not just yoga. Gymnastics, acrobatics, acro-yoga, Pilates, martial arts, tai chi, chi gong, and several types of dance place the body in unusual postures or movements that increase flexibility, build strength and endurance, and require focused awareness. They train the bodymind to be healthier, to function better. Of course that affects sexuality. Health and sexuality are intimate partners.
This has been known for a long time.
Broad totally did not mention that one of the yamas (ethical guidelines) in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is brahmacharya, or nonexcess.
In the commentaries on the sutras, brahmacharya is applied specifically to sexual behavior and refers to chastity or even celibacy among advanced spiritual aspirants. Brahmacharya means refraining from sex except in committed relationships, and in that context, engaging in sex in moderation to develop a true spiritual partnership.
The yamas are required reading and discussion in yoga teacher training. And to put that in context, we live in America, which is a hypersexual culture. The porn industry is huge, and sex sells.
I imagine that the majority of people with a serious yoga practice do not misbehave sexually. Those who do, well, it’s more about power or addiction or lack of healthy role models than it is about the yoga.
Broad does share information about science’s interest in yoga and sex. I am not surprised by any of it. He’s fixated on yoga and sex; I’d like to see similar studies on martial arts and sex, and on yoga and the bonding hormone oxytocin.
And by the way, meditation (aka doing nothing) can promote sexual arousal. So can simply relaxing.
In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.
In India, recent clinical studies have shown that men and women who take up yoga report wide improvements in their sex lives, including enhanced feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional closeness with partners.
So yoga enhances sex. No surprise there, and what’s wrong with that, as long as people are conscious about behaving responsibly with it? Yoga also enhances health, fitness, longevity, equanimity, awareness, and compassion. No data, just my experience.
See Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here to read the full article.
Here’s an elegant response from yoga teacher/anatomist Leslie Kaminoff, whom I studied with in January, to the recent yoga scandal involving John Friend and Anusara.
I’ve watched the headlines about the exodus of senior teachers and the revelations about Friend’s flaws with a measure of detachment. The headlines say enough — no details are needed.
This is an old story that often happens when power goes to a leader’s head. It’s the flawed guru, the fallen leader, the downfall of the powerful. It’s an archetypal story about human nature and usually involves sex and/or money, and sometimes substance abuse, and always, trust and betrayal.
If you want to catch up on what happened, check out Yogadork‘s coverage.
Disclosure: I take an Anusara class each week, and I love it and my Anusara-inspired teacher who has worked so hard for years to understand and teach yoga well and keep us safe and growing. Anusara is good yoga. In my opinion, the quality of the yoga being taught includes the integrity of the teacher as well as the skill and knowledge. JF was way too far up the chain of command to have had much influence on me, except in the body of work he created, which I hope will still stand as an offering in the yoga world.
I’ve been lucky to have had some skilled, righteous yoga teachers whom I have trusted.
My respect for Leslie Kaminoff only increases. He talks about the suffering that occurs when a group gathers around a teacher whose human frailties prevent him from living up to the task he has been trusted with. (Yes, it’s usually men, but men hold more positions of power than women.)
He relates how his teacher, Desikachar, who created Viniyoga, then decided to dissolve it because he was uncomfortable with the idea of branding. He found certification (which includes standardization) to be antithetical to the traditional teacher/student relationship.
Desikachar resisted every opportunity to become a guru. He based his interactions with his students on his faith that the students could come up with the answers for themselves. He allowed them to struggle instead of giving them easy answers.
This article should be required reading for all yogis: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body – NYTimes.com.
I have been lucky in that I’ve never been injured from doing yoga since I started practicing in 1982. I’ve only had muscle soreness, but never severe or lasting more than a day. Doing yoga from a book was risky, but it taught me to pay attention to my own experience.
I’ve been lucky to have had good teachers. Eleanor Harris would never have students do shoulder stand with the neck bent ninety degrees to the torso, as described in this article.
Instead, we would fold blankets and our mat to create an elevated cushioned ledge for the shoulders to rest on with the head resting on the floor a couple of inches below. Afterwards, we would rest on our backs with support under our necks. We also did prep poses before attempting sarvangasana.
Let your awareness of your body’s limits be your primary guide, and beware of any teacher who would override you.
Some people naturally have very flexible bodies. It seems that a lot of these people, to whom yoga comes easily, become yoga teachers and end up setting the bar for the rest of us.
I am fairly flexible but am unable to do lotus pose, arm balances, and several other advanced poses. I’m okay with that. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything by doing advanced poses. Still, after working toward it for an hour (or a lifetime), it is a thrill to finally do hanumanasana. I understand the desire to deepen one’s yoga practice.
I’m happy with the yoga I can do, happy to make small increments of progress, which these days has as much to do with my own body awareness as it does with achieving an external form.
Most of my yoga studies for the past few years have been with Iyengar-certified and Anusara-inspired teachers, who tend to focus on anatomy and form.
I like how yoga keeps me flexible enough, how the poses open up my meridians so that my energy flows with more ease. I simply feel better during my off-mat life because of yoga, and if the day ever comes that I don’t, that’s the day I stop doing it.
Besides reading this article, I also recommend that yoga students and teachers watch the video Anatomy for Yoga with Paul Grilley, which clearly shows the range of flexibility in the bodies of yogis. It will make you feel better if you can’t get your arms straight in wheel pose.
An excerpt is available on YouTube:
For the past week, I’ve been taking some yoga classes at Castle Hill Fitness, courtesy of a one-week pass I unexpectedly was given back in February. Most of my yoga training has been by Iyengar-certified teachers, and I like that emphasis on alignment because alignment just happens to be one of my major issues in this body, and I can use yoga as an awareness practice instead of just keeping fit.
At Castle Hill, I’ve been taking Anusara classes. If you don’t know, Anusara yoga is an offshoot of Iyengar yoga. Anusara yoga’s founder, John Friend, was a senior Iyengar teacher until he parted ways with B.K.S. Iyengar and created Anusara yoga.
Anusara is not that different from Iyengar yoga. In fact, it’s pretty similar but has Universal Principles of Alignment that everything is based on.
(If you’re interested in seeing a visual aid that groups the types of yoga, click here to see Alison Hinks’ awesome graphic, Kissing Cousins: The Wheel of Yoga. You’ll see that Iyengar and Anusara are right next to each other, way on the opposite site from Ashtanga and power yoga.)
These classes have challenged me in a really good way. My deep lower abs are still a bit sore from classes a week ago, and I’m feeling my shoulders and hips in a different way.
I’ve done Warrior 1 in nearly every class and gotten better at it. It takes a lot of strength and balance for me.
Most exciting, I finally got “the spiral” that is a signature of Anusara yoga. Got it in my body, that is. Felt a shift. It was a revelation, widening the sacrum area, the back of the second chakra, creating a nice energetic opening.
Since this is a part of my body that has had troubles, it was awesome. How can I incorporate this into my life?
I don’t know how to maintain it in various poses, so I’ll continue to take Anusara classes. My teacher today, Brigitte, steered me toward the Anusara Teacher Training manual, which I’ve ordered. I’m looking forward very much to reading about the principles of alignment and learning what I can learn from a book while my body learns experientially.
Also, Brigitte is beautiful, with the buffest body of any white-haired woman you’ll ever see. I’m so pleased to take yoga from a teacher with white hair who knows what she’s doing. She read a Mary Oliver poem at the beginning of class today with a message that served the class. I loved that.
Yogis can show the world what it looks like to age with grace.
My trailer should be here Monday morning! I’ve been looking at cork and Marmoleum samples. Decided not to do radiant heated floors until I’ve lived in the trailer through a winter and seen how cold it really gets. Contacted my handyman Ian and emailed him a list of things to do. Requested that the electricity be turned on — apparently can’t happen until Wednesday…
Still need to research air conditioners. Lot to learn there. Metal skins, condensation, ventilation, and so on…
It just so happens, with all the waiting for the title and then for flood waters to recede over the last few months, that my trailer is arriving on my very first day of massage school! I don’t even know what meaning to assign to that coincidence in the big scheme of things! On a practical level, I can’t be in two places at once.
I don’t want to miss any of my massage education, but I think I need to be there when the trailer arrives. I’ll email the school and let them know and plan to get there as soon as I can.
Hello, major life changes. Good to see you!